Christine Peterson | On a Positive Turning Point for Human Longevity

about the episode

“In a 100 years from now, where are we going to be with human health? The science is looking super encouraging. I would be surprised if we can't make substantial, major improvements on human health and longevity significantly within a 100 years from now.”

In the first episode of the Existential Hope Podcast we interviewed Christine Peterson, co-founder and former President of Foresight Institute. We talked about everything from cryopreserved pets, sci-fi reading recommendations and the future of longevity.

More about Christine:

She lectures and writes about nanotechnology, AI, and longevity. Christine leads Foresight’s technical workshops and Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology. She is co-author of Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution (Morrow, also free online) and Leaping the Abyss: Putting Group Genius to Work (knOwhere Press, also free online).

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About the Scientist

Christine Peterson is Co-founder and former President of Foresight Institute. She lectures and writes about nanotechnology, AI, and longevity. She is co-author of Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution (Morrow, also free online) and Leaping the Abyss: Putting Group Genius to Work (knOwhere Press, also free online). She advises the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, Global Healthspan Policy Institute, National Space Society, startup Ligandal, and the Voice & Exit conference. She coined the term ‘open source software.’ She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from MIT.


About the artpiece

TTY is a visual artist. He develops two thematics jointly : one of them is about the evolution of the human species and the other one touches upon the nature of artistic act and its future by the integration of virtual creation tools. His main objective is to enquire about the physical dematerialization as a major trend in the contemporary world. This NFT is a concept taken from the Existential Hope-podcast, where we invite scientists to speak about their long-term visions of the future. One of the questions we always ask is for the scientist to provide an example of a potential eucatastrophe. The phrase “eucatastrophe” was published in a paper from Future of Humanity Institute by Owen Cotton-Barratt and Toby Ord, to suggest that ”an existential eucatastrophe is an event which causes there to be much more expected value after the event than before.” I.e. the opposite of a catastrophe. When we asked Christine Peterson about a potential Eucatastrophe, she suggested that an event where a dog dies and is brought back to life from cryonics would be such an event. Using art to visualize concepts can help inspire us, and make what seems abstract become real and clear in our minds. Therefore we have asked an artist to create an NFT based on this prompt from Christine’s suggested eucatastrophe. The concept of this art piece is a textual artwork which plays with the code of reading and recognition as an important piece for AI development.


The question and answer excerpt below summarizes the events of the Existential Hope Podcast presented by Beatrice Erkers and Allison Duettmann, with fellow speaker Christine Peterson. Christine Peterson is the co-founder of the Foresight Institute. In this special podcast, she discusses how things were like when the space was emerging and the journey of establishing a space of like minded, excited pioneers of the future. She shares her thoughts on things that excite her for the future, as well as advice for those looking to follow in similar footsteps towards expanding our possibilities. Additionally, given the special twist of the XHope podcast, Christine shares her thoughts on existential hope and what she envisions for the future of findings and advancements across many developing fields.

Allison Duettmann: Hello everyone! It is wonderful to see so many of you here. This is the first meeting of the existential hope group in 2022. As you know, 2021 was another unpredictable year full of surprises, but I am really hopeful for what this group has created. We have had a few fantastic meetings, thus far, that started quite strong. We are also actually able to play more of our technical meetings in this group. Ultimately, as a reminder, this group is about trying to provide a bit more direction as to where we could be headed. I think this is a nice layer to provide some kind of coating and purpose to the technologies that many of our technical groups are working on. With that, welcome back everyone.

This year, we are launching a variety of products, which I will elaborate on later. Relevant to this session in particular, we are now launching a special existential podcast episode. There will be more information coming on this soon. Essentially, the idea of these podcasts is a way for you to sit in as we interview our senior foresight fellows, with a distinct approach as to why the future is exciting, what puzzle piece of the future they are working on, how they can help others still finding their way, and how we can collaborate more as a community from a place of existential hope versus existential angst. Thank you for joining. This will be a back and forth interview between Christine, Beatrice, and I. If we have time at the end, we will open the floor for questions. All in all, this will be an open-ended podcast episode, published on Foresight podcast as well.

