In 2015, Brian was studying at Harvard University, attending lectures on the future of humanity by thinkers like philosopher Derek Parfit and physicist Max Tegmark. Their arguments about the moral and cosmological importance of future generations inspired Brian to look into 80,000 Hours — which was hosting events at Harvard at the time — and apply for one-on-one career advising. As Brian learned more about important global issues like global poverty and global catastrophic risks, he came to realise how important and neglected they really were.
In 2016, Brian was taking courses in machine learning at Tsinghua University and working at an AI hardware startup in Beijing. He saw the impact of AlphaGo and wondered how transformative advanced AI could be. It was clear that international political and economic competition — especially between the U.S. and China — would make it harder to develop safe and beneficial AI. After all, Chinese and U.S. companies would be aware that their counterparts were working to develop the technology and would naturally be eager to get there first – perhaps even at the expense of more robust research or checks.
Brian continued to think about these issues for a couple years while working at J.P. Morgan in Hong Kong as an investment banker. He was donating some of his salary to charities that would best alleviate extreme poverty, but thought there was a chance he could do much more.
He thought that, as someone who is bilingual, who had worked at both American and Chinese companies, and who had been learning about the dynamics of transformative technologies like AI for a few years, he might be in a good position to help increase understanding and cooperation between actors in the two countries in the area. Here was an opportunity to help to pioneer work on what he felt was one of the most pressing issues of our time. He applied to be a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute working on AI governance, and they gave him the job.
Recently, he founded an independent non-profit consulting firm advising organisations in China, the United States, and Europe on the safety and governance of transformative technologies.
To learn more about Brian’s work and international coordination around advancing technology: