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Existential Risks: Exploring a Robust Risk Reduction Strategy
Philosophy and History, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.
2015 (English)In: Science and Engineering Ethics, ISSN 1353-3452, E-ISSN 1471-5546, Vol. 21, no 3, p. 541-554Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A small but growing number of studies have aimed to understand, assess and reduce existential risks, or risks that threaten the continued existence of mankind. However, most attention has been focused on known and tangible risks. This paper proposes a heuristic for reducing the risk of black swan extinction events. These events are, as the name suggests, stochastic and unforeseen when they happen. Decision theory based on a fixed model of possible outcomes cannot properly deal with this kind of event. Neither can probabilistic risk analysis. This paper will argue that the approach that is referred to as engineering safety could be applied to reducing the risk from black swan extinction events. It will also propose a conceptual sketch of how such a strategy may be implemented: isolated, self-sufficient, and continuously manned underground refuges. Some characteristics of such refuges are also described, in particular the psychosocial aspects. Furthermore, it is argued that this implementation of the engineering safety strategy safety barriers would be effective and plausible and could reduce the risk of an extinction event in a wide range of possible (known and unknown) scenarios. Considering the staggering opportunity cost of an existential catastrophe, such strategies ought to be explored more vigorously.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2015. Vol. 21, no 3, p. 541-554
Keywords [en]
Existential risk Black swan Engineering safety Safety barriers Uncertainty Shelters Global catastrophe
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-156723DOI: 10.1007/s11948-014-9559-3ISI: 000354406600001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84901581861OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-156723DiVA, id: diva2:767826
Note

QC 20150608

Available from: 2014-12-02 Created: 2014-12-02 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Human enhancement and technological uncertainty: Essays on the promise and peril of emerging technology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human enhancement and technological uncertainty: Essays on the promise and peril of emerging technology
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Essay I explores brain machine interface (BMI) technologies. These make direct communication between the brain and a machine possible by means of electrical stimuli. This essay reviews the existing and emerging technologies in this field and offers an inquiry into the ethical problems that are likely to emerge.

Essay II, co-written with professor Sven-Ove Hansson, presents a novel procedure to engage the public in deliberations on the potential impacts of technology.  This procedure, convergence seminar, is a form of scenario-based discussion that is founded on the idea of hypothetical retrospection. The theoretical background and the results of the five seminars are presented.

Essay III discusses moral bioenhancement, an instance of human enhancement that alters a person’s dispositions, emotions or behavior. Moral bioenhancement could be carried out in three different ways. The first strategy is behavioral enhancement. The second strategy, favored by prominent defenders of moral enhancement, is emotional enhancement. The third strategy is the enhancement of moral dispositions, such as empathy and inequity aversion. I argue that we ought to implement a combination of the second and third strategies.

Essay IV considers the possibility and potential desirability of sensory enhancement. It is proposed that existing sensory modalities in vertebrate animals are proof of concept of what is biologically possible to create in humans. Three considerations on the normative aspects of sensory enhancement are also presented in this essay.

Essay V rejects disease prioritarianism, the idea that the healthcare system ought to prioritize the treatment of diseases. Instead, an approach that focuses on what medicine can accomplish is proposed.

Essay VI argues that from the idea that species have an intrinsic value and that humanity has a collective responsibility to protect animal species from extinction, the conclusion that we ought to recreate species follows.

Essay VII argues that unknown existential risks have not been properly addressed. It proposes a heuristic for doing so, and a concrete strategy. This strategy consists in building refuges that could withstand a large number of catastrophic events.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. p. v, 34
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 50
National Category
Philosophy
Research subject
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-156724 (URN)978-91-7595-341-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-12-12, D2, Lindstetsvägen 5, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20141204

Available from: 2014-12-04 Created: 2014-12-02 Last updated: 2014-12-18Bibliographically approved

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