A good segue into our time with Christine Peterson is that she is one of our senior fellows at Foresight. Christine is the co-founder of Foresight Institute, so we have a lot to thank you for having created one of the earliest, long-term organizations around with a strong legacy and hope for the horizon of our future. You are a big reason many of us are here today. I remember when I first discovered Foresight online, back when I was still studying philosophy of science and technology. I was pretty disillusioned by all of the disillusionment. Somehow, I found Foresight and it was amazing how early on people were so optimistic of the future, with much less technological advances back then, and how that has progressed to where we are now. From making my way to San Francisco, I am now in the fortunate position of carrying the legacy that you all have created, so thank you for that. I should also say, thank you Christine for being one of the carrying stones of so many focused on long termism and building up an entire ecosystem. You are an early adapter. You catch on to things extremely early and do not stop until people see the value, eventually becoming a second skin that many people in Silicon Valley cherish deeply. Thank you for being an incredible mentor to many at Foresight and building all of us up. I am excited to have you here today. We will start with a few questions to set the stage a bit. Feel free to share with the community what you are working on and how you got into it.

Christine Peterson: That sounds fun, thanks Allison. The way I think about my work is I try to steer technologies in a positive direction and away from negative directions. What got me started was that I had been a fairly typical undergraduate student at MIT, studying chemistry. By that point, I was not particularly dedicated to the future. However, another student was working on a new area, which has now developed into atomically precise manufacturing, or molecular machine systems. That student was the other Foresight cofounder, Eric Drexler. I realized, as he did of course, that wow this was going to be a very big deal. So, instead of going to medical school, I decided I am going to earn to give. Many of you from the Effective Altruism Movement will recognize that term. So I went to work and made a lot of money as an engineer and then did the underwriting financially for the first book for Foresight, Engines of Creation. I highly recommend reading it, even after all of these years.

We also realized that although Boston is a wonderful place, Silicon Valley was the right place to found an organization to promote these ideas. When the book came out, there was a physical postal address in the back, pre internet, where people could write to us, and they did in the thousands. There was an outpouring of excitement because this was an optimistic technological vision. That is not to say that it ignored the downsides, because it truly addressed them. Nevertheless, it charted a path towards a positive future in science of technology. It appealed to a lot of folks because a lot of people were feeling bad about lack of resources and expensive resources. As such, an approach towards a clean manufacturing of abundance was exciting to people. Now, Foresight is going strong, more than 30 years on, and doing much better with our new leadership, so I am quite pleased with how Foresight is doing.

Allison Duettmann: I can only echo what you said about the book being worth reading. One of my favorite quotes is from there. “Whether anyone else is out there or not, we are on our way. Expansion will proceed if we survive, because we are a part of a living system, and life tends to spread. Pioneers will move outward into worlds without end. Others will remain behind, building settled cultures throughout the oases of space. Where goals change and complexity rules, limits need not bind us. New technologies will nurture new arts, and new arts will bring new standards. The world of brute matter offers room for great but limited growth. The world of mind and pattern, though, holds room for endless evolution and change. The possible seems room enough.” I think having made this existential hope sort of effort in finding positive, optimism-inspiring writings of the future, this is still my favorite. Okay, great. You already touched upon the fact that back then everything was postal. That reminds me of an interesting tale. We had a Foresight member gathering in 1999, with Robin Hanson and Chris Hebert. Is it true people voted by sending checks to the physical office?

Christine Peterson: I believe that it is true. It is hard to believe now, but those were early days. It was rough.

Allison Duettmann: I am still always impressed by the claims voted on back then being still relevant now. Can you describe a bit more of the feeling, or community, you all created back then? How did it feel to be a part of Foresight back then? It sounded like it was a really fantastic time. We are kick starting this again now, but I would love to know your thoughts so we can include this for the future.

Christine Peterson: It was a very exciting time. There were hundreds of people showing up at meetings, and thousands writing in. A lot would say the same thing along the lines of feeling as though they found their community. People were excited about the future and tackling the problems with a spirit of optimism and excitement. The idea that not only could we solve our problems, but also go on and build things better than today was contagious. We were not limited. It was a largely useful crowd, with people in their twenties and early thirties, similar to the Altruism movement today. It was a lot of the big names in Silicon Valley today that were involved in those early days as young people. It was a lot of fun.

