X-Risk, 45–126


2. Cosmic Silences: Astrobiology


If the universe were genuinely infinite, then none of our actions would have any moral significance whatsoever. Because in a true infinity, all possible things could be relied upon to happen infinitely many times. And if all possible justices and injustices are eternally and inevitably realised again and again throughout this limitless expanse of time, then all of our exertions are utterly devoid of any ethical significance. They make no difference. Why bother to save the Dodo when we know that it must exist on infinitely many other planets? Why bother not killing all remaining Dodos within our reach? And how about humans…?

Beneath the surface of this strange moral conundrum you may already have recognised the Principle of Plenitude returning in a new, rather sinister form. Nick Bostrom calls the problem infinitarian paralysis, because from the assumption that everything that could possibly happen will happen—and infinitely many times—it draws the paralysing and pernicious conclusion that there is no point in attempting to prevent awful things—such as, say, genocides—because our actions ultimately make no difference…