Nick Bostrom is Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University. He is the founding Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, a multidisciplinary research center which enables a few exceptional mathematicians, philosophers, and scientists to think about global priorities and big questions for humanity.
Bostrom has a background in physics, computational neuroscience, and mathematical logic as well as philosophy. He is the author of some 200 publications, including Anthropic Bias (Routledge, 2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (ed., OUP, 2008), Human Enhancement (ed., OUP, 2009), and the academic book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (OUP, 2014), which became a New York Times bestseller. He is best known for his work in five areas: (i) existential risk; (ii) the simulation argument; (iii) anthropics (developing the first mathematically explicit theory of observation selection effects); (iv) impacts of future technology; and (v) implications of consequentialism for global strategy.
He is recipient of a Eugene R. Gannon Award (one person selected annually worldwide from the fields of philosophy, mathematics, the arts and other humanities, and the natural sciences). He has been listed on Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers list; and he was included on Prospect magazine’s World Thinkers list, the youngest person in the top 15 from all fields and the highest-ranked analytic philosopher. His writings have been translated into 24 languages. There have been more than 100 translations and reprints of his works.
A thread that runs through my work is a concern with “crucial considerations”. A crucial consideration is an idea or argument that might plausibly reveal the need for not just some minor course adjustment in our practical endeavours but a major change of direction or priority.
If we have overlooked even just one such consideration, then all our best efforts might be for naught—or less. When headed the wrong way, the last thing needed is progress. It is therefore important to pursue such lines of inquiry as might disclose an unnoticed crucial consideration.
Some of the relevant inquiries are about moral philosophy and values. Others have to do with rationality and reasoning under uncertainty. Still others pertain to specific issues and possibilities, such as existential risks, the simulation hypothesis, human enhancement, infinite utilities, anthropic reasoning, information hazards, the future of machine intelligence, or the singularity hypothesis.
High-leverage questions associated with crucial considerations deserve to be investigated. My research interests are quite wide-ranging; yet they all stem from the quest to understand the big picture for humanity, so that we can more wisely choose what to aim for and what to do. Embarking on this quest has seemed the best way to try to make a positive contribution to the world.
I was born in Helsingborg, Sweden, and grew up by the seashore. I was bored in school. At age fifteen or sixteen I had an intellectual awakening, and feeling that I had wasted the first one and a half decades of my life, I resolved to focus on what was important. Since I did not know what was important, and I did not know how to find out, I decided to start by trying to place myself in a better position to find out. So I began a project of intellectual self-development, which I pursued with great intensity for the next one and a half decades.
As an undergraduate, I studied many subjects in parallel, and I gather that my performance set a national record. I was once expelled for studying too much, after the head of Umeå University psychology department discovered that I was concurrently following several other full-time programs of study (physics, philosophy, and mathematical logic), which he believed to be psychologically impossible.
For my postgraduate work, I went to London, where I studied physics and neuroscience at King’s College, and obtained a PhD from the London School of Economics. For a while I did a little bit stand-up comedy on the vibrant London pub and theatre circuit.
During those years, I co-founded, with David Pearce, the World Transhumanist Association, a nonprofit grassroots organization. Later, I was involved in founding the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, a nonprofit virtual think tank. The objective was to stimulate wider discussion about the implications of future technologies, in particular technologies that might lead to human enhancement. (These organizations have since developed on their own trajectories, and it is very much not the case that I agree with everything said by those who flock under the transhumanist flag.)
Since 2006, I’ve been the founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. This unique multidisciplinary research aims to enable a select set of intellects to apply careful thinking to big-picture question for humanity and global priorities. The Institute belongs to the Faculty of Philosophy and the Oxford Martin School. Since 2011, I also direct the Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology.
I am in a very fortunate position. I have no teaching duties. I am supported by a staff of assistants and brilliant research fellows. There are virtually no restrictions on what I can work on. I must try very hard to be worthy of this privilege and to cast some light on matters that matter.
Source: Nick Bostrom’s Home Page