Allison Duettmann: Whenever I look at our member registries from back then, I get big imposter syndrome, as well as a big hope for our community now. It has exploded over the past few years. I am excited for what people will be doing for the next thirty years. I think if that is any signal for what this present community will be creating, then I am very excited. Being a part of this organization that has existed for so long, its history gives me a much larger perspective for the future. I am interested in coalition building across organizations. I am thrilled with the strong cohort of fellows we have since the seventies. This organizational spirit makes Foresight really unique and exciting to be a part of. Are there any specific technologies or examples that were on your radar back then that are coming back online? I have noticed there is this revival movement with technologies in the public eye again.

Christine Peterson: Sure. When I first came to California, my friends were involved in the private rocket area. It was too early, but now it is dramatically time and it is happening. It is great to see those early efforts now flourishing. Of course, nanotechnology is advancing, but another area we were also very excited about early on was agoric computing. This area is really taking off now. They are well funded, they have the resources needed, and they can take it the full way. That is something our intelligence cooperation group is heavily involved with, so I am excited to see that happen. Also, from the late seventies, we have been excited about longevity technology. For decades, there was not much going on. However, a lot of resources are going into that field now and it is because science is really delivering. Not that this is an easy problem, as none of them are. Nevertheless, the case of advances in longevity science is finally getting close to where we would like to see it. That is another area we were interested in early on. It took a while to flourish, but now we are there.

Allison Duettmann: Even from the last 6 years with our competitions on longevity, there has been a lot of growth. Now our biotech group is truly flourishing, and it is hard to keep up with all the projects being worked on. It is exciting to see this space growing. Do you want to say a few words about the intelligence cooperation group? Or maybe the book Mark, you, and I are authoring and how it was inspired by much of that early discussions?

Christine Peterson: Sure, so first to describe the problem we are trying to solve: One of the big issues distressing me is looking at institutional failure that we see in the United States. I think the pandemic is really highlighting that for a lot of us. Some of our existing institutions are not succeeding, even in the area of science. For those of you following the replicability crisis, you will notice that there is a big problem, and it is not just in the social sciences, but in the physical sciences as well. It is very distressing. If even our most cherished institutions are failing us, how are we going to build a better future? Fortunately, there is the beginnings of a base on which we can build new institutions. That comes out of the computing space. Things like blockchain. The current AI technologies. Some of the very interesting developments we see coming out of the crypto space. So, that is what the intelligent cooperation group looks at.

How can we use these new technologies to build new institutions that we can build a civilization on top of? One that is a collectively peaceful, advanced, and developing civilization. I am actually super optimistic about that. The more I see what is going on in the intelligent cooperation group, I am just blown away by it. Some of what they are doing to me sounds like science fiction, and I mean that in a good way. In other words, it really feels like the 2020’s. Wonderful things are happening. Also, it gives me courage, because if you read the news too much you can get depressed. You have to have some basis for things getting better, and there currently is.

Allison Duettmann: I couldn’t agree more. Some of the work feels like magic and it is tremendously inspiring what sorts of tools are coming out, especially on the crypto end. One thing that is exciting about the book is that it addresses existentialists and it is charting a path that doesn’t rely on solutions that could be creating additional problems on the back end. I think cryptography is an exciting alternative and cryptocommerce in particular. Making this third case that with better technologies of cooperation, we can better address these obstacles we may be facing later on. That is a new thing this book brings to the table. To round up my questions, I would love to bring you back to your personal life, if you don’t mind. Was there anyone in particular, a person or experience, that really changed the course of your life? Anything you feel that has influenced where you are today? Some of our younger viewers are looking for that moment that catapulted people to where they are today. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Christine Peterson: There really was. As I said, I was a typical student. I observed the world. I tried to figure out how I could have a life in this world. Then, I got pulled into what we can think of as the proto-effective altruism movement. At the time, there was this concern of resources back then as a main focus, they were looking at outer space resources. What grew out of that, primarily among young people, was the idea that we could expand human civilization into near space. We could build space settlements or do space mining. The vision was to lift the burden of heavy industry off earth. It is still a vision I find inspiring. Very soon after getting involved in that group, there was a UN treaty that we thought would interfere with the effort. So we, a bunch of young people, decided we would go to Washington D.C. and educate our legislatures about this.

