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Futurist Isaac Arthur joins Chelsea Follett to discuss humanity's next century.

Isaac Arthur: The Human Progress Podcast Ep. 22 Transcript

By Isaac Arthur @Isaac_A_Arthur

By Chelsea Follett @Chellivia

Chelsea Follett: Joining The Human Progress Podcast today is the inimitable Isaac Arthur. Isaac is an award-winning science educator, futurist and YouTube star. His YouTube channel, Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur or SFIA, focuses on a wide variety of topics dealing with science, technology, space exploration, engineering, artificial intelligence, and transhumanism among other subjects. And he joins the podcast today to discuss a really engrossing and insightful video of his, titled Challenges & Predictions for the Next 100 Years, where he shares his top 10 predictions for life a century from now. Isaac, how are you?

Isaac Arthur: Doing great. Thanks for having me on, Chelsea.

Chelsea Follett: You note at the beginning of your video that your show is often noted for its general optimism, but you point out that isn’t actually your intention and perhaps your channel only feels optimistic because so much discourse about the future these days is just so dark, and apocalyptic even, that anything short of believing in humanity’s inevitable near-term destruction seems, relatively speaking, downright cheerful.

Isaac Arthur: Sure.

Chelsea Follett: So why do you think the outlook of the future and even the tone of a lot of science fiction recently has become so overwhelmingly dystopian and apocalyptic, even pre-pandemic, and why do you think seeing annihilation as inevitable is not actually the most sensible way to think about the future?

Isaac Arthur: My favorite movie, Blade Runner came out in the early 1980s and it very much showed an LA that was a smog covered hell full of industry, which kind of nailed it on the head, but in the year of 2019. [chuckle] I’m actually going to LA in a couple of weeks here, so they’re going… They’re going to be mad at me now. But you know there’s another one that just came out about this year, 2022, Soylent Green, the classic one about valuing people. And so, that came out about mid 1970s but was set in the year 2022 and I say, well, the world doesn’t seem that apocalyptic compared to what they had then. And you have a lot of films even before that… Metropolis, kind of the classic for a sci-fi film, very dystopian, very dystopian. And on the one hand, you had to say, yes, you’re writing science fiction so, of course, it has to have a certain amount of tension in it because paradise is really boring from a literary standpoint. And, you know, it usually shows up in the prologue of book series I’ve there: there was a big fall. And on the other hand, there is definitely a tendency for that to infect people a lot and part of that’s the 24-hour news cycle. We always get bad news because bad news has a lot of longevity, good news can wait.

Isaac Arthur: But at the same time, yeah, there are definitely bits of flavor to science fiction that seem a lot more dystopian than even when I was a kid and that’s like the cyberpunk genre which has a very dystopian emote. I think people just tend to get stuck in a mode that says there are no good solutions to these problems, they can’t be solved or even and this is the one that I tend to be more concerned about, the tendency to look at their fellow humans and say these people are idiots and thus we’re screwed. And I say that’s, one, that’s unfair to your fellow humans, most of them don’t care about an individual issue as much as you because they have other issues they are working on. But you know that if you start from the standpoint that everybody around you is selfish or incompetent, then of course the world is going to end and I say, well, what’s wrong with that belief? And I say, well, they were equally selfish and incompetent 200 years ago and every other time since then, that people have been predicting the end of the world.

Isaac Arthur: So that is part of what keeps me optimistic, another part is just to look at history. We know we’ve been on a constant upward path for a lot more than a couple centuries. The technological progress thing, that’s been a constant snowball, that’s very recent to be fair, but even going back a couple thousand years, we see a very steady progress towards better livelihoods for more people and it just tends to work against the whole Malthusian notion of always running out of resources and then turning cannibal on each other and I just… I’m not saying that we don’t have things to be worried about. And we’d be foolish not to. But I generally tend to think so long as you’ve got good spirits and challenge, you’re good, but if you don’t, you know… The types of humanity that are always shown with these dystopian apocalypses tend to be the sort of people who I really wouldn’t want our civilization to be survived by anyway. So if I won’t be around for that and there are no good examples of humans, I’m not really all that worried about what happens to them anyway so that being the case it helps me stay more optimistic. [chuckle]

Chelsea Follett: And of course it’s not just science fiction that can be pessimistic. You also point out toward the start of the video that a lot of predictions about the future, including negative predictions, are often wrong and you say this very memorable line that it can almost seem like as soon as someone makes a prediction, it’s actually less likely to happen, like the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy. An obvious example might be the Y2K technological crisis that was supposed to bring about a kind of digital apocalypse in the year 2000, obviously, that never happened. The example you bring up in the video is a hole in the ozone layer which is supposed to keep expanding and turn the planet into a desert. So this tendency to create doomsday prophecies is something that has been around for a while. But how confident are you in your predictions?

Isaac Arthur: Not at all, no. [chuckle] I used to joke if I had a business card, I would put on it “Seer: I’m right 51% of the time,” which to be honest in the prediction game would actually be really good. [laughter] It’s more like a multiple choice. The thing is and we do need to have in mind, we talked about things like the other… Something like Y2K, those are real problems. Did we exaggerate them or did we actually buckle down and mostly fix them? Did innovation and effort get them done? And yes, so it might be probably, depending on the crisis, some combination of all the above. The problem sometimes gets exaggerated and sometimes they have way more effort thrown at them than we tend to realize, sometimes we just lucked out and innovated our way out of it. And I don’t really like to think of it entirely as a luck thing but discovery from a civilization standpoint can’t really be quantified as definitely going to happen. Someone could come out tomorrow with an easy way to convert sunlight into nicely stored, very efficient battery cells you could plug in your car and now it just becomes dirt cheap to start building electric cars that can go 5000 miles when you need to refuel off of a sheet you unfold over the top of the car.

Isaac Arthur: That’s inside the realm of physically possible. And I wouldn’t invest in that at the moment but it’s possible and we might get there someday and if it happens tomorrow, because sometimes inventions do happen that way, then the entire economy changes and the whole problem of for instance, global warming, gone, right, just like that. Does that mean it was never a problem in the first place? No. Does that mean that the problem has never been exaggerated or underestimated? No, there’s been many cases of these crises where we worry about the wrong things or we don’t worry about them enough, or we go way overboard too. Unemployment with robots, we always worry about the factory jobs, booting the robots. Robots will kick everyone to the corner and everybody who’s blue collar will be out of the workforce entirely. But it’s wrong, it’s not the blue collar jobs that get eliminated first, it’s the white collar jobs. The first people who were eliminated from their job were “computers,” that was a job title.

