Humans took on the first potential existential threat we ever faced – the first atomic bomb – close to perfectly. Before they ever detonated it, the physicists worried that their bomb might accidentally ignite Earth’s atmosphere, burn it off the planet, and instantly kill off life on Earth. Rather than brush that scenario off as impossible, the physicists studied the problem, and when they were satisfied the chances were next to none, they carried out the test. We can only hope that we will continue to take our existential risks coming our way now as seriously. But we can also find lessons on what not to do within this story when we look at it closely. A handful of men working in secret decided for the rest of the 2.3 billion humans alive at the time that the chance their bomb would blow off Earth’s atmosphere was acceptably small enough to carry out their test. What if they had miscalculated? Would the rest of the world have agreed the chances were low enough to proceed had we all known what was at stake? We face the same conundrum with the existential risks coming our way today. To make it past the Great Filter, everyone alive will have to take in interest in our fate. We will have to select scientists and researchers to study our existential risks and find the best way forward to the future. And we will have to act on what they tell us. Because just a single dissenting country, laboratory, or company can throw the entire human race off balance and into extinction, humanity will all have to come together like we never have before. To survive making it through the Great Filter, all of us will have to be informed and science will have to take the lead. (Original score by Point Lobo www.pointlobo.com.)
- Toby Ord, Oxford University philosopher
- Sebastian Farquahar, Oxford University philosopher
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