Fortunately, one of the older people involved recommended we hire a professional lobbyist. The lobbyist directed the efforts of these young people and made appointments for us with congress. We went in there, many of us in our 20’s, and made the case for this. They were kind of flabbergasted, wondering who was funding us. They thought it was the giant space companies like Rockwell or General Dynamics. We said no one was funding us and that we were just citizens. They were stunned by that. In fact, we won that battle. The point is, when that happens to you as a young person, it makes a big impression on you in terms of the power of your own agency and influence. Most people don’t realize there is this vacuum. If you step in and try to do things, there is an excellent chance that you will have an influence. I encourage young folks to remember that the world is open to them, their energy, and their ideas.

Allison Duettmann: I couldn’t agree more. Especially, from my own local view of growing up in Germany. You think what can you do to help out and there are so many opportunities to do just that. There is something to do for everyone really. The last question from me is if there was good advice that you would pass on, from such an experience, to other young folks in the space making up their mind about what to do?

Christine Peterson: I would say that first I did not ask for advice as much as I should have. Today’s effective altruists are much better at that. Fortunately, I did get excellent advice nonetheless and I give it back out to so many people. If you have an exciting, new idea that you think people should get involved in, as well as a significant amount of interest in it, you should have a conference about it. In other words, yes, you have this excitement, but you need to get people together physically so everyone else can see that excitement. That creates the feeling of a community and an overall movement. Have a conference on your idea and it will really start to take off!

Allison Duettmann: That is great advice. I also like you mentioning that people should ask for more advice. Thanks a lot. That was quite educational. From my end, we will probably be releasing a short history of a few innovations that came out of the Foresight ecosystem. It should be up by the time this podcast gets released for those of you a bit more interested in what this community was up to. We even have a meeting with Christine that she gave as a mentorship for fellows, which will be on the web and linked from this podcast episode.

Now, I will ask you to shift gears a bit. I am happy to pass it onto Beatrice for this. I am happy to be collaborating closely with her and seeing has been accelerating Foresight’s mission in the past year. In the next year, we are focusing much more on our existential hope vision, binding in the technologies we are working into this longer, future thread. I am happy to have you on here as a co moderator. Hopefully everyone will be hearing much more of you in the future.

Beatrice Erkers: Thank you so much Allison for that introduction. You are a big part of my inspiration as well. I want to start by saying that Christine is the reason I found Foresight. I come from the effective altruism movement that she mentioned and I heard her on the 80,000 hours podcast. That is actually how I heard of Foresight. I remember a quote she mentioned with something in regards to people having hope about the future, which is a human right. That stuck with me because it is impossible for humanity to thrive without such a hope for the future. With that, I want to dig into some existential hope questions. Existential angst is something commonly known by most, however, what is your definition of existential hope?

Christine Peterson: In today’s world, if you watch the news all you will hear is bad news. When people suggest solutions, it often provides a sacrifice or a downside. In other words, you hear things like yes, we can clean up the climate, but no we will all have to stop taking airplane trips. It seems to be presented as a trade off, or a firm constraint, with which there is no escape. This is often not necessarily true. The only time when trade offs stand firm is when you are up against the physical law. However, if you are up against the second law of thermodynamics, you are not going to get around that. We are very rarely in that situation though. Almost always, there is a way to advance science and technology to take advantage and expand the trade off space. In other words, it is not a simple trade off where we can only have a benefit if there is a major cost from another area. We instead can expand the trade off space.

