Turning eyes toward the future

The Guardian covers a story on risks to humanity: “How are humans going to become extinct?” The occasion for the story seems to be Cambridge University’s desire to have a parallel to Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute:

The Future of Humanity project at Oxford is part of a trend towards focusing research on such big questions. The institute was launched by the Oxford Martin School, which brings together academics from across different fields with the aim of tackling the most "pressing global challenges".
There are also ambitions at Cambridge University to investigate such threats to humanity.
Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal and former president of the Royal Society, is backing plans for a Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.
"This is the first century in the world's history when the biggest threat is from humanity," says Lord Rees.

I’m thinking quite a lot about how to present future visions of humanity, as this is a big part of my MOOC course. The tough part about a critical view of developing technologies is that the critics are rarely well-versed in the technical details, therefore they focus too intently on unrealistic or unachievable outcomes. But then, the forefront of technical innovation is so often led by young researchers who aren’t deeply buried in the midden of scientific societies. Do institutes like this make a difference? Or are they (as some critics of NIH big project science point out) simply full employment schemes for ethicists?

Whichever is the case, studying the human future should involve a much deeper perspective on human evolution, and a solid grasp of evolutionary processes. That’s what I’m working to build.