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How humanity came to contemplate its possible extinction


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With Covid-19 afflicting the world, and a climate crisis looming, humanity’s future seems uncertain. While the novel coronavirus does not itself pose a threat to the continuation of the species, it has undoubtedly stirred anxiety in many of us and has even sparked discussion about human extinction. Less and less does the end of the species seem an area of lurid fantasy or remote speculation.

Indeed, the opening decades of the 21st century have seen investigation into so-called ‘existential risks’ establish itself as a growing field of rigorous scientific inquiry. Whether designer pathogen or malicious AI, we now recognize many ways to die.

But when did people first start actually thinking about human extinction?

MIT Press Reader

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