Ars on your lunch break: There’s hope, and we’ll all be fine… probably


Enlarge / This robot doesn’t want to murder you or give you weaponized SARSbola! It just wants to vaccinate you! (Probably!) (credit: Donald Iain Smith / Getty)

Today we’re presenting the fourth and final installment of my conversation with Naval Ravikant about existential risks. This interview first appeared in March as two back-to-back episodes of the After On Podcast (which features fifty unhurried conversations with world-class thinkers, founders, and scientists). Ravikant is one of tech’s most successful angel investors and the founder of multiple startups—including seed-stage investment platform AngelList. Please check out parts one, two, and three of this conversation if you missed them. Otherwise, you can press play on the embedded audio player or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

The theme of today’s installment: there’s hope. Yes, really! If there’s one thing that any religious, national, or political mindset should agree on, it’s that we don’t want some maniac wiping us all out. This creates an extreme good-guy-to-bad-guy ratio, which itself could be decisive—even if lone destructive actors become massively empowered.

Ravikant and I devote this part of our conversation to sketching the outlines of a global “immune system,” which could help fend off countless synbio threats. Some may dismiss this idea as the ranting of two hopeless optimists (although parts 1-3 tend to rebut this). The good news is that I’ve run variations of our arguments by some of the top minds in synthetic biology, and so far, they’ve passed muster.

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