Approaches to the Prevention of Global Catastrophic Risks

Human Prospect 7 (2):52-65 (2018)
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Abstract

Many global catastrophic and existential risks (X-risks) threaten the existence of humankind. There are also many ideas for their prevention, but the meta-problem is that these ideas are not structured. This lack of structure means it is not easy to choose the right plan(s) or to implement them in the correct order. I suggest using a “Plan A, Plan B” model, which has shown its effectiveness in planning actions in unpredictable environments. In this approach, Plan B is a backup option, implemented if Plan A fails. In the case of global risks, Plan A is intended to prevent a catastrophe and Plan B to survive it, if it is not avoided. Each plan has similar stages: analysis, planning, funding, low-level realization and high-level realization. Two variables—plans and stages—provide an effective basis for classification of all possible X-risks prevention methods in the form of a two-dimensional map, allowing the choice of optimal paths for human survival. I have created a framework for estimating the utility of various prevention methods based on their probability of success, the chances that they will be realized in time, their opportunity cost, and their risk. I also distinguish between top-down and bottom-up approaches.

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