Isaac Arthur: That was a job title for a long time and they were gone like that overnight. And so we can certainly be worried about computers in the workforce, that’s a problem and they will be as was the Great Boom. But we often forget which ones they are going to actually be hitting and that’s the kind of crisis that hit us anyway, ’cause again, it’s not like we magically get through every crisis that ever comes up in front of us, it’s more that we… I don’t wanna say by the skin of our teeth… We constantly encounter problems we didn’t even think we’re gonna come across that are all epically bad and we survive and we come across some of the ones we’ve seen them ways out and because we did, we fixed them or other ones we say, “Oh well, we can see this problem is not a problem,” so we get through because they all… Billions of us working very hard to survive and so. [chuckle]

Chelsea Follett: Right and you certainly do not minimize the challenges that lie ahead for humanity, you actually spend more of the video talking about the challenges than about your more optimistic predictions, but I was heartened by just how optimistic many of your predictions are. And because this is a Human Progress podcast, I do want to focus more on the positive predictions because they are such a breath of fresh air, but before I ask you about any of the individual predictions, I’m curious, what are you the most optimistic about in regards to the next century?

Isaac Arthur: Well, people always ask me what technology I hope to live to see invented and I always say life extension technology because it would be just so much easier to see it documented. I would say that probably the improvement in medical technology would be the ones I’m most optimistic about, always most hopeful for. It’s gonna be a long, slow slog. Aubrey De Grey, is of course I know, worked with, he’s a great guy. I don’t think he’s super optimistic about life extension but even he says, “Don’t go betting on living to be centuries old any time soon,” but at the same time, he’s done such a great job with the SENS Research Center on actually convincing people that aging is not some inevitable wear-down thing that cannot be fixed and all these individual medical technologies, each innovation we make in medicine is life extension technology.

Isaac Arthur: And so I would say the better, healthier quality of life, to be able to actually say people being born today might never ever ever get a grey hair except for the fact that they thought it was cool to have one or they dyed it that color, like they do with blue or purple nowadays, that people could live to be centuries old and still enjoy all the vigor, all the health, all the energy you have in your 20s or 30s and all the judgment and wisdom you get much later on in life you wish you had that. The saying youth is wasted on the young is common and I think that will hardly be a lot more of what this future is about versus just how do I live this longer healthier life? And that’s not just a good technology in the sense that oh, I get to live long, it’s the idea that most kids are going to have not just their grandparents to rely on, their parents, but their great-great-great grandparents kicking around available to help raise them, to help be good influence on them from childhood on.

Isaac Arthur: The idea that you only need to devote maybe 2% or 3% of your economy to raising kids or taking care of seniors because almost everybody is in the bulk of their main productive life, what does that do for your available taxes and funds and what does that do for people’s long-term investments? Are they now much more willing to make decisions and purchases that are long-range and good, as opposed to actively short-term ones? What does a civilization look like in terms of what it votes for, what it wants, what it aims for commercially when the average age is 120? It’s a very different civilization, so that’s the… To me, that’s the technology that changes things even more than artificial intelligence does and that’s the other big one.

Chelsea Follett: That is a great lead in to discussing one of your predictions, which is that at some point over the next century, the average life expectancy will exceed 100 years and when you look at the life expectancy in the countries with the highest life expectancy today, Japan and so forth… it’s not that far off from that, but why do you believe that we can achieve a life expectancy of over 100 years at some point in the next century?

Isaac Arthur: I think partially… I appeal to people on this based on the basic core science as well as on what they see with their own eyes. Yu can look at a photograph of some people from a century ago and you say, “Wow, look at those folks with their grandkids,” you say that’s not their grandkids, that’s their parents and they’re only at 50 and they look ancient. And then you look around… When I was a kid, George Burns, famous comedian turned 100, it was a big deal, ’cause that didn’t happen much. I looked up the… Recently for a different question, somebody asked me, “How can people actually live to be 115?” And it was in terms of someone’s grandfather still being around and then that’s how old they would be. And with that and there’s about 100 people right now who are 115. And, it almost doubles when you go down to 113. And of that 115, actually they’re all women, but you start getting a lot of guys about 110. And you start looking at over 100. It was a big deal in a town somebody actually lived to be 100. Now it’s someone celebrating, almost 70 a year, in a decent sized town. And it’s not that tons of people are living over 100, it’s the fact that most people will now know someone who lived over 100 and those were the people who were born before the Great Depression started.

Isaac Arthur: They were born and it just hit right now, right. And that was a big, big deal. These are people who lived through that whole thing, all that hardship. So this is not people who are living under vast improved medical technology their whole life. And that is the anecdotal evidence that’s the… Look around you and see all the little bits of evidence that people are just living longer. Look around and see that even in the Third World life expectancies have risen enormously in the last 50 years. Even as the population has risen, counter-intuitively from a certain perspective, but you’d have to say the more people there are, the more productive the civilization is per individual too. And then we say, look at the technology. You can repair anything if you want to put the effort into it. That nice old house that takes a lot of effort to keep maintained so we say, “Why don’t we tear that down and replace it?” It’s not a person, right.

Isaac Arthur: You can always re-build a house. You’d wind up a little bit more into it than you probably should. Well, people are not houses, we’ve got to put a lot of effort into them. Really if we can find ways to repair people we will. And we have all this nano-technology and people say, “Well, can you really have tiny little robots?” And they say, “Well, yeah.” Life, in theory, started off as very tiny little organisms about the size of viruses or a bit bigger. And it grew in complexity. We started big ’cause we’re doing machines or hands and material is available. We can make them smaller, we’re making them smaller. But we can make them so they self-replicate. People think that the idea of a machine that can make a copy of itself is complex, it’s not. Self-clanking replicators you call which would be something like a factory complex. And again it doesn’t have to be a tiny little robot, it could be a factory complex that basically sent out robots that went and dug up material for it and doing all the stuff it needed to do, you know, it’d be huge.

Isaac Arthur: We call that clanking self-replicator. We don’t do that because specialization is so valuable. A diverse ecosystem is so valuable, whether we’re talking about in nature or we’re talking about in the economic landscape. You don’t really want or need a Walmart that can build more Walmarts of itself. Is it a self-applicating system? Well, clearly Walmarts won’t build any more of themselves. They just won’t, you know, undergo any mitosis on the spot, no flying away as a seed, but we only have self-replicating machines so we don’t need the tiny ones. We’re getting there, we will have these things sooner than later. Will it happen in 20 years? Sooner than later though. And once it does, it changes so many things because then you don’t have to export tons of materials out to space. You can build things on-site on these things like the moon or the asteroids. Once you have that technology in place, you can just improve so many tiny little things. You’re just gonna have some huge impacts on things like the retail market when you can potentially print something at home though we’re not really looking at something like the Star Trek Replicator.

