Long-term future

TagLast edit: 19 Aug 2021 14:26 UTC by Pablo

The long-term future tag is meant for discussion of what the long-term future might look like. This doesn’t necessarily overlap with the longtermism tag, because a post attempting to e.g. model the future of space travel won’t necessarily discuss the philosophical implications of its model.

Bostrom’s typology of possible scenarios

Nick Bostrom has identified four broad possibilities for the future of humanity (Bostrom 2009).

First, humans may go prematurely extinct. Since the universe will eventually become inhospitable, extinction is inevitable in the very long-run. However, it is also plausible that people will die out far before this deadline.

Second, human civilization may plateau, reaching a level of technological advancement beyond which no further advancement is feasible.

Third, human civilization may experience recurrent collapse, undergoing repeated declines or catastrophes that prevent it from moving beyond a certain level of advancement.

Fourth, human civilization may advance so significantly as to become nearly unrecognizable. Bostrom conceptualizes this scenario as a “posthuman” era where people have developed significantly different cognitive abilities, population sizes, body types, sensory or emotional experiences, or life expectancies.


Baum, Seth D. et al. (2019) Long-term trajectories of human civilization, Foresight, vol. 21, pp. 53–83.

Bostrom, Nick (2009) The future of humanity, in Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Evan Selinger & Søren Riis (eds.) New Waves in Philosophy of Technology, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 186–215.
An in-depth analysis of the four categories of possible futures.

Hanson, Robin (1998) Long-term growth as a sequence of exponential modes, working paper, George Mason University (updated December 2000).

Roodman, David (2020) Modeling the human trajectory, Open Philanthropy, June 15.

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