For example, let’s say we wanted to have a much greener Earth. I most certainly do and I think others do as well. We want to heal the planet, but could we still have the same type of travel we have today? Well, yes you can. A simple mental model could be working to remove the gasses we are creating in the atmosphere. That is one way. What is a better way? This has been proposed by other people, and I heard it directly from Eric Drexler the Foresight cofounder. It is much more energy efficient, and faster, to travel through evacuated tunnels. If you were to build these underground, you could get to the other side of the planet, if I recall correctly, in two hours. So, it is not the case that if we want to heal the planet we cannot fly airplanes. No. We can heal the planet, while having travel that is both much greener and faster. You can expand the possibility space in all directions in a positive way. It can be done and that is what technology is for. That is how we live these luxurious lives compared to before. We still have work to do, but we do not sit back and give up thinking that we cannot have better things. Not at all. We can have things better in multiple dimensions at one time. That is existential hope.

Beatrice Erkers: Thank you so much. If we imagine a thousand years from now, maybe sooner, what does a day in an existential hope future look like?

Christine Peterson: I would say we can pull it sooner. Let’s say even 100 years. If you look at longevity science, wow. In 100 years from now, we will be much better on human health. The science is super encouraging and I would be surprised if we cannot make substantial, major improvements on human health and longevity significantly before 100 years from now. Even more so, the environment. If you look at the potential for one of our other working groups, the molecular machines group, that is our atomically precise manufacturing group. In 100 years, they may have high-quality products with all of the chemical pollution under physical control to the extent that it doesn’t merit being called pollution. If you have a byproduct you keep total control over, that is not pollution.

You are also always up against loss of heat, that second law of thermodynamics, you cannot get away from that. Nevertheless, we don’t have to pollute the planet to make high-quality products. Also, 100 years from now for space, I don’t see why we would not be mining asteroids. This idea that we have physical constraints on resources, not so much. Think how much solar energy there is out there, it is tremendous. The amount of resources is huge. So I think many of the constraints that seem so natural today would be viewed in 100 years as insignificant. Does that mean they will not have problems? Of course not, they will have new problems, but it is very hard to say what they will be. But our current problems today, I think, are solvable.

Beatrice Erkers: That is very good to hear. From your vantage point, you’ve mentioned molecular machines, longevity, and space. What else do we need to build this future?

Christine Peterson: A lot of what holds us back is people not realizing that problems can be solved. I think a lot of this is from fixating on news and only hearing problems, as that is a lot of what it is. I have stopped reading a lot of it myself. They never cover the solutions, which do exist. So how do we encourage young people with all this energy to be more ambitious? I think, okay, in the past people did not have these comfortable, luxurious lives we have today, which is thanks to the work they put in. Now when we teach young people history it is only political history, including wars, presidents, and kings. How about if we teach them the history of science, technology, commerce, and environmental progress. That is the story of human progress. Many of you watching this are too young to remember. In my lifetime, things would happen in the U.S. like rivers catching on fire. We have tackled that and it does not happen anymore. The air would be orange and it would give you a sore throat. We don’t have that anymore. So we have tackled environmental problems and made major progress. Remember the ozone hole? Major progress has been made on that. We do not have to ignore problems, we can solve problems. If we have young people studying those processes, regarding who was responsible and who were the heroes and so forth, we would have a much better appreciation of who the collective heroes are.

Beatrice Erkers: If you think more in terms of progress, is there any particular progress or breakthrough that you feel in the next five years would show we are on track?

Christine Peterson: Two areas. One is longevity. The hurdle holding that back is that whenever you do an experiment in it, you cannot wait around to figure out results, it is not possible. We need biomarkers that correlate really well with human longevity. There are a lot of candidates out there and a lot of discussion about which are tracking true longevity. Within five years, I would like to see the community agree on a set of biomarkers that we think actually work. That would be a sign that we are really on track there. In terms of computer security and those sorts of areas in our intelligent cooperation group, I look at the start up company called agoric.com. The reason is that they are working on technologies that are fundamental for success in this area. I would like to see major progress in the next five years, and I am expecting to see that because they are now well funded. We have been working towards that for decades. So, within five years, I expect major improvements and it should be easy to track them if you head to that website to see how they are doing.

Beatrice Erkers: Those are very promising and concrete examples, thank you. One thing that is important to keep in mind is to not be too naive. Are there any undervalued risks you think we need to get around to solving to ensure this future happens?