Isaac Arthur: That doesn’t really work on unknown physics anyway. But it is that change in the options available that’s such a huge shift that it is very much like the Henry Ford concept about asking people what they want and they say, faster horses, not a car, right. These are going to be technologies you can’t predict the other side of, what we call technological singularity, we’re not just talking about Skynet, because it’s so hard to predict what would be happening afterwards, but we can say as long as humans are in the game, there are certain basic motivations they’re gonna wanna follow. And one of those motivations is that they are going to want to have a longer, healthier, happier life. And people say, “Well, is that really a motivation?” I say look at the day-to-day anecdotal obvious bits with your eyes. People would like to live longer. Right now, we don’t really invest too much into life extension technology. We’re just getting around to it. The big one was Peter Thiel, he donated a ton of money to it.

Isaac Arthur: But partially that’s ’cause we don’t believe that technology can exist. We’ve been raised that way and there’s a little bit… We talk about that some of us who are more into life extension then we encounter from folks, a disbelief, right? And say “Well, where is that coming from?” And a lot of times, it’s kind of rooted in the idea that you’ve lost a lot of family when I was growing up, you’ve seen people you love die of old age. We all have, you know. And you kind of want their life to have been a natural thing, for it to have come to… They were making way for the next generation. They had a good long, happy life and it was supposed to end. And of course, life extension isn’t about immortality, it’s about extension. You ain’t gonna be immortal, nothing lasts forever. But we need to kinda move that away and it doesn’t take much. You have to make that first key bit of evidence that for most people says “This is going to happen.”

Isaac Arthur: And then it will snowball. A little bit like what’s happening with Space-X now for going to space. And we went through the ’80s and ’90s and early ‘000s was just devastated by the… We went to the Moon and now what? Hubble, Space Station, that PSB… Not much better than Neo or the shuttles. No shuttles, but then you have Space-X come by and kind of ignite the belief that these things can snowball. You’ll see something similar with life extension technology, much as you saw honestly with computers. They went from being an interesting artifact of the early ’80s, that a few households had to with Windows 95 and things like Nintendo, something that every house would have, you know. And that took a decade. So when it snowballs and the… That’s when you hear that thay’re doubling every year thing, that Moore’s Law thing. When it generally snowballs it rolls out fast, because we throw all of our energy at it. And so, I think once you convince people that life extension technology is something that’s on the horizon, that’s exactly what will happen. So I am very optimistic about that for this century.

Chelsea Follett: And any medical improvements, as you say, are a form of life extension technology in the sense that they’re making us live longer. You touched on a number of your other predictions in that answer. And one of the ones that you touched upon would be nano-technology. One of your predictions is that, in the future, it will be very common to have small robots or nanobots, nano-technology, in your body for medical purposes, perhaps for other purposes. Could you expand a bit upon that prediction about nano technology?

Isaac Arthur: And I should say, usually when folks from SENS for instance, are talking about life extension, they’re not talking about using nano-machines. That’s the fallback as I see it. Those are things we know we can absolutely build under known physical laws and can potentially get there sooner than later. They’re usually looking at much more simplistic methods that rely on much more modern tech. Theory of wave-sound and things like that. But to me, the ultimate for this is always to go ahead and replace the natural kind of more accidental or non-specialized things with stuff we chose to make. With nanotechnology, with tiny machines that are really no different than a virus, right? Or a human cell. Tiny machines. You have the ability to start actually tailoring to what your needs are. Your specific needs are, on the person or the occasion. So a common misconception people tend to have when they’re looking at that scale and say, “Well, there’s atoms and molecules and then you got cells and then you got people.” I say, “Well, how many atoms do think are in the typical cell?” I’ll ask folks. And they’ll say, “Well, probably a lot.” I’ll say, “Hundreds? Thousands? Millions? ” “Probably thousands.” I’d say, “It’s more like a trillion. It could be many many millions to billions for even the smallest cell.” There’s a ton of atoms in these things.

Isaac Arthur: When you think of an atom and you think of a cell, think of a brick that you use to build a house. And then, don’t think of a house. Think of a city. Like New York. That cell is New York. That brick is an atom. There is a hugely complicated machinery, infrastructure inside every cell. And yet even with all that, they still vary in type a lot. The key of nano-technology isn’t the idea of some universal robot that does the same job when it’s ordered to. It’s about an entire ecosystem of them ranging from the tiniest little things that go poke something and that’s all they know how to do, is, follow a location in a single spot and go poke, to ones that are complex construction devices of such objects or others. And so it’s not the idea that a trillion little robots will be inside you, though that would be accurate… Same as you have trillions of cells inside you. It’s the idea that you have almost an entire different organ system, much you have like a respiratory system, or cardio vascular system or a skeletal system… I’m not a biologist. You would also have your machine system, if you will.

Isaac Arthur: I think probably you would wanna find a better term for that that people are a little bit more comfortable with. But that other thing, your second skeleton if you will and that’s going to have a whole ton of different functions, not just repairing you, but probably also doing little things like taking constant bits of your health as you’re logged to your data, keeping track of your location so you know where you are, keeping your photographs for you all sorts of things like that. It’s a digital system. And people say that, “I don’t know if people will be comfortable with a trillion little robots.” And say, “Well, you want, what a trillion of your cells some of those are my cells.” I say, “Well, most of the cells in your body don’t even have your DNA into them.” The most common human cell in your body is the blood cells, which don’t have DNA in them at all. They’re not really even a cell in the classic sense that the first ones are found.

Isaac Arthur: And then they make up 90% of your cells in your body. And then the vast majority of cells, it varies by time of the day in your body after that are not human at all. They are the various gut bacteria that you have inside you of a billion different varieties. Those outnumber all your other cells including your blood cells combined. But you look at your blood cells and those cells and they make about 95% of your cells. A little above 5% of them is yours and even then a lot of those are white cells and are actually not very complicated. We are not really the majority of our mass or quantity counts. And so the idea of having what? A million weird viruses, mutant viruses inside you is better than a million different varieties of carefully crafted, warrantied and insured robots? [laughter] I think I’ll take those. At least I have somebody to sue when it’s awful. [chuckle]

Chelsea Follett: And you touched on the data gathering potential in that response and one of the themes I think of your predictions is that in some cases, you take something that a lot of people only see the downside to and you offer a more nuanced perspective. Big data is one of those areas. There are a lot of fears around the idea of data profiles being used for evil. And you don’t dismiss those concerns with the potential for loss of privacy or totalitarian governments using data to track people, for example, but you also describe the potential of data to do everything from making life more convenient, to ending transmissible disease, to ending loneliness by basically improving matchmaking or friend-making algorithms, and ending boredom, helping people to find their ideal career and the list goes on. So could you walk through the ways that data could potentially improve our lives?

