What are the risks that may destroy our civilization and Humanity? In most general terms, these risks could be grouped as global catastrophic, or existential (terminal) risk . A “global catastrophic risk” is any risk that is “global” in scope, lasting for some time (endurable) and hence may kill the vast majority of life on earth but humanity could still potentially recover. An “existential” risk on the other hand, is such that its intensity is terminal and its effect is transgenerational. It can destroy all human, non-human and even plant life. If our civilization is to survive, we need to apply some powerful risk mitigation strategies. We have hardly any control over the non-anthropogenic (natural) risks. But we do have control over political, social, economic and technological risks. The anthropogenic (man-made) existential risks can be split into three categories, which may require different approaches:
Risks that are immediate and may become existential within days or even in hours:
- Global nuclear war
- Weaponized AI or cyber wars
- Engineered pandemics and synthetic biology
- Nanotechnology and experimental technology accident
- Unknown risks, mainly technology-orientated
Risks that may become existential progressively:
- Climate Change over a long time (at least over a century)
- Superintelligence in a short time (over a decade)
Risks that may become existential because of combinatorial effects (from days to decades), which I call Global Disorder risks.
The risks of Global Disorder are linked to three domains:
- Economic Disorder, created by the economic instability and a disconnection between the real economy and wealth creation that has led to the crisis of capitalism
- Social Disorder, created mainly by the unresolved problem of social inequality and wealth distribution, intolerance and the impact of accelerating change, for which societies are totally unprepared
- Political Disorder, which is created primarily because of the crisis of democracy and the absence of a credible global organization that could act as a kind of the World Government, being an arbiter in political and military conflicts
Global Disorder risks are not existential on their own and generally evolve gradually. However, because of their complexity and interconnection with other risks they may become existential through their combinatorial effects, i.e. if they are triggered off at the same time with other risks, about which we may not be even aware today. In most general terms, this category covers mismanagement of global affairs so serious that it may become the primary cause of our civilization’s collapse. This includes global migration on unprecedented scale caused for example by prolonged draught in Africa, ensuing famine and civil wars. Europe has already experienced a very mild migration of that kind in 2015-2016. But global socio-political disorder may actually be more acute in the northern hemisphere, in the more advanced part of our civilization, for different reasons than famine. The origins of the social unrest will be in the collapse of the basic structures that underpin the western civilization, such as democracy, capitalism, the concepts of freedom, equality and responsibility, the ultimate fall of religion and the associated values. This may lead to economic and societal collapse, involving civil unrest and a breakdown of law and order that might make the continuation of civilised life impossible anywhere on Earth.