What Is the Future?

It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.

- Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925), Ch. 13: Requisites for Social Progress

Podcast of the Day

Of all the people whose well-being we should care about, only a small fraction are alive today. The rest are members of future generations who are yet to exist. Whether they’ll be born into a world that is flourishing or disintegrating – and indeed, whether they will ever be born at all – is in large part up to us. As such, the welfare of future generations should be our number one moral concern.

This conclusion holds true regardless of whether your moral framework is based on common sense, consequences, rules of ethical conduct, cooperating with others, virtuousness, keeping options open – or just a sense of wonder about the universe we find ourselves in.

That’s the view of Dr Toby Ord, a philosophy Fellow at the University of Oxford and co-founder of the effective altruism community. In this episode of the 80,000 Hours podcast Dr Ord makes the case that aiming for a positive long-term future is likely the best way to improve the world...

Listen to the 80,000 Hours episode on Why the long term future of humanity matters more than anything else, and what we should do about it

Video of the Day

Article of the Day

...I was there to meet Nick Bostrom, a philosopher who has made a career out of contemplating distant futures, hypothetical worlds that lie thousands of years ahead in the stream of time. Bostrom is the director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, a research collective tasked with pondering the long-term fate of human civilisation. He founded the institute in 2005, at the age of 32, two years after coming to Oxford from Yale. Bostrom has a cushy gig, so far as academics go. He has no teaching requirements, and wide latitude to pursue his own research interests, a cluster of questions he considers crucial to the future of humanity.

Bostrom attracts an unusual amount of press attention for a professional philosopher, in part because he writes a great deal about human extinction. His work on the subject has earned him a reputation as a secular Daniel, a doomsday prophet for the empirical set. But Bostrom is no voice in the wilderness. He has a growing audience, both inside and outside the academy...

Continue reading Ross Andersen's article: Will humans be around in a billion years? Or a trillion?

Further Reading

While predictions of the future can never be absolutely certain, present understanding in various fields allows for the prediction of far-future events, if only in the broadest outline. These fields include astrophysics, which has revealed how planets and stars form, interact, and die; particle physics, which has revealed how matter behaves at the smallest scales; evolutionary biology, which predicts how life will evolve over time; and plate tectonics, which shows how continents shift over millennia.

All projections of the future of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe must account for the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy, or a loss of the energy available to do work, must increase over time. Stars will eventually exhaust their supply of hydrogen fuel and burn out...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article: Timeline of the far future

Bonus Webcomic

Related Topics

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