Thomas Moynihan

Research Affiliate

Thomas is author of X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered its Own Extinction (MIT Press, 2020). He works on the history of ideas, primarily the ways humanity’s estimation of its biggest picture priorities—that is, the greatest perils and potentials facing our species—has transformed throughout the past, in response to cumulating knowledge about the wider universe. It is vital we remember how much worldviews can, and do, change in order to assess the scope of what we might yet be missing, today, when it comes to answering the ethical question of what ultimately must be done. He holds a DPhil from Oriel College, Oxford, and was previously Visiting Research Associate in History at St Benet’s College, Oxford; prior work focused on the historical development of notions surrounding human extinction and existential risk.

Currently, Thomas is working on a book project exploring how, throughout the past, people have slowly woken up to the ways present actions and accidents can scar the entire future for life on Earth—whether through climate disruption, resource depletion, or mass extinction. The book aims to retell the story of how we came to grasp that not only are our own personal lives shot through with contingency, but that this is likewise true that the eons-deep biography of macroevolution and planet Earth itself. Thomas’s writing has been featured in New Scientist, The Guardian, BBC Future, Aeon, and Noema Magazine, amongst others, and he has been interviewed on platforms like BBC Radio 4, CBC Radio, and The Atlantic’s Re:think podcast.

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