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Human condition to change before 2100

Nick Bostrom, philosopher and Founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, argues that only two events since the dawn of humanity have fundamentally changed the human condition: the Agricultural Revolution that took place approximately 10,000 years ago, and the Industrial Revolution which took place from roughly 1760-1840. Bostrom states the following:

"So what kind of thing would count as a fundamental change in the human condition?

"You could argue that if we look back over history, there has really only been two events that have fundamentally changed the human condition, the first being the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 or 12,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, where we transitioned from being hunter-gatherers, small bands roaming around, to settling into cities, growing, domesticating crops and animals. With that you get social stratification, if there is a lot of grain, you could have a king or pharaoh who extracts the surplus, you can have standing armies, you can have war, you can have higher population densities, specialisation of labour, and from that point on, innovation grows much faster and population grows faster as well as a result.

"The second fundamental change in the human condition, Industrial Revolution, where for the first time, you have the rate of economic and technological growth outstripping population growth, and so only when this happens can you have an increase in average income. Before that, there was technological growth and economic growth, but the economy grew 10%, the population grew 10%, everybody's still in a Malthusian condition."

Bostrom further argues that there are relatively few potential technologies that could have the same kind of impact, and that perhaps foremost among them is machine intelligence.

The kind of discontinuity in the human condition seen as a result of the agricultural and industrial revolutions is substantial; human civilisation became markedly more complex, acquired fundamentally new abilities, and the human experience became radically different after each of these events.

The question we ask here is: Before January 1 2100, will the human condition change fundamentally to at least roughly the same extent that it did after the agricultural and industrial revolutions?

"The human condition," for the purposes of this question, is the general level of social complexity, economic productivity, and ability to manipulate physical reality humanity has achieved at the civilisational level.

The discontinuity can be in either direction - though it seems improbable that Metaculus would continue to exist if humanity were to revert to a pre-industrial state.

Events that may occur this century, but which do not appear to represent a discontinuity of approximately the same degree as the agricultural and industrial revolutions, include (among other things) the establishment of bases or settlements on other bodies in the solar system, the achievement of modest to moderate life extension (e.g. an additional 10 to 30 years of life) or a significant but not radical increase in economic productivity.


If at any time after the date of 2025-01-01 both the community and Metaculus predictions are >= 98% or <= 2%, with 80% probability, the question resolves positively or negatively, respectively. With 20% probability, the question resolves according to a committee of 5 Metaculus admins, who will vote yes or no (not ambiguous), and will unmake their respective predictions so that they do not gain or lose points on the question.

Note that the admins will be voting on whether the qualifying event has already happened, not whether they believe it will happen; for example, if the probability goes to 99% because a super-powerful AI seems immininent within 10 years, but it has not actually happened yet, the committee should unanimously vote no.

If the question has not resolved by January 1 2100, it resolves ambiguously.


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