Christine Peterson: The undervalued risk I think in the longevity space is people not realizing that this is a solvable, technical problem. Also, they do not realize it is an important societal problem to solve. The reason for that is that there is this huge economic burden from the frail elderly. These are folks that have extremely high healthcare costs. There are fewer young people carrying an extremely heavy burden of financial obligation to support these elders who are very ill. It is just not workable and it pulls resources aways from things like education, which is super important. So the undervalued risk is that people do not realize longevity science is not just for rich people. This is a societal necessity to lift such a burden off young people.

In terms of undervalued risks in the intelligence cooperation side, people do not understand how vulnerable we are in computer security. They are starting to understand it given things coming to the surface, like softwares getting put in hospital systems and requiring money to be sent somewhere, for instance. Basically, it is not a species level, existential risk, but more so an individual, existential risk. We are all at risk for this in terms of, there could be major fatalities if we do not fix this problem. Those are the undervalued areas that I would point at.

Beatrice Erkers: Do you consider yourself positive about the future? If so, what made you so positive about the future?

Christine Peterson: I describe myself as a long-term optimist and a short-term pessimist. What made me that way was a combination of looking at history and seeing this pattern of the things I want to happen inevitably do, but not as fast as I would like. It is also a policy decision I made for myself. We have all read that optimists are more successful in life and have more fun. With that, there are a lot of upsides. Nevertheless, to avoid short-term disappointment, I am a short-term pessimist. I feel as though I get the best of both worlds that way. One of the big benefits of being an optimist is you take on challenging problems and meet interesting people. Those of you on the call have been in Foresight, some of you for decades. Spaces like this are where you find people who are stepping up to the most challenging problems and having fun with it. You can do both.

Beatrice Erkers: Maybe if we want to try to make more people optimistic, I find it fascinating that it is very hard for people to envision positive, long-term scenarios or utopias. Can we do anything to change this? How do you pitch to someone the idea of existential hope?

Christine Peterson: Right. I mentioned the importance of kids learning science, technology, and commerce history. Even at any age you can read those ideas. There is also inspirational fiction, like some of the old stuff that is still there. Earlier classic science fiction is very inspirational and presents a future vision in space. You can also go back and read fiction about the history of commerce, such as work by Nevil Shute which is inspirational as well. Instead of sitting around reading the news, or arguing with people on Facebook, those are not the best options. Go ahead and read some inspirational fiction to relax and gain a more optimistic view to make you more ambitious towards taking on these bigger challenges.

Beatrice Erkers: Yes, I had actually wanted to ask you about that as well. For someone who is new in this field, do you have any particular books, movies, or art in specific that you feel would be inspiring to immerse themselves in this field more?

Christine Peterson: One of my favorite examples is the Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler, which I think is free online if you type it into your browser. That is a great example of visionary science fiction that will lead you to be more upbeat about the future after reading it.

Beatrice Erkers: Wonderful, yeah I believe Marc was also in one of our meetings actually, which can be watched. So I have one last question before I hand it back over to Allison. If someone was new to this, what should they specialize in?

Christine Peterson: I have noticed that in the effective altruism community, a huge number of folks are deciding to work on AI safety. Now, it is an important field and there should be more work done. However, it doesn’t make sense for every single young, idealistic person to go work on AI safety as there are so many other exciting areas as well. When you pick your area you will see the effective altruism movement mention these three criteria, being important, neglected, and tractable. Tractable’s definition means something that is easy. Now, there are not that many important, easy problems sitting around. There is a reason why important problems tend to be hard. The sort of young people attracted to effective altruism are idealistic. They tend to be highly intelligent, very motivated, excited, and energetic.

Do we want to suggest to these kids to work on easy problems? No. These are the kinds of people who should take on big problems. I would say rather than saying all of us are going to work on AI safety, look at what you are good at. Take on the hard problems. There are plenty of other hard problems next to AI safety, which is important but not the only one. Can you do biology? We need great biologists and computer science in the longevity science area. Are you good at coding? In addition to AI safety, there is the whole intelligent cooperation area that Foresight is working on. Watch some of those videos. Can you do chemistry? We need you in molecular machines and molecular machine systems so we can have truly clean manufacturing and get rid of chemical pollution completely. There are a lot of great opportunities so it is about what you are good at. Remember, this is a long term effort. Find something you are good at and how you can use that to work on these important issues.

