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Global Catastrophic

Risks

Edited by

Nick Bostrom Milan M. Cirkovic

OXPORD


UNIVERSITY PRESS

Contents


Contents 2

Acknowledgements 10

Martin J. Rees. Foreword 11

Contents 15

1. Nick Bostrom and Milan M. Cirkoviс. Introduction 23

1.1 Why? 23

1.2 Taxonomy and organization 24

1.3 Part I: Background 27

1.4 Part II: Risks from nature 31

1.5 Part III: Risks from unintended consequences 32

Part I. Background 43

2. Fred C. Adams . Long-term astrophysical processes 43

2.1 Introduction: physical eschatology 43

2.2 Fate of the Earth 43

2.3 Isolation of the local group 45

2.4 Collision with Andromeda 45

2.5 The end of stellar evolution 46

2.6 The era of degenerate remnants 47

2.7 The era of black holes 48

2.8 The Dark Era and beyond 49

2.9 Life and information processing 50

2.10 Conclusion 50

Suggestions for further reading 51

References 51

3. Christopher Wills. Evolution theory and the future of humanity 54

3.1 Introduction 54

3.2 The causes of evolutionary change 54

3.3 Environmental changes and evolutionary changes 55

3.3.1 Extreme evolutionary changes 56

3.3.2 Ongoing evolutionary changes 57

3.3.3 Changes in the cultural environment 59

3.4 Ongoing human evolution 62

3.4.1 Behavioural evolution 63

3.5 Future evolutionary directions 66

Suggestions for further reading 68

4. James J. Hughes. Millennial tendencies in responses to apocalyptic threats 72

4.1 Introduction 72

4.2 Types of millennialism 72

4.3 Messianism and millenarianism 74

4.4 Positive or negative teleologies: utopianism and apocalypticism 74

4.5 Contemporary techno-millennialism 75

4.6 Techno-apocalypticism 77

4.7 Symptoms of dysfunctional millennialism in assessing future scenarios 79

4.8 Conclusions 80

Suggestions for further reading 80

5. Eliezer Yudkowsky. Cognitive biases potentially affecting judgement of global risks 85

5.1 Introduction 85

1: Availability 85

2: Hindsight bias 86

3: Black Swans 87

4: The conjunction fallacy 88

5: Confirmation bias 90

6: Anchoring, adjustment, and contamination 92

7: The affect heuristic 94

8: Scope neglect 95

9: Calibration and overconfidence 96

10: Bystander apathy 98

A final caution 99

Conclusion 100

6. Milan M. Cirkovic. Observation selection effects and global catastrophic risks 106

6.1 Introduction: anthropic reasoning and global risks 106

6.3 Doomsday Argument 112

6.4 Fermi's paradox 113

6.5 The Simulation Argument 118

6.6 Making progress in studying observation selection effects 119

7. Yacov Y. Haimes. Systems-based risk analysis 121

7.1 Introduction 121

7.2 Risk to interdependent infrastructure and sectors of the economy 122

7.3 Hierarchical holographic modelling and the theory of scenario structuring 123

7.4 Phantom system models for risk management of emergent multi-scale systems 125

7.5 Risk of extreme and catastrophic events 127

8. Peter Taylor. Catastrophes and insurance 135

8.1 Introduction 135

8.2 Catastrophes 136

8.3 What the business world thinks 137

8.4 Insurance 138

8.5 Pricing the risk 141

8.6 Catastrophe loss models 142

8.7 What is risk? 143

8.8 Price and probability 145

8.9 The age of uncertainty 146

8.10 New techniques 148

8.11 Conclusion: against the gods? 148

9. Richard A. Posner. Public policy towards catastrophe 150

Part II. Risks from nature 162

10. Michael R. Rampino. Super-volcanism and other geophysical processes of catastrophic import 163

10.2 Atmospheric impact of a super-eruption 163

10.3 Volcanic winter 164

10.4 Possible environmental effects of a super-eruption 166

10.5 Super-eruptions and human population 167

10.6 Frequency of super-eruptions 168

10.7 Effects of a super-eruptions on civilization 168

10.8 Super-eruptions and life in the universe 169

11. William Napier. Hazards from comets and asteroids 175

11.1 Something like a huge mountain 175

11.2 How often are we struck? 175

11.3 The effects of impact 178

11.4 The role of dust 180

11.5 Ground truth? 182

12. Arnon Dar. Influence of Supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, solar flares, and cosmic rays on the terrestrial environment 186

