I’m going to argue that the 21st century could see our civilization develop technologies allowing rapid expansion throughout our currently-empty galaxy. And thus, that this century could determine the entire future of the galaxy for tens of billions of years, or more.
If you think you might like it based on that, you almost certainly will (much more discussion here
). The core argument of the post is that you might read that sentence and instinctively find it implausible, but it’s hard to posit a future for humanity that isn’t equally “wild” in one dimension or another. Karnofsky says he for a long time resisted the arguments he makes precisely because they seemed too “wild” - but now he doesn’t really see a plausible, more “normal” outcome.
This touches on an important point that I’ve raised before in the context of COVID: our collective resistance to the idea that the world can be very weird can cause us to make major analytical mistakes. It’s the reason that apparent crackpots were ahead of the public health establishment for much of the pandemic (see TiB 108
) and helps explain our consistent underreaction to the crisis (see TiB 172
). I see this as a big problem for humanity. As I said last year
Developing an epistemology that takes unusual ideas seriously without falling for them all will be one of the important challenges of the coming decade