Beatrice Erkers: Yes, I think watching the Foresight videos is a good way to find exciting, difficult problems to work on. Thank you so much. I will hand it over to Allison to ask more questions and then wrap up.

Allison Duettmann: Thank you. So two things we want to bring in this podcast are both active and action bits. One thing we will do with this podcast is to create a home for this on the existential hope website. That is where I keep a lot of the good sci-fi I read as well. Essentially, that site is where this podcast will live and a lot of interesting nuggets are to help you get inspired about the future and find a lot of organizations doing fantastic work in this space. You could probably go out tomorrow and volunteer and apply for them.

The whole reason we founded the site is because I got tremendously inspired about the concept of existential hope after reading the paper on existential hope by Toby Ord from the Future of Humanity Institute. One term they introduce in addition is eucatastrophe. Given an event in which a catastrophe occurs and the value of the world is much lower, a eucatastrophe is an event with a favorable outcome. I would love to know from your perception if you have a different take on the term or even your vision within this lens. What would that look like if there was an event where afterwards the expected value of the world would be much higher?

Christine Peterson: Yes, the name eucatastrophe is interesting because people primarily hear catastrophe. Even if you catch the “eu,” many people do not know that that means good, so we need a stronger term. We need a strong term meaning a big, happy surprise. Any of you knowing Latin or Greek, find out what are the words for syllables that mean this and string them together. That is how I would try to come up with something else. I personally would avoid this term. Nevertheless, an event that I could think of to catch people's attention and make them more optimistic: In terms of longevity, a mouse returns to active life after cryopreservation. You take a mouse, put it down to liquid nitrogen temperatures for a few years, and then bring it back to active life. I think it is not as unlikely as you may think. I think there are very interesting preservation technologies that are being worked on that this could actually happen. For me, I feel this would really get peoples’ attention.

Allison Duettmann: Lovely. I also want to ask you, as well as those listening, to take what Christine just mentioned and use it for a story device. Take the scenario and picture what this sort of eucatastrophe would look like, such as a picture or a day in the life with this mouse coming to life. What does such a day look like? What could people get from this? The power such stories can have may influence futures surrounding these advancements in longevity. Also, we want to put a bounty out for people producing better words for eucatastrophe so hopefully that will be up once the podcast is launched. Please, keep a look out for that. T

he last thing is that different things excite different people. For some, it could be listening to a podcast like this, reading really inspiring sci-fi, brainstorming a story board, or even various forms of art. We will be creating an art piece based on this podcast to incorporate the vision you are producing here today. It will be featured in the existential hope gallery and even available for purchase via NFT. I would love to hear from you, Christine, what people would be supporting by buying the artwork or NFT being produced.

Christine Peterson: Before I say that, I want to back up and say instead of a mouse, use a dog or a cat for greater emotional appeal. In terms of what it is supporting, I mentioned that Foresight was kicked off with the book “Engines of Creation.” That propelled us for decades, pretty much up until now almost. We need another great book, which is what our intelligence cooperation group is working on right now. Allison and Marc Miller are working on this with me, along with a whole group of people. Everybody is contributing. I think we should push this book hard, so I would love to see the benefit from the NFT be put towards this book and getting it out there. Let’s make sure people know about it.

Allison Duettmann: Lovely. I should say to those listening, if you are interested in this, contact us and we will give you a sneak peek regarding what it is about. We are finishing up here. In summary, we will have a bounty for a creation of Christine’s eucatastrophe scenario with a dog or cat. Thank you so much Christine, we do not want to keep you waiting. I want to thank everyone else who has joined, as well as Beatrice for being a fantastic co moderator. I think even when things seem superficially in conflict, you always find ways where there are alignments and paths forward. You have this strong tendency to make things that seem hard look easy, so thank you for being so inspiring to many of us. With that, I will meet many of you for the aftershow party in our Foresight lounge. It was lovely to see you and I cannot wait for the next one.