Long-term trajectories of human civilization
Journal article, 2019

Purpose: This paper aims to formalize long-term trajectories of human civilization as a scientific and ethical field of study. The long-term trajectory of human civilization can be defined as the path that human civilization takes during the entire future time period in which human civilization could continue to exist. Design/methodology/approach: This paper focuses on four types of trajectories: status quo trajectories, in which human civilization persists in a state broadly similar to its current state into the distant future; catastrophe trajectories, in which one or more events cause significant harm to human civilization; technological transformation trajectories, in which radical technological breakthroughs put human civilization on a fundamentally different course; and astronomical trajectories, in which human civilization expands beyond its home planet and into the accessible portions of the cosmos. Findings: Status quo trajectories appear unlikely to persist into the distant future, especially in light of long-term astronomical processes. Several catastrophe, technological transformation and astronomical trajectories appear possible. Originality/value: Some current actions may be able to affect the long-term trajectory. Whether these actions should be pursued depends on a mix of empirical and ethical factors. For some ethical frameworks, these actions may be especially important to pursue.

Human civilization

Long-term trajectories


Seth D. Baum

Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

Stuart Armstrong

University of Oxford

Timoteus Ekenstedt

Umeå University

Olle Häggström

Chalmers, Mathematical Sciences, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Robin Hanson

George Mason University

Karin Kuhlemann

University College London (UCL)

Matthijs M. Maas

University of Copenhagen

James D. Miller

Smith College

Markus Salmela

Anders Sandberg

University of Oxford

Kaj Sotala

Foundational Research Institute

Phil Torres

Alexey Turchin

Science for Life Extension Foundation

Roman V. Yampolskiy

University of Louisville


1463-6689 (ISSN) 1465-9832 (eISSN)

Vol. 21 11 53-83

Subject Categories


Interaction Technologies

Information Science



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