Tag Archives: risk

We need to talk about existential risk

I am the Lib Dem PPC for Dartford in the upcoming general election, and, like candidates up and down the country, my campaign is being dominated by local issues. This is right and proper, a good MP can make their constituents’ lives better in so many ways, and for most voters, the key issues are always going to be the things that affect them directly.

However, in my day job, I am also a researcher at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, an academic institute that studies, and tries to prevent, human extinction level threats. As academic institutes go, we are naturally very keen to produce work that is relevant to policy makers and to communicate what we do as widely as possible, and not just to other academics. However, standing for election makes me acutely aware of just how narrow the circle of people who we communicate with actually is.

Threats to the survival of humanity are real and present, and should any of them come to pass the loss would be incalculably great. We face challenges from dangers that are well known, such as climate change and nuclear war, and others that can appear more speculative, such as global pandemics and Artificial Intelligence. Most importantly, there are things that we can do right now to substantially reduce these risks, if only we could motivate politicians and others to take them into account when making policy.

Many of these are obvious. We need to implement ambitious targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We need to work with international organisations to solve global problems. We need to achieve global nuclear disarmament as quickly as possible.

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