Hosted by Owen Cotton-Barratt

On long timescales, where is humanity headed? What are the big uncertainties? What does that mean for decisions today? In this series of lectures, we will tackle these issues, and explore the questions that feed into them.Many are multidisciplinary, and progress often draws on knowledge and tools from economics and other sciences, philosophy, and mathematics.

We will look at the progress made in the last few years by researchers, including those at the Future of Humanity Institute, a multidisciplinary research institute within the Oxford Martin School. We will highlight important open questions, and invite participants to share their expertise and discuss how progress might be made.

These seminars are aimed at researchers in any discipline who have an interest in long-term and big-picture thinking. Although we aim to quickly reach open research questions, the talks will serve as an introduction to the area, and no prior knowledge is required. The format will be a talk of around 40 minutes, and 20 minutes of discussion. They will be held 3-4pm on Wednesdays, at the Future of Humanity Institute, Littlegate House, OX1 1PT.

Streaming and recordings of the lectures will be available on this Youtube Playlist.


7th Week – Wednesday 25th November

Owen Cotton-Barratt: “Great unknowns

How should we act in the face of great empirical uncertainty? How much can we rely on models? Should we let our actions be guided by speculative small chances of enormous payoffs?

8th Week – Wednesday 2nd December

Owen Cotton-Barratt: “Differential progress and information hazards

The long-term trajectory of humanity is likely to be affected by the direction of progress more than its speed. How can we identify and affect this? When are we better not sharing information?

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