4. Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority (2012)

By Nick Bostrom

Existential risks are those that threaten the entire future of humanity. Many theories of value imply that even relatively small reductions in net existential risk have enormous expected value. Despite their importance, issues surrounding human-extinction risks and related hazards remain poorly understood. In this paper, I clarify the concept of existential risk and develop an improved classification scheme. I discuss the relation between existential risks and basic issues in axiology, and show how existential risk reduction (via the maxipok rule) can serve as a strongly action-guiding principle for utilitarian concerns. I also show how the notion of existential risk suggests a new way of thinking about the ideal of sustainability.

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(00:15) Abstract

(01:10) Policy Implications

(02:43) The maxipok rule

(10:45) Qualitative risk categories

(17:00) Magnitude of expected loss in existential catastrophe

(26:48) Maxipok

(29:13) Classification of existential risk

(31:19) Human extinction

(34:18) Permanent stagnation

(42:00) Flawed realisation

(45:37) Subsequent ruination

(48:44) Capability and value

(54:16) Some other ethical perspectives

(01:01:57) Existential risk and normative uncertainty

(01:06:07) Keeping our options alive

(01:14:38) Outlook

(01:15:15) Barriers to thought and action

(01:24:36) Grounds for optimism

(01:31:40) Author Information

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