Skip to main content

Long-term trajectories of human civilization

Buy Article:

$42.86 + tax (Refund Policy)


This paper aims to formalize long-term trajectories of human civilization as a scientific and ethical field of study. The long-term trajectory of human civilization can be defined as the path that human civilization takes during the entire future time period in which human civilization could continue to exist.


This paper focuses on four types of trajectories: status quo trajectories, in which human civilization persists in a state broadly similar to its current state into the distant future; catastrophe trajectories, in which one or more events cause significant harm to human civilization; technological transformation trajectories, in which radical technological breakthroughs put human civilization on a fundamentally different course; and astronomical trajectories, in which human civilization expands beyond its home planet and into the accessible portions of the cosmos.


Status quo trajectories appear unlikely to persist into the distant future, especially in light of long-term astronomical processes. Several catastrophe, technological transformation and astronomical trajectories appear possible.


Some current actions may be able to affect the long-term trajectory. Whether these actions should be pursued depends on a mix of empirical and ethical factors. For some ethical frameworks, these actions may be especially important to pursue.

Keywords: Human civilization; Long-term trajectories

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, New York, New York, USA 2: Future of Humanity Institute, Department of Philosophy, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK 3: Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden 4: Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden 5: Department of Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA 6: Department of Political Science, University College London, London, UK 7: Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark 8: Department of Economics, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA 9: Umeå, Sweden 10: Foundational Research Institute, Berlin, Germany 11: Washington, DC, USA 12: Science for Life Extension Foundation, Moscow, Russian Federation 13: JB Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Publication date: April 9, 2019

  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content