Why might risks from malevolent actors be an especially pressing problem?
An essay by David Althaus and Tobias Baumann argues that when people with some or all of the so-called ‘dark tetrad’ traits — narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and sadism — are in positions of power or influence, this plausibly increases the risk of catastrophes that could harm many people alive today or even influence the long-term future.
Developing better measures of these traits, they suggest — as well as good tests of these measures — could help us make our institutions less liable to be influenced by such actors. We could, for instance, make ‘non-malevolence’ a condition of holding political office or having sway over powerful new technologies.
While it’s not clear how large of a problem malevolent individuals in society are compared to other issues, there is historical precedent for malevolent actors coming to power — for example, Hitler and Stalin plausibly had strong dark tetrad traits — and perhaps this wouldn’t have happened if there had been better precautions in place. If so, this suggests that careful measures could prevent future bad events of a similar scale (or worse) from taking place.
There has been very little work on this topic that we know of.
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