Nick Bostrom: Humanity’s biggest problems aren’t what you think they are

Oxford philosopher and transhumanist Nick Bostrom examines the future of humankind, and asks whether we can — or should — alter our fundamental nature to solve our intrinsic problems. He asks us to reconsider three “inevitable” features of life: death, the risk of extinction, and our inability to live consistently full lives. If we could, would we correct these flaws? Can we humans alter our basic nature in ways that will enhance our experiences in the world? Do we want to? No matter what your answer, Bostrom’s engaging talk will force you to consider it carefully.

4 Comments leave a comment below

  1. I’m not quite sure that I agree with his position on death. Although Nick chooses to look at the negative points about death, he fails to see the positive effects that death creates. The biggest problem I think facing humanity is that humans are living a lot longer than their productive years. By nature, humans aren’t meant to live past at most 50. In nature, you live as long as you’re able to survive. However, as a result of society and civilization, we are no longer really part of the natural world. We now live past when nature has dictated and that is dangerous to a species. There are only a limited number of resources, and we just don’t have the resources to support an exponentially aging population and growth rate. In a healthy system there is an equilibrium established. Where there’s a balance between two things and fluctuation are natural. However, as a species there is no longer any fluctuation, we just grow and grow and grow and we won’t stop until there are no resources left. By the time we will recognize that we’re out of resources, it’ll be far too late.

  2. i don’t quite agree with his view on death but his points on existential risk are very pertinent. no doubt the answer to this question is that we should change seeing that the slightest alteration in the course we are taking could have significant (positive) impact. to me, this seems by far the most significant point raised.

    there was also this really cool ad on BMW’s Hydrogen 7 at the end. now that would be something that would turn the oil & gas industry on its head.

  3. bowlofudon: “By nature, humans aren’t meant to live past at most 50”

    I’m no expert on biology or evolution, but I don’t agree with that statement. Every species in nature has some level of culture. We’ve learned how to artificially expand and enhance our bodies far past what the “original” ape could do. But all this knowledge has only been made possible because nature evolved us in certain ways (opposing thumbs, self-consciousness, big brains etc.). Everything we come up with, is a result of the original toolset our species was given. So why shouldn’t long life, body extensions and such be a logical next step?
    It’s not like all species on this planet, as they exist today are the definite final version. If Homo sapiens where to be the final build, that would be rather disappointing.
    True, if it’ll work out in the end, that’s a different question. There has been enough examples of species who’ve come and gone because they evolved in uncontrollable ways. Personally, I can’t wait to the what’s next for us…

    The only thing that would really tick me off, is if my lifetime would end just minutes before we make first contact. :)

  4. “he fails to see the positive effects that death creates”

    Huh? If you value death so much, what are you waiting for? If I come round with a lethal injection, are you ready to volunteer?

    The problem with the argument that the oldies have to die to make way for the young is that it means someone has to kill them. If a doctor offers an elderly man the opporunity to have his ills cured and to feel young again for a while, he’s going to take it. Who wouldn’t? Then the deathists turn up and say the oldie has to die because there aren’t enough resources on the planet and there’s no space for the kids.

    This gives me the creeps and I hope you never get anywhere near government.

    Of course we want to have more healthy years in our lives – this is why we have healthcare systems and health education. The target of 50 suggested above is way too few in a universe that’s been around for billions of years already and is likely to last for billions more.