An international team of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute is investigating the biggest dangers.

And they argue in a research paper, Existential Risk as a Global Priority, that international policymakers must pay serious attention to the reality of species-obliterating risks.

Last year there were more academic papers published on snowboarding than human extinction.

The Swedish-born director of the institute, Nick Bostrom, says the stakes couldn't be higher. If we get it wrong, this could be humanity's final century.

Been there, survived it

So what are the greatest dangers?

First the good news. Pandemics and natural disasters might cause colossal and catastrophic loss of life, but Dr Bostrom believes humanity would be likely to survive.