Existential risks

An existential risk is one that threatens the entire future of humanity. More specifically, existential risks are those that threaten the extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development.


Nick Bostrom classifies existential risks in the following categories1:

Bangs – Earth-originating intelligent life goes extinct in a relatively sudden disaster resulting from either an accident or a deliberate act of destruction.
Crunches – The potential of humankind to develop into posthumanity[7] is permanently thwarted although human life continues in some form.
Shrieks – Some form of posthumanity is attained but it is an extremely narrow band of what is possible and desirable.
Whimpers – A posthuman civilization arises but evolves in a direction that leads gradually but irrevocably to either the complete disappearance of the things we value or to a state where those things are realized to only a minuscule degree of what could have been achieved.

Anthropogenic risks are those that would be the result of human activity, and natural risks are those that would be caused by nature. There could also be risks from alien civilizations.



Movement building

Retain a last-resort readiness for preemptive action

Global coordination

Recovery from a global catastrophe

Differential technological development (see: Differential progress)

Support programs that directly reduce specific existential risks

List of existential risks

By causes

Anthropogenic risks can be further categorized by whether they are intentional or accidental, and looking at the associated economic incentives.

Technological x-risks:

Other anthropogenic x-risks:

Natural x-risks:


By mechanism





  • Our potential or even our core values are eroded by evolutionary development (see Population control)
  • Killed by an extraterrestrial civilization (see Aliens)

By type of risk2

Transparent risks

Opaque risks

Knightian risks:

  • Black swans
  • Dynamic environment
  • Adversarial environments

Mitigation of Knightian risks:

  • Antifragility
  • Effectuation
  • Capability enhancement


The Future of Life Institute offers the Future of Life Award to individuals that help prevent existential risks (source).


Organizations working on a specific existential risk are only mentioned on the specific page for existential risk.

Main focus:



The Open Philanthropy Project with Good Venture is one of the main founders in this space as can be seen in their grant database.

Other major grantors include Survival and Flourishing, the Future of Humanity Institute, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund

See also

External links