How do we steer our planet’s future and that of other inhabited worlds in the age of artificial intelligence?

The long-term future of our civilization depends on our ability to intelligently manage our planetary resources. This has led to significant international discussion about how we can collectively steer our future to be sustainable for humans, on Earth and beyond. However, steering our future is not restricted to problems of environmental sustainability. In a time period where we as an intelligent civilization are exercising dramatic impact on the Earth-system, we are also engineering artificial systems that have the potential to exceed our own intelligence.

These artificial intelligences may prove critical to our ability to move humans off of Earth. But they too require steering to manage the best possible outcome for our descendants as we expand our footprint on Earth and extend to worlds beyond. In this project we merge two different areas of research - that on the anthropocene and artificial intelligence - to develop a holistic view of planetary intelligence and what it means for the long term future of our civilization. Specifically, we address the big question: How do we steer our planet’s future and that of other inhabited worlds in the age of artificial intelligence? 

The Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and PlanetWorks sponsored a one-day symposium in October on the topic of “Planetary Intelligence”. The symposium will host leading figures thinking about our planetary future, from the perspectives of economics, social sciences, paleohistory, astrobiology, artificial intelligence and planetary science (to name a few) with an evening lecture delivered by David Grinspoon. Our goal with this Interplanetary Initiative project is to leverage this event and the ideas generated to develop a new course exploring the intersection of what is happening in the intellectual spaces of management of artificial intelligence and planetary resources. We will spend the fall digging into ideas emerging from the symposium. This will provide a framework of questions for critical inquiry by students enrolled in a new seminar course to be offered in the Spring semester (expected to be 1 credit to not interfere with normal teaching duties but could be developed into a 3-credit course if teaching allocations permit). Students enrolled in the course will be expected to conduct original literature research and have the opportunity to interact with leading intellectual figures in this emerging area. Our goal is to outline the conceptual space of the long term future of planetary intelligence, identify the general principles governing intelligence in a planetary context, and simultaneously identify immediate steps to be taken in the short term to steer a positive direction for co-development of artificial intelligence and planetary management.

Current Progress:

On October 3, 2018. the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science in Collaboration with the Interplanetary Initiative held a symposium entitled “Planetary Intelligence: Humanity’s Future in the Age of AI.” Videos of the symposium are located below. Or, view the entire planetary symposium playlist.


Hikaru Furukawa

Sara Walker

Classroom Research

We expect to develop one course to be taught in the Spring semester (likely a 1 credit seminar to not interfere with regular teaching obligations). This course will involve a collaborative project among all participating students to identify the key conceptual hurdles, and practical next steps for steering humanity’s future in the emerging age of artificial planetary intelligence.