Isaac Arthur: Knowledge is power, is obviously the first one that… And we’d prologue that by saying, a lot of times, with all the various future powers we have, we have to start by asking if this is truly a new problem or just a new flavor. One thing that’s a concern for the near future is the idea of designer babies. Children that might be engineered to be better. I say, well, that’s interesting but we’ve been doing that for centuries. Sometimes we have things that we want planning to… You know, we don’t really do properly. Like, medicines that are supposed to make you live longer, or be irresistibly seductive. People were hacking those for centuries, they didn’t work. But they still made the same moral decision. Shooting somebody with a gun where there’s no bullet inside is still the decision to kill them, regardless of the fact that it didn’t fire off. The same thing, we have technologies that actually did work. We have been crossbreeding animals and crops and people for centuries. We already made those decisions. Whether or not they were the right decision and did vary by culture, is another matter, but it’s not a new problem.

Isaac Arthur: Big data is the same thing. You didn’t have the same senses of privacy in the 1800s or the 1700s or before that, when depending out where you lived, you were usually part of a tribe of 100 people, 200 people in the whole clan, whatever it is, community, village, who have known you your whole life. And they remembered every embarrassing thing you did. Every get together was like that embarrassing family get together, where someone has to remind you of whatever you used to do that was stupid when you were a teen or a two year old or whatever it is.

Isaac Arthur: Humans don’t like that, but it’s still been a part of our existence for a long time. And they didn’t tend to have a lot of privacy. We have more now and we want to keep it. So I don’t wanna start that off by saying, well, with big data we just have to go ahead and say, “Let’s go ahead and have this problem because we used to have it in the past so we can suck it up.” No, no, we wanna maintain that privacy and get more. We just need to keep that in mind the context that this is not entirely a new problem. And one of the ways that we would deal with this was actually from my videos a few years back, there was another prediction when I said, one way we’re gonna deal with the problem of everybody walking now with cameras on them 24/7 is, it won’t be about what you’re allowed to take an image of because of course, I can take an image of something right now with my eye. No one has a right to edit my memory. And that becoming more accurate or digital so that we’re simply carrying it around with me all the time. So that I record every moment of my life. It’s not really something that we have a right to tell people they can’t do probably, but what we could do instead is say, when you go to post this, you’re not allowed to post pictures of other people without their permission.

Isaac Arthur: That becomes incredibly inconvenient for a lot of people because, well, that guy was just walking by my photo I don’t know who he was to get his permission. And say how do we solve that problem? You say, well, big data solves that one too. All that photo tagging. It can pop in there and instead of saying, would you like to tag this person in your photo? It can say, this post has been blurred. Do you want us to send them a message asking if they would like to see you? I don’t even know who the person is. They’re walking by, they’re blurred in the picture. And they never say, “Okay.” So that picture is blurred forever until they say otherwise. And you have no control over that, but you get your own picture. That might be the way that we move with this. With big data, you have the opportunity for anonymity you’ve never even imagined. Where you would be snipped out of anybody else’s photographs. Where you could be removed from all these things, where certain protections just become available. Think about how that could be used for abuse victims. That’s how big data could help in a case like that. Every mention of them is done by an Artificial Intelligence that walks through and carefully snips it out. It becomes a great system for redaction.

Isaac Arthur: That’s the good way that can be used. The bad way, obviously, is the same privacy concerns we already have for this. It’s just a reminder that technology is a tool. Well it doesn’t necessarily lead to an apocalypse. So we have these options for big data and tell us what they can do for privacy, good and ill. But then there’s all the other advantages because outside of privacy, big data is almost universally amazingly good. We have huge files on people these days for their medical history. A thing like that that help us predict what’s gonna be wrong with them and a big factor on us telling, making them live longer because something that would be a normal symptom in other people is a very big symptom of a real illness in another person with more data on them, that we can say, oh, that’s an emerging cancer, that’s an emerging side of this same illness your great grandfather had. Imagine if your Fitbit was taking your heart rate all the time for your whole life. If it was taking your respiration, not just your average for the day, but every single beat was recorded, every little jump was noticed, every time you slept and for how long was noticed. Security measures can be put on this to keep that genuinely secret, but it’s there for your doctor or for the AI that’s gonna interpret these things. And it’s going to say, “this person is having this problem breathing.” It’s gonna know you’re asthmatic before you do.

Isaac Arthur: It’s going to know that you’ve picked up an illness before you show this full sign of a fever. And it’s going to know exactly where you did that at. And it’s gonna know exactly where everybody else was at nearby you then. And you can still deal with that with anonymity. You could even have an opt-in or opt-out system. So suddenly you’ve caught an illness and it can backtrack and say these symptoms must have been from something you got affected with three to six hours ago. Where were you over the course of last three, six hours? It’s got your GPS coordinates down to the second and who else was in a bubble of 10 feet of you during that time? And you can send them a little voice mail and say, how are you feeling? Or talk to their little smartphone and say, are they feeling fine, I got X symptoms and say, “Oh-oh, my guy’s got those symptoms too.” And they can quarantine that area. Very smartly, very easily and potentially without ever needing to actually bring anybody in. Just as you need to come swing by the hospital place or it alerts people that this particular person’s got this illness, where the privacy line there is tricky, that’s one example for a current problem. One way this will probably be our last big pandemic.

Isaac Arthur: What are other ways it helps? It’s the one in school that learns that this particular kid while he’s listening to lessons always finds references to A interesting and B aggravating. So it just picks a different word, maybe just a little tiny synonym, intellectual and that changes and the kid pays more attention. It looks at their eyes, their bio-signature and says, they’re bored as heck on this topic so let’s switch on to a payload topic that’s less boring to them or let’s just rephrase it. Let’s use lesson plan version 7 out of 20 or 30 we actually have done on the same topic, different presenter. It’s the thing that knows it well enough to be able to predict that coming in. Where you get these options, more predictive power is always better. And with the big data aspect, when we know more about people, then we can pick better for them. And then big thing is just how we make this a tool they get to control and how do we get to make it so people can’t use it as a tool to oppress, to take over or to dehumanize people. Those are not trivial challenges, but they all are options.

Chelsea Follett: Absolutely and you describe that challenge with data as being… How do we keep privacy and prevent these other abuses while also keeping all of these wonderful potential advantages? And that’s kind of a theme throughout the video where a lot of people only see the negatives of a new technology. You look at both the pros and the cons and point out that we need to be really careful to avoid excessive restrictions, like with virtual reality technology. You certainly don’t dismiss the challenges of potential addiction and so forth to very realistic virtual reality. But you also warn people not to paint all of VR technology with a broad brush. So what are some potential upsides of improving virtual reality technology?

