[ExI] Essay contest: How Should Humanity Steer the Future?

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon Feb 10 22:34:03 UTC 2014

Spread the word: Foundational Questions Institute has an essay contest of interest.  http://www.fqxi.org/community/essay
An expert panel of judges will be instructed (and general readers strongly encouraged) to rate the entries by the degree to which they are relevant and interesting, as more specifically described below, with 1/3 weight given to relevancy and 2/3 weight given to interest.

Relevant: The theme for this Essay Contest is: "How Should Humanity Steer the Future?".Dystopic visions of the future are common in literature and film, while optimistic ones are more rare. This contest encourages us to avoid potentially self-fulfilling prophecies of gloom and doom and to think hard about how to make the world better while avoiding potential catastrophes. 

Our ever-deepening understanding of physics has enabled technologies and ways of thinking about our place in the world that have dramatically transformed humanity over the past several hundred years. Many of these changes have been difficult to predict or control—but not all. 

In this contest we ask how humanity should attempt to steer its own course in light of the radically different modes of thought and fundamentally new technologies that are becoming relevant in the coming decades. 

Possible topics or sub-questions include, but are not limited to:

What is the best state that humanity can realistically achieve?

What is your plan for getting us there? Who implements this plan?

What technology (construed broadly to include practices and techniques) does your plan rely on? What are the risks of those technologies? How can those risks be mitigated?(Note: While this topic is broad, successful essays will not use this breadth as an excuse to shoehorn in the author's pet topic, but will rather keep as their central focus the theme of how humanity should steer the future.) 

Additionally, to be consonant with FQXi's scope and goals, essays should be sure to touch on issues in physics and cosmology, or closed related fields, such as astrophysics, biophysics, mathematics, complexity and emergence, and the philosophy of physics.

Interesting: An interesting essay is:

Original and Creative: Foremost, the intellectual content of the essay must push forward understanding of the topic in a fresh way or with new perspective. While the essay may or may not constitute original research, if the core ideas are largely contained in published works, those works should be the author's. At the same time, the entry should differ substantially from any previously published piece by the author.

Technically correct and rigorously argued, to the degree of a published work or grant proposal.

Well and clearly written, so that it is comprehensible and enjoyable to read.

Accessible to a diverse, well-educated but non-specialist audience, aiming in the range between the level of Scientific American and a review article in Science or Nature.
Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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