The video below makes a case for “longtermism,” the claim that we should make decisions to maximize positive outcomes in the far future.

On the one hand, as someone firmly in the transhumanist camp, this has a lot of emotional appeal (at least for me).

On the other hand, the more I watched the video, the more I was struck by how much “longtermism” seems to be the inverse of the precautionary principle and how much it suffers from the same conceptual problems.

For example, the video suggests that advancing technological progress reduces existential risk. While I agree that this is likely, it is not hard to envision a world where our efforts to advance technological progress may at many points increase the existential risk faced by humanity.

Progress in controlled nuclear fission, for example, on balance may have increased the existential risk to humanity even with all of the benefits it brought.

CNN–Clickbait Network News

Twitter user Peter Hague recently noticed a fairly typical example of how CNN has become little more than a clickbait site at times, with almost no quality control in the articles it publishes.

The article in question concerns a tweet that Elon Musk sent about an asteroid that will make a near-Earth approach in 2029.

The CNN headline blasts Musk for hyping a non-existent threat,

Despite Elon Musk’s alarmist tweet about an asteroid hitting Earth, NASA says there is no known threat

Ugh. Elon’s at it again talking crazy. So what did Musk say? According to the first three paragraphs, Musk apparently tweeted that an asteroid is going to hit the Earth even though NASA disagrees,

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, tweeted that a “big rock” is going to hit Earth, and that we “currently have no defense.”

But NASA, seems to disagree.

Musk’s tweet was a response to another by comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan, who shared an article reporting that NASA has begun preparations for the 1,100-foot-wide asteroid Apophis, which is scheduled to pass by Earth on April 13, 2029. Apophis named after an Egyptian god of death.

Jesus, Elon, stop scaring people into thinking Apophis is going to hit the planet. Lets go to Twitter and reply to his tweet to that effect.


So Joe Rogan made a tweet about Apophis, and Elon Musk retweeted him in order to add that this particular asteroid poses little threat to the Earth but that “a big rock will hit Earth eventually & we currently have no defense.”

Don’t worry, though, CNN’s Leah Asmelash isn’t going to let the facts get in her way.

Musk didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “big rock,” so it’s hard to know what he was actually referring to.

NASA’s website, though, clearly says, “No known asteroid poses a significant risk of impact with Earth over the next 100 years.”

Apparently Asmelash’s editors are fine with her rewriting “eventually” into “within the next 100 years by a currently known asteroid.” As the NASA website that she links to notes (but she omits), there are known asteroids that do have a significant risk of hitting the earth in the next 200 years (and by significant, we’re talking about less than .2 percent). And, of course, there are asteroids that we do not know about.

Large objects have hit the planet during the time that homo sapiens have existed, including the Arizona Meteor Crater which was created 50,000 years ago by a meteor estimated to be 60 meters in diameter. According to NASA estimates, that impact released the equivalent of 15 million tons of TNT–equivalent to a small hydrogen bomb (most US nuclear weapons, in contrast, have only about 500 kiloton yields).

Similarly, Asmelash hits out at Musk’s claim that we have no defenses, but the best she can muster is,

“While no known asteroid larger than 140 meters in size has a significant chance of hitting Earth for the next 100 years, NASA and its partners are studying several different methodologies for deflecting a hazardous asteroid,” he said.

Basically, even if an asteroid were hurtling toward Earth, scientists believe they will have the technology to deflect it off course and prevent collision.

Rather than try to illuminate or educate about the potential risks from asteroids and the costs/difficulties in actually doing anything about it, Asmelah apparently saw a chance to write a clickbait story about an “alarmist tweet” that exists entirely in her own story’s mischaracterization of it.

Shame on CNN for this sort of nonsense.