Isaac Arthur: I suppose we start on the addiction thing, it’s not really a new one. A lot of us who are in my age range, who are a little bit older, have their own Nintendo thumb, the music controller all the time with that, or we know the Konami code to this day, or we got exhausted playing Space Invaders dumping quarters in the machine for that, or Pong. Pong apparently is getting interesting to monkeys as well according to brain augmentation subjects basically plays Pong mentally with a chip in it’s head while eating bananas, smoothies. Big invention, [laughter] so. What are the advantages of virtual reality? And again, that addiction thing is a real issue ’cause we can joke about the simpler technologies being just as addictive but they probably are not. They probably are not as addictive, we have a lot more people addicted to video games when I was a kid I think. Is it gonna be that way, losing to virtual reality? Well, first before I wanna talk a little about what exactly is reality ’cause in a lot of religions and a lot of theologies this is one layer of reality anyway. Like there’s a higher level you’re supposed to be attaining that you’re not supposed to live in, the idea of the mundane or profane world versus the sacred world element that everything above us is just a dream.

Isaac Arthur: It’s the same thing with simulation hypothesis too, that there is a higher level of reality and this comes in with virtual reality, I could say well I’m living in this other simulated world beneath me, and just keep going down layer after layer of simulations and say, where is the reality on that? I think that this is a real world but we could be in a simulation and I don’t think that would make us less real and people say “you live in a fake world” you hear this about folks who are in various professions that insulate them a lot. You’re living in kind of a fake reality, insulated world of some sort. When you get out into the real world things will be different. And that’s usually not to imply that those are actually fake, in the sense of not existing but it is worth noting that we build artificial environments for ourselves a lot, that’s a lot of human nature.

Isaac Arthur: I don’t think my house is a fake world even though it is obviously very manufactured compared to the two feet of snow outside that there currently is, is the nature scape. So we wanna be a little bit careful on what we are actually qualifying as downsides of virtual reality. In of itself, someone’s spending their entire life living in a virtual world sounds horrifying. But why? Well, they might be working from home, might be the same as just working from home. They might be living in the matrix, busy doing science while talking to other people who lived in the matrix entirely aware of the world above them though not wanting to focus on too much getting real work done and in a matrix with people who do not live in that alter ego place too. Just like if they lived in an individual town, the future of virtual reality might be a lot of individual shared towns or servers that people have spent most or even all their time on. And again, that does sound a little bit horrifying but we probably wanna not just assume that is the case.

Isaac Arthur: A lot of times we have a new jerk reaction to things that’s maybe not fair. These things might be a little more than the equivalent of the new colonized settlement out on the west side of the country that is far away from everyone else difference being they can actually just contact you up instantly or unplug or have you come join them there. So I would not be surprised that there actually were a lot of… Almost to the point of being virtual nations, there’s something we look at more our virtual world episode years back. Those are more the long term things, but I like to point those out as reasons why we don’t wanna just assume certain aspects of this all bad, ’cause you start up by telling people, “People could live their whole life in virtual reality that’s horrible we should outlaw that.” And the answer from all of us is essentially, “oh yeah, absolutely” And I don’t think it really would be healthy in most use cases, but at the same time maybe we don’t want just to assume it always will be bad.

Isaac Arthur: How do we deal with it in the short term? What are the benefits of virtual reality? How does a kid learn history? I’d say well somebody is involved in lecture, no, that’s how they don’t learn history. The way they learn history is to immerse themselves in it, whether it’s a good book, whether it’s an amazing lecturer, I had a great history teacher when I was in college, man was like a legend locally and maybe it’s a movie, maybe it’s a… As you say it’s a fantasized movie version of the past is how we are able to see a lot of the period dramas, that was all great. You are like down there, the other two doors, four sides, whatever it is, but they’re not all that historically accurate, but if they sucked you into it, if they made you love that period of history, you’re gonna know everything there is about that.

Isaac Arthur: And we also have a period or two of history that we’re all just in love with and whether it’s an entirely accurate view of history can vary but, hey that’s the nature of the ancient history. Often we have rose colored glasses about periods, but at the same time that’s how a student learns to love history and so if you get to actually go hang out with Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, if you get to actually go meet James Madison or go meet the folks who signed the Magna Carta or if you get to go see Augustus or Julia Caesar or… Back in their time. Even though it’s obviously gotta have a lot of plugged-in, just to make that seem more realistic, that’s an option that kids might have growing up learning these things and getting to actually live those experiences, probably not entirely realistically but yeah most of them like that, that would be something that they’re going to love. How is it to learn chemistry if you actually go get to work in a lab in a virtual environment from day one with the world’s best chemistry teacher, because the simulation is that good that you’re always getting the 20 best lecturers on a given topic have prepared a lecture on this topic or a virtual thing for this entire topic and that’s what you need to pull on.

Isaac Arthur: And maybe you have a teacher back here that helps you out with some of the specifics, but that’s the virtual learning edge. It is the one that lets you make sure that people love every moment of the learning experience. And entertainment obviously is a no brainer. We were just talking about how that can be used for education, but virtual reality changes a lot of that too, but other aspects are huge too. Imagine if you have a robot that is called an actual proper or tell a robot like experience where you could use a simulated hand to reach through with your hand and touch things, you got one of those in every house and when you have any problems, you call a repair man who just pops in virtually and repairs the thing on the spot, no travel time, no trying to have you describe the problem, they just go “Oh, there it is.”

Isaac Arthur: And there’ll be something like Uber, but for carpenters or plumbers, you pop it up, “I got a problem” and somebody from halfway around the world that happens to be free at that time, takes the case, goes in, looks at it and says “here’s your problem” and fix it on the spot or out to be delivered by a drone. It’s cool to say “hey you could do a virtual surgery on someone” so the best surgeon in the world for that type of surgery can plug in to you anywhere any time with the virtual robot and this is true, you say we could use this to let people walk around on the moon individually and built stuff and this is true and these are cool applications, but they are nothing like the day-to-day applications of… That we’d be having all day long, that cool technology that you’re gonna use once a year or once in a lifetime versus that smartphone appeal, that TV appeal or the thing you get to use all day long. How does this improve my life?

Isaac Arthur: How do we let people learn to drive better, learn so many new hobbies better. And not to say you’re gonna replace your vacation to a mountain or climb your mountain with virtual reality, but it means we can have you climb one virtually the first 20 or 30 times since you’re already an expert when you go to head up to do the real one, you’ve already learned your lessons, followed down the gorge, know all the tricks and know to be cautious. And now you can go do the real thing and enjoy it. These are the options available to us with virtual reality.

