The Vulnerable World Hypothesis

Scientific and technological progress might change people’s capabilities or incentives in ways
that would destabilize civilization. For example, advances in DIY biohacking tools might make it
easy for anybody with basic training in biology to kill millions; novel military technologies could
trigger arms races in which whoever strikes first has a decisive advantage; or some economically
advantageous process may be invented that produces disastrous negative global externalities
that are hard to regulate. This paper introduces the concept of a vulnerable world: roughly, one
in which there is some level of technological development at which civilization almost certainly
gets devastated by default, i.e. unless it has exited the “semi-anarchic default condition”. Several
counterfactual historical and speculative future vulnerabilities are analyzed and arranged into a
typology. A general ability to stabilize a vulnerable world would require greatly amplified
capacities for preventive policing and global governance. The vulnerable world hypothesis thus
offers a new perspective from which to evaluate the risk-benefit balance of developments
towards ubiquitous surveillance or a unipolar world order.

Posted in Uncategorised, Unpredict-Publication.

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