12.1 Introduction 186

12.2 Radiation threats 186

12.2.2 Solar flares 189

12.3 Cosmic ray threats 193

PART III. RISKS FROM UNTINTENDED CONSEQUENSES 202

13. David Frame and Myles R. Allen. Climate change and global risk 202

13.1 Introduction 202

13.2 Modelling climate change 203

13.3 A simple model of climate change 203

13.5 Defining dangerous climate change 209

13.6 Regional climate risk under anthropogenic change 210

13.7 Climate risk and mitigation policy 211

13.8 Discussion and conclusions 213

14. Edwin Dennis Kilbourne. Plagues and pandemics: past, present, and future 217

14.1 Introduction 217

14.2 The baseline: the chronic and persisting burden of infectious disease 217

14.3 The causation of pandemics 218

14.4 The nature and source of the parasites 218

14.6 Nature of the disease impact: high morbidity, high mortality, or both 221

14.11 Plagues of historical note 224

14.12 Contemporary plagues and pandemics 225

14.14 Discussion and conclusions 227

15. Eliezer Yudkowsky. Artificial Intelligence as a positive and negative factor in global risk 231

15.1 Introduction 231

1: Anthropomorphic bias 231

2: Prediction and design 234

3: Underestimating the power of intelligence 234

4: Capability and motive 236

5: Friendly AI 238

6: Technical failure and philosophical failure 239

7: Rates of intelligence increase 242

8: Hardware 246

9: Threats and promises 247

10: Local and majoritarian strategies 250

11: AI versus human intelligence enhancement 253

12: Interactions of AI with other technologies 256

13: Making progress on Friendly AI 257

Conclusion 259

16. Frank Wilczek. Big troubles, imagined and real 263

16.1 Why look for trouble? 263

16.2 Looking before leaping 263

16.4 Wondering 272

17. Robin Hanson. Catastrophe, Social Collapse, and Human Extinction 275

Social Growth 276

Social Collapse 277

The Distribution of Disaster 278

Existential Disasters 279

PART IV. Risks from hostile acts. 286

18. Joseph Cirincion. The continuing threat of nuclear war 287

18.1 Introduction 287

18.2 Calculating Armageddon 290

18.3 The current nuclear balance 295

18.4 The good news about proliferation 298

18.5 A comprehensive approach 298

18.6 Conclusion 300

19. Gary Ackerman and William С. Potter. Catastrophic nuclear terrorism: a preventable peril 302

19.1 Introduction 302

19.2 Historical recognition of the risk of nuclear terrorism 303

19.3 Motivations and capabilities for nuclear terrorism 304

19.5 Consequences of nuclear terrorism 318

19.6 Risk assessment and risk reduction 322

20. Ali Noun and Christopher F. Chyba. Biotechnology and biosecurity 335

20.1 Introduction 335

20.2 Biological weapons and risks 336

20.3 Biological weapons are distinct from other so-called weapons of mass destruction 337

20.4 Benefits come with risks 338

20.5 Biotechnology risks go beyond traditional virology, micro- and molecular biology 340

20.6 Addressing biotechnology risks 341

20.7 Catastrophic biological attacks 345

20.8 Strengthening disease surveillance and response 347

20.9 Towards a biologically secure future 350

21. Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder. Nanotechnology as global catastrophic risk 356

21.2 Molecular manufacturing 357

21.3 Mitigation of molecular manufacturing risks 364

21.4 Discussion and conclusion 366

22. Bryan Caplan. The totalitarian threat 370

22.1 Totalitarianism: what happened and why it (mostly) ended 370

22.2 Stable totalitarianism 371

22.3 Risk factors for stable totalitarianism 374

22.4 Totalitarian risk management 377

Authors' biographies 381


OXFORD

UNIVERSITY PRESS

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© Oxford University Press 2008

The moral rights of the authors have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker)

First published 2008

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press,or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriatereprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproductionoutside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose the same condition on any acquirer

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Data available

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data available

Typeset by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India Printed in Great Britain

on acid-free paper by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham, Wiltshire

ISBN 978-0-19-857050-9 (Hbk) 135 79 10 8642

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