Feb 23, 2015
Just announcing for those interested that Seth Baum from the Global Catastrophic Risks Institute (GCRI) will be coming to the Effective Altruism Forum to answer a wide range of questions next week at 7pm on March 3.
Seth is an interesting case - more of a 'mere mortal' than Bostrom and Yudkowsky. (Clarification: his background is more standard, and he's probably more emulate-able!) He had a PhD in geography, and had come to a maximising consequentialist view, in which GCR-reduction is overwhelmingly important. So three years ago, with risk analyst Tony Barrett, he cofounded the Global Catstrophic Risks Institute - one of the handful of places working on these particularly important problems. Since then, it's done some academic outreach and have covered issues like double-catastrophe/ recovery from catstrophe, bioengineering, food security and AI.
Just last week, they've updated their strategy, giving the following announcement:
I am delighted to announce important changes in GCRI’s identity and direction. GCRI is now just over three years old. In these years we have learned a lot about how we can best contribute to the issue of global catastrophic risk. Initially, GCRI aimed to lead a large global catastrophic risk community while also performing original research. This aim is captured in GCRI’s original mission statement, to help mobilize the world’s intellectual and professional resources to meet humanity’s gravest threats.
Our community building has been successful, but our research has simply gone farther. Our research has been published in leading academic journals. It has taken us around the world for important talks. And it has helped us publish in the popular media. GCRI will increasingly focus on in-house research.
Our research will also be increasingly focused, as will our other activities. The single most important GCR research question is: What are the best ways to reduce the risk of global catastrophe? To that end, GCRI is launching a GCR Integrated Assessment as our new flagship project. The Integrated Assessment puts all the GCRs into one integrated study in order to assess the best ways of reducing the risk. And we are changing our mission statement accordingly, to develop the best ways to confront humanity’s gravest threats.
So 7pm ET Tuesday, March 3 is the time to come online to the EA Forum and post your questions about any topic you like, and Seth will remain online until at least 9 to answer as many questions as he can.
On the topic of risk organisations, I'll also mention that i) video is available from CSER's recent seminar, in which Mark Lipsitch and Derek Smith's discussed potentially pandemic pathogens, and ii) I'm helping Sean to write up a more detailed update for LessWrong and effective altruists which will go online soon.