Short bio, Dr. Émile P. Torres.
My work over the past decade and a half has centered around a single theme: eschatology, including religious, secular, and scientific eschatologies. More recently, I have focused on the ethical and evaluative implications of human extinction, as well as the history of thinking about human extinction within the Western tradition—topics that, somewhat surprisingly, have received very little attention from scholars! Probably the best descriptors for what I do would be “eschatologist” or “philosopher of human extinction.”
My journey over the past 20 years has been circuitous. Initially most sympathetic with a philosophy called “anarcho-primitivism,” I became a transhumanist and longtermist—I would now say “TESCREAList”— in the early 2010s, publishing numerous articles in academic journals and popular media outlets about human enhancement, machine superintelligence, and the future of humanity. I used to write for the Future of Life Institute (FLI), and was an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) and research assistant for Ray Kurzweil's 2022 book The Singularity is Nearer.
In 2017, I was a visiting scholar for a few days at the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI), based in Oxford, where I was invited to give a talk on “agential risks,” and spent several months at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) in 2019, during which the project that culminated in my most recent book was born.
However, since 2019, I’ve become a vocal critic of the TESCREAL bundle of ideologies, which I believe is both philosophically flawed and potentially quite dangerous. In 2023, I was featured in an article published by The Guardian’s Sunday newspaper, The Observer, though the article gives a very misleading impression about my views within Existential Ethics, as I explain here.
I’ve published academic articles in journals like Erkenntnis, Futures, Bioethics, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Foresight, Metaphilosophy, Inquiry, and the South African Journal of Philosophy, and a chapter on superintelligence and algocracy was included in Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security. Popular media articles have appeared in The Washington Post, New Statesman, Aeon, Motherboard, Nautilus, Free Inquiry, Big Think, Ambasz Essays (published by MoMA), Current Affairs, Philosophy Now, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, among many others.
I’m a contributing writer for Salon and Truthdig, and have appeared on Al Jazeera TV (for a live debate about lethal autonomous weapons), Al Jazeera English, BBC Radio 4, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, NowThis, and podcasts like Ologies, Movement Memos, Tech Won’t Save Us, Dave Troy Presents, Reply Guys (hosted by Kate Willett), Team Human (hosted by Douglas Rushkoff), and many more. Conference talks have been delivered at Princeton University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Universität Bielefeld, Swansea University, University of Nottingham, and the University of California, Berkeley, to name just a few.
My CV, which does not include upcoming talks, can be found here.
Over the past several months, I’ve helped popularize the acronym “TESCREAL” to denote a constellation of ideologies that have become enormously influential within Silicon Valley. I coined the term while co-writing a forthcoming paper on the topic with Dr. Timnit Gebru (who played an integral role in shaping the TESCREAL concept).
I've also become very interested in the phenomenon of ghosting, whereby someone vanishes from another person's life with little or no prior warning, often without any satisfying explanation of why or how. I'm currently working on a series of articles about this phenomenon, described by most psychologists as a form of "emotional abuse" or "cruelty," the first of which was published here.
I earned a BA with Honors in philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2007, and a MS in neuroscience at Brandeis University two years later. I then spent some time as a “special student” at Harvard University, after which I was an independent scholar for roughly a decade. In 2023, I received my PhD in philosophy from Leibniz Universität Hannover, in Germany. My dissertation was more or less coextensive with my most recent book, Human Extinction: A History of the Science and Ethics of Annihilation, which Routledge published as part of its “Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine” series. A comprehensive summary of the entire book can be found here.
During the 2022-2023 Winter semester at Leibniz, I taught a course titled “The Ethics of Human Extinction,” which, to my knowledge, was the first ever on Existential Ethics (the field dedicated to studying the ethical and evaluative implications of our extinction).
Previous books include Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks (2017), which included a foreword from the UK Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, and The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse (2016).
I’m passionate about alleviating global poverty, and have pledged to give away everything I earn over $35,000 a year. In December 2022, I started a fundraiser with Nathan Young, an Effective Altruist, that raised more than $321,000 for the charity Give Directly.
In a previous life, I was a musician and audio engineer, once being described as an "electronics whiz." I released multiple albums under the name Baobab, and sold a batch of songs to MTV, one of which ended up on a GoPro commercial that went viral. Another song was the runner-up in an NPR songwriting competition, and a timelapse video that I made for a Baobab song was among the very first to use photographs taken by the International Space Station. Songs have also appeared in a large number of TV shows, such as Queer Eye, along with movie trailers like this one for The Adults (2023).