Existential threats are those that can wipe out humanity completely. One example is how it is believed that an asteroid impact wiped out the dinosaurs. Something similar could happen to us.
However, there are other definitions of existential threats that might not completely wipe out humanity but may curtail its ability to flourish and any ability to grow as a civilisation.
The general consensus among scientists appears to be that there is around an 18% chance that Humanity will be wiped out by 2100. The highest probabilities are that we will do this to ourselves.
Perhaps we should be grateful that this percentage appears to be coming down. In his 2003 book, entitled Our Final Hour, Martin Rees, a professor at Cambridge University and one of the leading cosmologists in the world, gave civilization a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century. He arrived at this estimate after surveying the many ways that humanity could destroy itself.
The following table was created by the Future of Humanity Institute (https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/) to indicate the probability of various existential threats wiping out humanity. These could also be severe underestimates and it is also quite likely that there are other threats we are not yet aware of.
Humanity has generally been able to overcome the challenges that have been thrown at it. As Goethe also indicated, Providence also seems to step forward as we move in the right directions, so hopefully this aspect will assist us to in these endeavours.
However, these matters should not be taken lightly. Any chance that we can eliminate ourselves completely justifies as much investigation as possible of the potential risks.
It is hoped that future topics/posts will look into greater depth into the following existential risks and threats:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Climate Change
- Nuclear Threats
- Major powers conflict
- Threats from outer space
- Other planetary considerations (critical species extinctions, catastrophic earthquakes, etc.)