Astro­nom­i­cal Waste

TagLast edit: 25 Sep 2020 22:33 UTC by Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg)

Astronomical waste is a term introduced by Nick Bostrom for the opportunities we’re losing out on by not colonizing the universe.

The universe is vast. There are many galaxies, each containing many stars. In a future with space colonization, each star could support a large population of people leading worthwhile lives. During any given year, we irrecoverably lose an amount of energy that could have powered a civilization like ours for many billions of years.

The prospect of advanced technology only makes the numbers more extreme. Such technology would make it possible to support far more, and better, lives with the same resources.

Bostrom notes that in a wide range of moral theories — in particular, those based on linear aggregation of value — considerations of astronomical waste outweigh all others.

If so much potential is lost every year, one could conclude that we should start colonization as soon as possible. But since the amount of resources available in total is much larger still than the amount lost in a year, a better utilitarian prescription is to minimize the risk of losing out on space colonization entirely. Bostrom calls this prescription “maxipok”, for the maximum probability of an OK outcome.

External links

See also

A Pro­posed Ad­just­ment to the Astro­nom­i­cal Waste Argument

Nick_Beckstead27 May 2013 3:39 UTC
35 points
38 comments12 min readLW link

To re­duce as­tro­nom­i­cal waste: take your time, then go very fast

Stuart_Armstrong13 Jul 2013 16:41 UTC
70 points
50 comments3 min readLW link

Is the po­ten­tial as­tro­nom­i­cal waste in our uni­verse too small to care about?

Wei Dai21 Oct 2014 8:44 UTC
88 points
17 comments2 min readLW link

Astron­omy, Astro­biol­ogy, & The Fermi Para­dox I: In­tro­duc­tions, and Space & Time

CellBioGuy26 Jul 2015 7:38 UTC
61 points
22 comments1 min readLW link

Beyond Astro­nom­i­cal Waste

Wei Dai7 Jun 2018 21:04 UTC
125 points
41 comments3 min readLW link

Altru­ism Un­der Ex­treme Uncertainty

lsusr27 Aug 2021 6:58 UTC
37 points
9 comments2 min readLW link

The Astro­nom­i­cal Sacri­fice Dilemma

Matthew McRedmond11 Mar 2024 19:58 UTC
15 points
3 comments4 min readLW link
No comments.