The new team of Riesgos Catastróficos Globales started their job two months ago.
During this time, they have been working on two reports on what we have identified as top priorities for the management of Global Catastrophic Risks from Spanish-Speaking countries: food security during Abrupt Sunlight-Reduction Scenarios (e.g. nuclear winter) and AI regulation.
In this article, I will cover their output in more depth and future plans, with some reflections on how the project is going.
The short version is that I am reasonably pleased, and the directive board has decided to continue the project for two more months. The team's productivity has exceeded my expectations, though I see opportunities for improvement in our quality assurance, formation and outreach. We remain short of funding; if you want to support our work you can donate through our donation portal.
In the last two months, the team has been working on two major reports and several minor outputs.
1) Report on food security in Argentina during abrupt sun-reducing scenarios (ASRS), in collaboration with ALLFED. In this report, we explain the important role Argentina could have during ASRS to mitigate global famine. We sketch several policies that would be useful inclusions in an emergency plan, such as resilient food deployment, together with suggestions on which public organisms could implement them.
2) Report on AI regulation for the EU AI Act Spanish sandbox (forthcoming). We are interviewing and eliciting opinions from several experts, to compile an overview of AI risk for Spanish policymakers and proposals to make the most out of the upcoming EU AI sandbox.
3) An article about AI regulation in Spain. In this short article, we explain the relevance of Spain for AI regulation in the context of the EU AI Act. We propose four policies that could be tested in the upcoming sandbox. It serves as a preview of the report I mentioned above.
4) An article about the new GCR mitigation law in USA, reporting on its meaning and proposing similar initiatives for Spanish-Speaking countries.
Overall, I think we have done a good job of contextualizing the research done in the international GCR community. However, I feel we rely a lot on the involvement of the direction board for quality assurance, and our limited time means that some mistakes and misconceptions will likely have made it to publication.
Having said that, I am pleased with the results. The team has been amazingly productive, publishing a 60-page report in two months and several minor publications alongside it.
In the future, we will be involving more experts for a more thorough review process. This also means that we will be erring towards producing shorter reports, which can be more thoroughly checked and are better for engaging policy-makers.
Early in the project, we identified the education of our staff as a key challenge to overcome. Our staff has work experience and credentials, but their exposure to the GCR literature was limited.
We undertook several activities to address this lack of formation:
- Knowledge transfer talks with Spanish-speaking experts from our directive board and advisory network (Juan García from ALLFED, Jaime Sevilla from Epoch, Clarissa Rios Rojas from CSER).
- A GCR reading group with curated reading recommendations.
- An online course taught by Sandra Malagón from Carreras con Impacto.
- A dedicated course on the basics of Machine Learning.
I am satisfied with the results, and I see a clear progression in the team. In hindsight, I think we erred on the side of too much formation in April, and it would have been better to shorten the ML course. We will continue our formation programs in the coming months.
Engagement and relationships
Public engagement with our work has been limited. Our website received ~1K visits since March, mainly from Colombia, Spain and the USA. Our recently reactivated Twitter account has almost no followers. And karma in the EA Forum has been around ~50, except for Global catastrophic risks law approved in the United States (where I suspect the karma reflects enthusiasm about the news rather than the post).
Private engagement has been better. We had two successful collaborations with ALLFED and the Simon Institute. We have received words of encouragement from researchers from CSER and elsewhere, and we have been invited to send a delegate to an upcoming conference.
Most importantly, we have built a rapport with some policymakers in Argentina, who we interviewed for our report on ASRS and to whom we will be presenting our reports soon. I hope to replicate this success with our future reports as well.
Overall, I am content with the results, given the effort we have put into promotion and relationship-building.
Incidentally, we welcome invitations to events and requests for collaboration from other organizations working on related topics. If this applies to you, please reach out at email@example.com.
We’ve received individual support from some generous donors that have allowed us to extend our project for two months, but we remain short of funding. This month we have applied to several grant-making programs, which we hope will lead to more financial security for the organization. Our current fundraising goal is $186k to finance our operations for the next six months.
Note that individual donations now can have a disproportionately large impact on the organisation's continuation. We currently have a runway until July 2023, and each $12k allows us to extend the runway a month if we operate on minimal expenses. If you want to support our work, you can donate through our donation portal.
In the next couple of months, we plan to wrap up existing projects and start new ones.
Outreach for our ASRS report. We are organizing a series of talks in Spanish (Friday 5th of May) and in English (Monday 8th of May) to present our work on ASRS. We will also be presenting our results privately to decision-makers in Argentina.
Report on EU AI regulation in the Spanish sandbox. We have now finished the research phase, and we are starting with the writing phase. We plan to release this by the end of the next month, depending on the results of our review processes. We plan to engage with some Spanish policymakers during this process.
Report on biosecurity. With the help of our new biosecurity affiliate Michelle Bruno Hernández, we will investigate opportunities for biosecurity work in Latin America. This might involve work on pandemic vigilance and/or prevention of biological accidents in labs.
A fourth report. We want to start scoping another report in June. This will either be a report summarizing the cost-effectiveness of the opportunities we have investigated so far or a report investigating opportunities to improve public risk management in Spanish-Speaking countries. We’d be excited to hear feedback from the community on what you think we should prioritize.
I am excited to learn how the work on ASRS and AI will be received by policymakers. The biosecurity work could be promising, though I think scoping the project will be significantly more difficult.
The project on Riesgos Catastróficos Globales is an exciting opportunity for work in mitigating Global Catastrophic Risk.
The team has surpassed my expectations. They have completed a 60-page policy report on ASRS in the very short span of two months, alongside other minor publications, which I find impressive.
We need to improve our quality assurance, keep forming our team and engage with more outreach. And most importantly, we need to secure medium-term funding to develop our projects.
I remain excited about the project and look forward to seeing results in the coming months.
If you want to support our work, you can donate through our donation portal.
Thank you to the rest of the Riesgos Catastróficos Globales team for feedback on this post and their fantastic work these last two months.