Existential Threat Resource Allocation: Are We Doing it Right?

In the last ten years, there has been an uptick in attention paid to existential threats (threats that could wipe out humanity). This is potentially great news.

Last night, I watched an episode of Elementary, which is one of my favorite television shows. The episode’s plot revolved around existential threats, with a focus on artificial intelligence.

That was enough to get me to write this post.


A couple years ago, I read Nick Bostrom’s Global Catastrophic Risks which catalogues the various threats that might lead to human extinction.

Since then, I’ve maintained a passing interest in the field. I even went to the Singularity Summit.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been playing around the internet trying to get more caught up on the field.

The good news: there seems to be a lot of talented people working on these issues.

The bad news: I’ve found very little publicly availability data analysis on the issue. I was curious which risks were most likely to occur; which risks were most solvable by human intervention; and the amount of resources that were currently being devoted to each risk.

I found very little of this information. Of course, perhaps this information exists in secret government departments; or perhaps the research exists and I just did a poor job of finding it.

I did see that the Future of Humanity Institute has launched a Global Priorities Project, which aims to answer some of the questions, I think. The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk also seems to be working on the issue. But neither of them have put out reports that I could find.

But, overall, I was pretty surprised at how little easy accessible information was out there.


I’d love to see the data I mentioned above (and that I tried to capture in the below bubble chart).

Note: I spent 30 minutes creating this chart. I don’t think I’m right on any of the values I placed on these threats. I just wanted to try and create an easy way to visualize the problem.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 11.35.09 AM

Does anyone know if such data exists in an easily digestible format?

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