The risk of its own demise is a consequence of the rise of new technology. The invention of nuclear weaponry has shown how quickly humanity can grow. Compared to conventional explosives, the atomic bomb was a thousand times more powerful. The USA and USSR created thousands of nuclear bombs. To the point that an all-out war could threaten all human life, the next generation of weapons of mass destruction, such as bioweapons by engineered viruses, could dramatically increase humanity's destructive power again.

What would that mean for the universe? Is it possible that other species would evolve to become technologically capable, discover science, create art, and build civilization in our place? I don't think that's a sure thing It would fundamentally change the story of the universe if Homo sapiens ended.

Humans evolved from the first mammals 200 million years ago. Only 8 million years ago, the last common ancestor of humans and Chimpanzees was alive, and there are still hundreds of millions of years left until the earth is no longer suitable for humans. You might think that a technologically capable species should be able to evolve from a chimp in 8 million years. If some mammals survive, shouldn't we expect a technologically capable species to evolve within 200 million years? It is possible for such evolution to occur before the earth is no longer usable.

The argument is too fast. Some of the major evolutionary transitions, including the evolution of a technologically capable species, were not likely to happen.

Even though there are hundreds of millions of rocky habitable-zone planets in the universe, and even though our universe is 13 billion years old, we don't see any reason to colonize it. Why isn't the universe teeming with aliens if it's so large and old?

Something about our evolutionary history wasn't likely to happen. A large moon, plate tectonics, and the right chemical composition are some of the things that could make a planet that is suitable for life rare. The creation of replicators, the evolution of simple cells into complex cells, and the evolution of sexual reproduction are all possibilities. The universe is empty even though it is so vast because of our uncertainty about evolutionary transitions, according to recent research by my colleagues.