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Welcome to Episode II of the Infinite Potential Series entitled "To Be or Not to Be." COPING WITH GLOBAL EXISTENTIAL THREATS. So, Adam, to be or not to be - what is the question? What exactly are existential threats?

Nick Bostrum, founder of the Institute for the Future of Humanity, and others make a distinction between existential risks and global, endurable risks. Bostrum suggests that endurable risks might include: "threats to the biodiversity of Earth’s ecosphere, moderate global warming, global economic recessions (even great depressions), and stifling cultural or religious eras such as the “dark ages”, even if they are worldwide, provided they are transitory. To say that a particular global risk is endurable is not to say that it is acceptable or not tragically serious. A world war fought with conventional weapons or a Nazi-style Reich lasting for a decade would be extremely horrible events even though they would fall into the category of endurable global risks because humanity could eventually recover. (On the other hand, they could be a local terminal risk for many individuals and for persecuted ethnic groups.)

An Existential risk is one where an adverse outcome would either annihilate humanity or permanently and drastically curtail its potential. An existential risk is one where humankind, as a whole, is imperiled. Existential disasters would have major adverse consequences for human civilization for all time to come."

I want to bring some balance and focus on what I perceive to be relatively good news. By many measures the world is good and getting better. There is greater wealth, better health and diminishing levels of violence. Life expectancy increased from 44 to 79 in the past 100 years and is expected to increase at least that much again in the next century even if Radical Life Extension is far less effective than most believe it will be. In the US alone we will soon be investing a trillion dollars per year in Life Sciences.

The 20th century saw actual life style differences between the rich and poor decrease dramatically. The division in the US used to be between the haves and have-nots but now it is really between the haves and the have-mores. And the benefits are spreading. According to The World Bank, the poverty rate in Asia has declined 50 percent during the last 10 years and is expected to decline another 90 percent during the next ten years. Even horribly impoverished sub-Saharan Africa grew 5 percent economically just last year. I know it is counter intuitive but this has been accompanied by an unprecedented decrease in population growth. For example, the Mexican birth rate has decreased from 7 per woman to about 2.3 children within only the last forty years! Japan, Russia, Italy and other major countries are going into population declines and even the US would be in a population decline if it were not for immigration (largely illegal).

As the world became more productive and wealthier, it is also became more just. Americans are upset about the erosion of civil liberties recently due to terrorism, but actually women, blacks and other minorities including homosexuals have had an unprecedented expansion of rights within a relatively short time. Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist asserts that compassion is spreading worldwide. Pinker writes, "Cruelty as popular entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, genocide for convenience, torture and mutilation as routine forms of punishment, execution for trivial crimes and misdemeanors, assassination as a means of political succession, pogroms as an outlet for frustration, and homicide as the major means of conflict resolution -- all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. Yet today they are statistically rare in the West, less common elsewhere than they used to be, and widely condemned when they do occur."

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