Chelsea Follett: Changing topics a bit, you discuss aging workforces and falling fertility rates, a long-term trend that humanity is dealing with, and you point out how technology could potentially help mitigate some of the negative effects by helping people who want children that are unable to have children to have them and also how technology might be able to help us maintain a high standard of living even with a smaller population by having robots or machines replace some roles in the economy. But one of your predictions is also that the population will be over 10 billion without sacrificing quality of life. So I know that’s a lot of different things, but can you talk a bit about that? Population?

Isaac Arthur: Population. I always think of the situation when you go to Walmart and say what’s cool about Walmart is you can go there at 3 o’clock in the morning, pre-pandemic, and you had a choice of 200 types of cereal up there that you could pick from and 50 types of pet food. And your pet is gonna reject each one of those in order and you are gonna pick the same brand as normal because decisions take a lot of energy. They’re one of the most exhausting stressful things you can do, but still good to have that option and every so often you’ll try a new cereal. And so this is to me always the upside of being able to view more variety. I would take this to the analogy of… Let’s say I’m a country that has a declining population right now, you have basically three options, you can slowly choke away, or you can convince people to have more kids, or you can bring in immigration. A lot of times all those cause tensions of some kind. They have their ups and their downs. Robots aren’t the same way, you can bring in a more automated workforce to handle some of your problems. We only look to add more options with technology, the answer is almost never… This is the technology that will do everything, we want diversity of technology too. Give me 1000 options, I’ll pick which. Although then please give me a robot advisor so I can acquire a brand affiliation after he makes the suggestion too.

Isaac Arthur: With population, people in the ’70s… And you know there was this thing called The Population Bomb and it predicted 16 billion people. And in the early ’80s when I heard that I thought isn’t that a good thing? Everybody else thought that was a whole lot worse than a war and I didn’t quite get it at the time and I said, “Isn’t that a good thing? Aren’t more people good?” And of course, later folks explained, well, of course it’s not good because they’d all be eating each other. And I remember me thinking to myself, well, doesn’t it take a lot more time to grow someone than eat them? That didn’t seem like a good strategy. But it got me thinking about that entire topic and I was like, why do we have more people now than 1000 years ago? Well we got better at farming. Can we grow more food that we need for 10 billion people? Oh yeah. There is a point where we probably can’t support more people through eating a protein traditional agriculture on this planet, however we do not need even one more square foot of farming in an area than we already have in use and indeed probably not half of what we do to support about twice the population we have now.

Isaac Arthur: So the idea that we need to be anything less than 10 billion, it’s a nice round number, but first saying nine is gonna be the top and it’ll be very problematic, I don’t see it at all, I don’t see that as the least bit of a problem and I would say that even the idea of 16 billion from The Population Bomb, not a problem. You should be able to go above that too but you do actually still have to put some additional work in, or need some really big new technologies. But it’s doable. What’s the advantage of having 10 billion people? Well, whether you got a billion people or 10 billion people or 100 billion people, it always turns out how do you look at people. If you see people as a nuisance who are going to cause you problems then more of them is bad. If you see them as people who tend to get jobs done and have fun lives and then work and solve problems, then more people is going to usually be good. And those are blanket comments, obviously, there are maximums you can’t really exceed, but see a lot of times with population growth it always comes down to whether or not people think it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Isaac Arthur: And somewhere around the turn of the century, or in the years following I started hearing about how all the Western countries had declining population rates. And they say, “Oh, the more money you have, the more likely you are not to have kids.” And I thought that was strange, ’cause most of the folks I think I’ve taught who had a lot of money had a lot of kids. And so isn’t it more likely that people would start marrying later ’cause they got a profession and marry other professionals just to have fewer kids. And then I said, “You know what I’ll do, I’ll look up the 10 countries that have the highest GDP and the 10 countries that have the lowest birth rate and see if there’s a lot of matches.” And the year I did that, there was not a single one. The year after that I checked it again, there was one match. The year after that, none again. Less than random, that study was random, so I couldn’t see the correlation that we talked about. It seemed to be more like those places that are well developed are probably already pre-populated and would then have most of the actual kid-restricted society that doesn’t want to have a lot more people.

Isaac Arthur: And so we see that kind of that Malthusian mindset getting in those places where they say, “We shouldn’t have any more people.” Well, technology helps with that. Technology avoids accidental births where we don’t want them. Technology allows us to have lifestyles that don’t begin as a 50-year farmer, getting married and having kids, right from that point. And so that can cause a lowering population. Better technology for getting pregnant when you want to, which usually is the goal, to have a family when you feel you’re ready and want to. But the problem is right now as that becomes more and more of a reality, for a lot of us it’s to start later. I’m 41 and I have no kids. My wife is 33. We feel like we should be getting started and we probably wish we’d started a little bit earlier. Wouldn’t it be nice though if you could start whenever you want to and have families for as long as you wanted to? And so the last century technology was mostly designed to limit the number of kids being born by accident, while at the same time, basically eliminating child mortality. That’s almost gone.

Isaac Arthur: Big progress, century ahead will be ways that we have technology that makes it easy to start a family later when you want to, as you want to. And I don’t see how that could not avoid having more people as a result of it. So whether we want it or not, I think we can probably expect to see more people in that century. And the big one is I can’t even see any reason why, so long as we comfortably can support them, that would not be a good thing.

Chelsea Follett: And related to that, you predict that access to food, medicine and information will be vastly wider than now a hundred years in the future. And it’s certainly true that that has been the broad historical trend up until this point in time, as followers of HumanProgress.org are well aware. But of course, it is possible that whatever policies or institutions or technologies have allowed us to achieve that progress could be abandoned or some disaster could strike and disrupt all these positive trends… progress is obviously not inevitable. So why do you think the positive trends of people having greater access to food, medicine and information will continue?

Isaac Arthur: Well, all based from that greater access to information, right from the get go. Think about the feedback loops on these things. Now we know the stock market has risen, most years. We had a generally upwards positive direction for a century or whatever it is now. And that’s not just because it magically does this, but it’s a pretty reliable trend. Can we be sure the stock market will continue to rise? Well tomorrow an asteroid could land on Wall Street. I almost can promise you it’s gonna be a while for the markets to get back in order, if that happens. Not really a predictable event. We don’t talk about inevitability. Inevitability is for the laws of thermodynamics and maybe not even then, everything else is mutable.

