Podcast: The End of the World

Yes, the title is bleak, but it is worth going through this earlier podcast to ponder the future of mankind in a universe that has not shown any other inhabitants to date. Is this because of some internal or external filtering mechanism, such as nuclear war or the dangers or space travel? Is there something special about humans here on Earth? Josh Clark, who you may know from the podcast Stuff You Should Know, does a nice job narrating this inquiry. He discusses his new show here.

Here are some of the same episodes from The End of the World:

Episode 2: Great Filter

The Great Filter hypothesis says we’re alone in the universe because the process of evolution contains some filter that prevents life from spreading into the universe. Have we passed it or is it in our future? Humanity’s survival may depend on the answer.

Interviewees: Robin Hanson, George Mason University economist (creator of the Great Filter hypothesis); Toby Ord, Oxford University philosopher; Donald Brownlee, University of Washington astrobiologist (co-creator of the Rare Earth hypothesis); Phoebe Cohen, Williams College paleontologist.

Episode 7: Biotechnology

Natural viruses and bacteria can be deadly enough; the 1918 Spanish Flu killed 50 million people in four months. But risky new research, carried out in an unknown number of labs around the world, are creating even more dangerous humanmade pathogens.

Interviewees: Beth Willis, former chair, Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee; Dr Lynn Klotz, senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Just think of it as a long investigation of the Fermi Paradox – the conflict between the expectation that intelligent life can be found throughout the universe and the lack of any clear evidence that this is so. Are we the issue, or is it something out there?

The podcast came out in 2018 (before COVID, so the biotechnology episode missed the latest crisis), but the points in each episode remain relevant. Josh Clark gives you a lot to ponder.