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The most important century in human history

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Is it possible that this century is the most important one in human history? The 21st century has already proven to be a period of rapid growth. We’re on the cusp of developing new technologies that could entirely change the way people live— and could contribute to unprecedented levels of existential risk. Explore how the decisions we make now might have a major impact on humanity’s future.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Before diving into the pivotal developments of the 21st century, the lesson takes a moment to note the tectonic shifts in technology and culture that occurred in past centuries. If you'd like to further consider these time periods for the title of "Most Important Century," read more here about Alexander the Great's military conquests in the 300s BCE, the spread of Islam in the 7th century, and the sweeping technological changes of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.  

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a Second Industrial Revolution, automation and digitization in the late 20th century ushered in a Third Industrial Revolution, and now, the world is staring down the barrel of a Fourth Industrial Revolution—a time of unprecedented advancement, accompanied by more existential risks than ever before. Since the first wartime use of nuclear weapons in 1945, the risk of self-destruction through warfare—along with other side effects of human invention like climate change and pandemics—has dramatically increased (for more on the chances of another pandemic occurring in your lifetime, watch this TED-Ed video).

There are also growing risks emerging from the development of artificial intelligence technologies (read about the three types of AI here). Many AI researchers have ambitious estimates about when Artificial General Intelligence (AI that can solve problems as well as humans) will be achieved. However, if that feels unnerving to you, rest assured that other experts predict that looming developments like these might be farther ahead of us than we're often led to believe. For more comforting news, read about the work the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative has been doing to mitigate the dangers of our rapidly developing world.    

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Meet The Creators

  • Director Jon Mayes, AIM Creative Studios
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Storyboard Artist Jon Mayes
  • Animator Jon Mayes
  • Illustrator Jon Mayes
  • AIM Creative Studios Producer Tiago Ribeiro
  • Composer André Aires
  • Sound Designer André Aires
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Produced by Anna Bechtol, Abdallah Ewis
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Charles Wallace

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