Isaac Arthur: However, so many things have feedback. What happens when I have more food? Well, I have more people and more of them can go in to be specialists. More geniuses, I get more Einsteins and they’re not that rare, right? Folks like Newton or Einstein with that level of IQ, there are millions of them alive right now, alright. This is not one of those things that only ever pops up once per generation. The luck of having them in that field, interested in that field and pursuing that field and getting a couple of those discoveries maybe a little bit more so, but these are not freak luck people. There are a lot of da Vinci level people out there as well. Add to that, well, now you got them living a little bit longer. A lot of people do have kinda that peak in terms of their research ability, for instance, in their early 20s but a lot don’t. A lot of professors are still kicking out brand new and their best material way after that.

Isaac Arthur: And we don’t know why people really tend to do that more in their 20s and 30s though. There is that where you’re on that young production level, but maybe that has to do with extending people’s lives to make that longer too. Whatever the case happens to be, more researchers, more working done. The longer people live individually, the more productive they will each individually be in that lifetime. What would you be like if you enjoy great 20-something health when you’re 200? Well, there’s a chance that you might be like a person who sits on the beach all day long and does nothing. There is that chance, right? On the other hand there’s also a chance that that’s what you do for your vacations because you are a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, you can build a house from scratch on your own and you have hiked up 20 mountains, kayaked down 30,000 rivers, whatever it is.

Isaac Arthur: What kind of person are you like when you’ve enjoyed the level of prosperity that the culture has these days and you got to do it for a couple of centuries? And when you have spent half your life either growing up or being a senior or taking care of your own relatively small number of kids. These are feedback things. If they’re happening, what happens when they have a longer life? Society gets more prosperous. What happens when society gets more prosperous? People live longer and there’s more of us, we have more time to devote to specializations and to other things. So not only for how people spend their personal time but I tend to think most people will do that and something that we think of as semi-productive, not across the board nor necessarily should be, but societies with more spare time will actually be productive in areas of art and science and other, you know, theology or philosophy or any number of other good pursuits people might have as a way of expanding us beyond just enjoying time in their garden or whatever it is. That is what we get, we get feedback loops, positive feedback. More automation, more free time, more production per individual.

Isaac Arthur: How do we deal with the fact that people don’t have a job in that area? Well, I would say that while I understand people are always being concerned about what will happen when robots take everyone’s jobs, they’ve been taking people’s jobs for over a century now and we still, at the moment at least, have help wanted signs all over the place, all over the place. We have no shortage of places who are looking to hire for all sorts of jobs. That may change one day, but they say, Well, if you have been blessed with that much prosperity that your biggest problem is trying to find something for people to do, then hopefully the first thing you can tell them is, “I know you’re bored, find some way to cure boredom” and they might. [chuckle]

Isaac Arthur: But that is definitely a problem for the future and it’s okay to have problems for the future. We don’t have to solve them all today. I don’t know how you deal with people who all grow up basically as spoiled brats, having so much prosperity. But I think you can probably figure out a way to solve that. And I think that a lot of times, I’ve seen people who have grown up very fortunate in their circumstances arguably everybody in the modern 20th century western or 21st century western world is and there are very noble, very wise, very productive or very self sacrificing individuals. So I don’t think we should be assuming that better prosperity is going to ruin civilization, it might be a challenge though. Again, we don’t worry about challenges for the future not existing, they will. They will be there, there will be plenty of things to keep us preoccupied [chuckle]

Chelsea Follett: Absolutely and of course, technology has created a lot of jobs too and many of those jobs are a lot more pleasant than the jobs that technology replaced, and safer.

Isaac Arthur: I would put a caveat on it though because, apparently we have a higher stress level than a lot of previous civilizations did. I do wonder how they get that data sometimes, but I think there might be a lot less back-breaking labor than they used to, but I’m not entirely certain that all of our jobs necessarily are all that more pleasant across the board, probably, but there does seem to be a certain greater stress that comes to living nowadays. It may not be… It may just be you expose the entire world and all its problems and bad news has more longevity than good news, but there are always downsides in an advanced civilization, so to speak technologically, but we apparently do have additional stress that previous generations haven’t had which is ironic, because we have such a better life overall, but that’s another thing that we can potentially be looking to solve. You know. [chuckle]

Chelsea Follett: That’s true, that negative news cycle, that’s a good point. I think a lot of people don’t realize that their lives are easier in a lot of ways than their ancestors’. But I want to move on to some of your other predictions as well. So two of your predictions are about space exploration and how far we will be advanced in that area a century from now. And I know that this is something you could talk about all day, but just succinctly, could you tell us a little bit more about what your predictions are for space exploration over the next century?

Isaac Arthur: I would guess by the year 2121 we will probably have at least one solid Moonbase that’s on par with the equivalent that we think of McMurdo from Antarctica, excuse me. And probably some base on Mars called Musk. That’s fairly similar ‘Cause we’ve seen this obsession with Mars. I would guess we would have some asteroid mining probably for precious metals and for raw materials to work on in space and probably mining on the moon, which also has lots of raw materials. That’s probably where I’d put it. I would think we’d have an automated probe on every place that we thought was interesting. I would think space probes by even 30 years from now should be the sort thing that sending them out really doesn’t require much more technology than we associate to a relatively expensive drone and probably a fairly small price tag. So we’ll have drones all over the solar system by then.

Chelsea Follett: Energy abundance is another one of your predictions. Could you flesh that one out a little bit?

Isaac Arthur: Oh yeah. I would always add that one as a prediction/wishful thinking hopefully too, because we need it. That’s in many ways the one we absolutely do need is energy abundance, regardless of where one stands on the ecological issues, there is a finite supply of oil and the sun produces insane amounts of power. So in the long term, our methods to wanna get power, either nuclear, which is how the sun gets it, be it fission or fusion and solar directly because that’s how the sun provides it. The other power options can be useful and only… You know, they say, “What should you research?” All of them. All of them because one nice thing is if you can run your car on things other than gasoline, you’re not subject to OPEC switching around the prices every week on you.

Isaac Arthur: It just brings more stability when you got options, both to natural problems. Well, you know, if you have something that knocks out tanks, that’s gonna lower prices too. If you got cloudy weather ’cause a volcano erupted, your solar power is not giving as well that yield, it’s nice to not have scarcity. And that’s the big one is energy abundance is a necessity because economies act differently based on what the scarce thing is as well as they act differently when they’re at a period of overall scarcity. And it’s not always in bad ways, you have to get some very interesting innovation going after them. The pandemic has done us a lot for innovation. I think most of us would just have preferred to have done the slower way to get that innovation, although… And so should you take advantage of hydropower? Yes. Wind power? Yes. Solar power? Yes. Passive solar power? Yes. Geothermal? Yes. Fusion? Yes.

