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Human Extinction
by r a z o r w | r e (razorw1re)
at September 6th, 2006 (10:20 pm)
current song: Basshunter - Boten anna


Human extinction would be the extinction of the human species, Homo sapiens, whether on Earth or from the entire universe, provided the species colonizes on other planets.

There have been countless prophesies of extinction throughout history; in most cases the predicted date of doom has passed without much notice, making future warnings less frightening. However, a survivor bias would undercut the credibility of accurate extinction warnings. John von Neumann was probably wrong in having “a certainty”[1] that nuclear war would occur; but our survival is not proof that the chance of a fatal nuclear exchange was low.

Nick Bostrom suggests that extinction-analysis may be an overlooked field simply because it is too depressing a subject area to attract researchers.

There are thousands of public safety jobs dedicated to analyzing and reducing the risks of individual death. There are no full-time existential safety commissioners partly because there is no way to tell if they are doing a good job, and no way to punish them for failure. The inability to judge performance might also explain the comparative governmental apathy on preventing human extinction (as compared to panda extinction, say).

Human extinction scenarios

Various scenarios for the extinction of the human species have originated from science, popular culture, science fiction, and religion (see apocalypse and eschatology). The expression existential risk has been coined to refer to risks of total and irreversible destruction of human life, or of some lesser, but universal and permanent detriment to it.

The following are among the extinction scenarios that have been envisaged by various authors:

  • Environmental collapses
    • Catastrophic climate change as a result of global warming or the effects of extensive deforestation or pollution.
    • Loss of a breathable atmosphere or destruction of the ozone layer.
    • Occurrence of a supervolcano.
    • Extreme ice age leading to Iceball Earth
    • Magnetic pole change on earth would lead to the collapse of the earth's magnetic shielding against solar radiation, therefore giving an extreme dose of radiation to anyone who would venture outside unprotected. This change has been observed in the consistency of ancient clay pots and stones, its a cyclic proccess and the earth is due for a change.
  • Genetic or evolutionary regression or deterioration such as proposed by the idea of dysgenics; or reduction in the diversity of human capabilities through eugenics (via fetal genetic testing mainly).
  • Scenarios of extra-terrestrial origin
    • Major impact events.
    • Gamma-ray burst in our part of the Milky Way (Bursts observable in other galaxies are calculated to act as a "sterilizer", and have been used by some astronomers to explain the Fermi paradox). The lack of fossil record interruptions, and relative distance of the nearest Hypernova candidate make this a long term (rather than imminent) threat.
    • A black hole may suck the Earth in.
    • Invasion by militarily superior aliens (see alien invasion) — often considered to be a scenario purely from the realms of science fiction, professional SETI researchers have given serious consideration to this possibility, but conclude that it is unlikely. [9]
    • Gerard O'Neill has cautioned that first contact with alien intelligence may follow the precedent set by historical examples of contact between human civilizations, where the less technologically-advanced civilization has inevitably succumbed to the other civilization, regardless of its intentions.
    • Solar flares may suddenly heat the earth, or the light from the sun may be blocked by dust, slowly freezing it (eg. the dust and vapour may come from a Kuiper belt disturbance).
  • Scenarios of extra-universal origin
    • E.g., since it is entirely possible that the space of our universe, the Big Bang, and all its consequences are events taking place within a computing or other device on another cosmological plane, if this process were to end (e.g., "Junior, shut that thing off, and come and eat your lunch!") then everything within the universe would summarily vanish.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm a member of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.