There are a number of overlapping reasons for why we might want really good refuges:
- Countermeasures refuges: In a global catastrophic biological event, we ought to have a secure facility where scientific personnel can develop medical countermeasures in a position of relative safety.
- Foundation-style refuges: In the case of an extreme global catastrophe, a civilizational refuge can protect a nucleus of people, information, and materials to increase the probability of rebuilding and recovery after civilization collapse.
- Values refuges: We would have a means to safeguard important cosmopolitan values and empirical or conceptual worldviews to survive and flourish after a civilizational collapse, assuming it is good to do so.
Currently, we think all three reasons are plausible, with a focus on #1 and #3. In particular, we believe that building refuges can be an unusually effective broad-spectrum intervention for reducing existential risk from a wide range of non-agentic sources.
We (a working group composed of Linch, Ajay, and a third, anonymous, collaborator) have worked part-time to deliver a temporary plan for refuges. We’ve made considerable progress, but we will greatly benefit from having a technically competent volunteer or short-term contractor help us refine our plans and make them much more detailed/precise/concrete. If you are interested, please message us or chat with us at EA Global London!
Our two biggest bottlenecks:
- We have not yet identified great candidates for a sufficiently competent (interim) CEO who is both capable and willing to take ownership of the refuge project.
- Our technical requirements write-up is not yet detailed enough to a) attract top non-EA talent or b) discuss a feasibility study with an architecture firm in sufficient depth to be useful. This would require expanding out technical requirements from a ~10-pager to a ~40-pager in the next 4-6 weeks.
Here are ways you can advance the refuge project:
- Reach out to us, either here or at EAGlobal if you’re interested in volunteering to help us build better plans or talent scout for a CEO to champion this.
- If you think you might make for a good CEO, definitely talk to us.
- Apply to Rethink Priority’s new temporary roles in General Longtermism or Special Projects, to potentially work full-time on this under Linch’s guidance.
- Note that the jobs won’t start until June/July, and we’d ideally want to make progress faster. Also it is not guaranteed that RP would work on this.
- Independently come up with your own plans/schema for civilizational refuges, and pitch it to funders. More competition in the EA ecosystem can be very valuable!
E.g., impartial concern, the importance of existential risk reduction
We can potentially help with funding small-scale experiments and preliminary research.