Isaac Arthur: Fusion if you get a walking solar power? Yes. Space based solar power? Yes, please. And the answer to all those is which one is best is even in some cases where one might cost a little bit more than the other, it’s probably a good idea to keep running it because economy of scale will help those get better over time. But also because you know, a diversity of diet for these things is healthy because then you have less weaknesses exposed to it. If you go only on potatoes then you’re in deep trouble if there’s a potato famine and it doesn’t matter that potatoes cost 90% of what wheat did for say, it’s good to add some wheat production.

Chelsea Follett: And you touched on this, many people are very anxious about what the next century holds for the environment. And you share some thoughts on the potential of technology to mitigate climate change and preserve different species. You make some really interesting points about preserving different species’ DNA and biodiversity, as a sort of contingency plan, by making backups of DNA. And your ninth prediction is that we might actually be able to even reintroduce extinct species like Jurassic Park. Could you tell me a little bit about your thinking on those things?

Isaac Arthur: I’d tell you when it comes to bringing back dinosaurs Jurassic Park style, that’s a little bit like we were talking with the virtual reality of trying to like go and see the times with Caesar or Augustus or Genghis Khan you don’t have really good records there so you’re gonna have to do some guesswork, but if we know what they look like from their bones and all their predictions, we can probably fidget the DNA ’cause a lot of us took fragmented amount on organisms, remember DNA is just patterns. It’s just data, right? And if I don’t actually have a blueprint for a Ford Mustang lying around but I have watched pictures of them and descriptions, I can make something that is basically a Ford Mustang, at least as well as we know it is because we know it too as good as we know it to be.

Isaac Arthur: But things like mammoths, we get DNA from them, the Dodo bird DNA. And I do not ever want to imply that you should give up on other conservation efforts in favor of just taking DNA samples from the thing because that’s alluding to defeat. But I sometimes have folks say, don’t suggest that we should take DNA samples from all these things and put ’em in archives. So digitize that DNA instead, just freezing it too, because then people will stop trying to save the Siberian Tiger. I said, well I hope not. I don’t think that’s true. However, I would really rather put that airbag in that car even if it meant people drove a little bit riskier because contingency plants are good. [laughter] And we can conserve all we want, but if an asteroid comes and lands on some, Madagascar, that’s gone, that place is a trove of DNA.

Isaac Arthur: There’s amazing things there that’s not even on other islands, they are in Madagascar. What would it take to wipe it out? Well, human stupidity certainly but accident, volcano will be there for all we know, just some naturally occuring virus that just decimates one of the main pieces of the agriculture there or whatever it is, ruins the area. So you do your contingency plans and you take all that DNA samples. And the nice thing is you don’t even need a whole big ton of them to be diverse because if you actually know what the various bits of DNA do, then you can take one single strand from a species and put your genetic diversity into it just by wiggling a few things around, you know, or if you see it’s got some genetic deficiency, you’re pasting it in from someplace else say, well, you can make squid people by taking some squid DNA and putting it on a monkey or opossum. You’re not putting squid DNA on somebody, you’re taking a trait they’ve got and putting it on there. It’s like saying I’ve made a house called hybrid because I used the fan system from a car inside the house you know there is a lot we can do with preserving the environment and that we absolutely should be doing, but at the same time we should definitely take those contingency steps because contingencies often are needed. [chuckle]

Chelsea Follett: You also say toward the end of the video, the last 100 years brought a lot of pleasant surprises and with some hard work and determination the next century probably will too. So on that note, what is something positive where you would be surprised if it happened. It’s not a prediction, but it’s also not outside the realm of possibility in the next century.

Isaac Arthur: So usually the first one that pop in my head would be the friendly aliens landing, or a perpetual motion machine. I don’t really expect either of those to happen, or something like the ability to travel to multiverses, that were carbon copies of earth that were uninhabited. Those would be my technologies, I wouldn’t expect to happen, but… Which if we’re gonna discover them it probably would be sooner rather than later and would just be mind-blowingly cool to live through, so.

Chelsea Follett: It would be cool. You say you think we will survive and even thrive over the next 100 years, so this is my last question. What in a nutshell, gives you the hope to say that?

Isaac Arthur: Well, I mean to say that is this solid conviction that if I turn out to be wrong, there won’t be anyone around to point it out to other people, so if you are an optimist by your predictions and nature generally speaking, people, you know, be around or remember that you are and give you credit. No I just… You look at the past, we cannot see the future, no one should be able to take any prediction I say and say that’s right any more they should believe the weather forecast for next year. We look at general trends, I can tell you it’s probably gonna rain next year, it’s not a guarantee, but there’s a reason why I believe that, and it’s not just ’cause it’s happening. We look a lot of times in the past and say, well, this happened a lot and this must happen in the future. No, that’s a good basis to assume it will, but there is a reason why the sun rises tomorrow and if you know why it does it’s a lot easier to know why it’s gonna keep doing it and be confident in that. We have grown as a civilization in the last century or two because we’ve absorbed the idea that people are a valuable resource when you treat them right and when you coach them to do the same and when you tell them to expand themselves and learn and try to be productive mentally and in other ways, if you’re betting on that and I think that is an optimistic view of humanity.

Isaac Arthur: If you bet on that and it was up for you, that’s what you’re gonna get. You’re gonna get a civilization that just keeps winning, it’s gonna just keep winning and I think like we’ve seen that for the last two centuries and if we stick to that, that’s what should keep happening, we can veer a little bit here and there, but it seems like everyone so seems to feel that way. The expansion of knowledge, that we should be looking into valuing the individual, that we should be looking at exploring new horizons, while we believe that those are important, that is what we will do and if we’re doing those, it’s all pretty good, we are going to continue to do well, so long as we don’t open some genuine Pandora’s Box and then find out, Oh, hey, oops, we blew up the planet by this new power source, things could happen through bad luck, incompetence, so many other things too but I would say that the odds look very good for us based on what we can see.

Chelsea Follett: And toward the end of the video, you also say with some grit and determination we can solve our problems rather than fall prey to some inevitable doom and I really like that line. I could not agree more. So on that note, check out Isaac’s video if you haven’t and the many other videos on his channel. Isaac, thank you so much for talking to me. This has been a delight.

Isaac Arthur: Thank you, Chelsea for having me on.

Isaac Arthur is a science communication YouTuber and futurist. He is best known as producer of his YouTube channel, Science & Futurism With Isaac Arthur (SFIA), where he discusses a broad variety of topics on futurism and space exploration.

Chelsea Follett is the managing editor of HumanProgress.org and a policy analyst in the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.


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