It’s not often that I come across an essayist that completely blows me away, but Nick Bostrom has done just that.
I came across his name for the first time while browsing the latest Hacker News submissions, under the link-baited submission title: Why I Hope the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Finds Nothing. Needless to say, I was intrigued, and the comments on the HN page were encouraging.
After a few cursory credential checks1 to confirm that the author wasn’t a complete nut job (quite the opposite, actually – see the footnote), I took the time to sit down and read the essay.
Here is a short excerpt:
What could be more fascinating than discovering life that had evolved entirely independently of life here on Earth? Many people would [...] find it heartening to learn that we are not entirely alone in this vast cold cosmos.
But I hope that our Mars probes will discover nothing. It would be good news if we find Mars to be completely sterile. Dead rocks and lifeless sands would lift my spirit.
I won’t go into any of the finer details – for that, you should read Professor Bostrom’s elegantly written article – but If you’ve ever heard of the Fermi Paradox or pondered over the murky details of the Anthropic Principle, I highly recommend reading the article I’ve linked to above. These topics may have been discussed ad nauseam in many corners of the web, Professor Bostrom’s thoughts and insights are trully a breath of fresh air.
 Professor Bostrom has quite the resumé, including a Wikipedia page, two published books, dozens of published articles in well respected journals, and is currently the director of The Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. In other news, I now feel more inadequate than ever.