Existential risk #1: Mass extinction events

Eve of Destruction?

Human beings are more likely to die in a mass extinction event than a car crash, according to a new report released by the UK based Global Challenges Foundation.  The report – a document intended to provide international policy makers with an executive summary of contemporary existential threats for humanity – suggests that there is a 9.5% chance that a human extinction will occur in the next 100 years (the danger of dying in a car crash is below 2%).

The authors list among the most serious and likely threats over the next 5 years a ‘natural pandemic’, an ‘engineered pandemic’, and ‘nuclear war’.

While discussing the much-feared threat of global climate change, the report also places significance emphasis on catastrophic risks emerging from technology:

“Emerging technologies promise sig­nificant benefits, but a handful could also create unprecedented risks to civilization and the biosphere alike. Biotechnology could enable the creation of pathogens far more dam­aging than those found in nature, while in the longer run, artificial intelligence could cause massive disruption.”

The Global Catastrophic Risks 2016 report is a join project involving three centres focusing on the study of existential risk: The Global Challenges Foundation, The Global Priorities Project, and Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute.

“We don’t expect any of the events that we describe to happen in any 10-year period. They might—but, on balance, they probably won’t,” Sebastian Farquhar, the director of the Global Priorities Project, told The Atlantic. “But there’s lots of events that we think are unlikely that we still prepare for.”

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | biological warefare, biotechnology, climate change, existential risk

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