Sir Martin Rees on the Future: Prospects for Humanity

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Posted on: March 12, 2019 / Last Modified: February 28, 2022

Today my guest is a world-renowned cosmologist and Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. Martin has written 11 books and more than 500 scientific papers on topics ranging from the Big Bang and cosmology to technology and the future of humanity. Sir Rees has also been concerned with the threats stemming from humanity’s ever-heavier ‘footprint’ on the global environment and with the runaway consequences of ever more powerful technologies. His new book On the Future: prospects for humanity addresses these issues.

During our 90-minute interview with Martin Rees, we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: why he is a scientist and teacher first and foremost; his interest in existential risks and policy; his journey from math to astronomy and cosmology; his environmental and nuclear concerns; the necessity for ethics in science; my interview with Lawrence Krauss; his greatest fear and biggest dream; AI and the Singularity; technological unemployment, UBI, and taxation; the future of space exploration; the problem of consciousness; his bet with and differences from Steven Pinker; the major issues humanity is facing in the 21st century; the limits of science and a theory of everything.

My favorite quote that I will take away from Martin Rees’ book is:

We need to think globally, we need to think rationally, we need to think long term, empowered by 21st-century technology but guided by values that science alone can’t provide.

As always you can listen to or download the audio file above or scroll down and watch the video interview in full. To show your support you can write a review on iTunesmake a direct donation or become a patron on Patreon.

On the Future: Prospects for Humanity [Book Trailers]

Humanity has reached a critical moment. Our world is unsettled and rapidly changing, and we face existential risks over the next century. Various prospects for the future—good and bad—are possible. Yet our approach to the future is characterized by short-term thinking, polarizing debates, alarmist rhetoric, and pessimism. In this short, exhilarating book, renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees argues that humanity’s future depends on our taking a very different approach to thinking about and planning for tomorrow.

Who is Martin Rees?

Martin Rees is a cosmologist and space scientist. He is based in Cambridge, where he has been Director of the Institute of Astronomy, a Research Professor, and Master of Trinity College. He was President of the Royal Society (the academy of science for UK and Commonwealth) during 2005-2010. In 2005 he was appointed to the UK’s House of Lords. He belongs to numerous foreign academies including those of the US, Russia, Japan and the Vatican and has received many international awards for his research, including the Balzan, Crafoord, Gruber and Templeton prizes. He writes and lectures extensively for general audiences and is the author of nine books. In addition to his involvement in international science and policy, he has been concerned with the threats stemming from humanity’s ever-heavier ‘footprint’ on the global environment, and with the runaway consequences of ever more powerful technologies. His new book On the Future: prospects for humanity addresses these issues.

Speaking as both an astronomer and “a concerned member of the human race,” Sir Martin Rees examines our planet and its future from a cosmic perspective. He urges action to prevent dark consequences from our scientific and technological development.

A post-apocalyptic Earth, emptied of humans, seems like the stuff of science fiction TV and movies. But in this short, surprising talk, Lord Martin Rees asks us to think about our real existential risks — natural and human-made threats that could wipe out humanity. As a concerned member of the human race, he asks: What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?

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