Emerging technologies and global catastrophic risks
In the 1950s, large scale production of nuclear weapons meant that a few world leaders gained, for the first time, the ability to kill hundreds of millions of people. This was a striking milestone in a robust trend: as technology improves and the world economy grows, the price of destructive capabilities falls. In the 21st century, we expect this trend to continue. New transformative technologies hold the promise of a radically better future, but also pose catastrophic risks. Mitigating these risks, while increasing the chance these technologies enable a positive long-term future, seems likely to be the crucial challenge of this century.
There is a growing movement working to address these issues, including new research institutes at Cambridge, MIT, and Oxford. Nonetheless, many of these issues remain remarkably neglected – in some cases receiving attention from only a handful of researchers. If you can find an effective way to work on these issues, we think it’s probably the most valuable thing you can do.
Three areas we recommend, roughly in order, are: