Patterico's Pontifications


Nick Bostrom on Existential Risk

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:59 am

The latest Sam Harris podcast is a conversation with Nick Bostrom about existential risk:

These are the big issues confronting the human race. I’m reading a great book about the Chernobyl disaster: Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higganbotham. Not limited to an incredibly detailed discussion about Chernobyl, the book also discusses previous Russian nuclear accidents (turns out their reputation for safety was a Soviet myth; go figure.) It’s similar in size, scope, and detail to Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser — a book I’m pretty sure I have mentioned before. The latter book, although ostensibly about a single nuclear weapons accident in Arkansas in the 1980s, contained an encyclopedic categorization of America’s history of nuclear accidents. Among the more salient existential risks to the planet and to our species is the existence of nuclear weapons and the potential damage from accidents involving them. The safety of nuclear reactors, touted by many as bulleproof, is only as reliable as the flawed humans that operate them. Chernobyl easily could have rendered large portions of Europe uninhabitable for a thousand years, if things had gone just a litle differently.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Of the two things I just mentioned — the existential risk of nuclear technology and a super-dopey Donald Trump tweet — which do you think people care about more?

That’s a big part of the problem.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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