This is a linkpost for an article I wrote for Lawfare, explaining new techniques in probabilistic forecasting and their importance for understanding global catastrophic risks.

Here’s the introduction:

Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling during the invasion of Ukraine has many people wondering: How likely is this crisis to escalate to nuclear war? The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’s famous Doomsday Clock has a simple and frightening answer: Humanity is mere seconds away from “midnight,” and the risk of nuclear war is unacceptably high.

But how high is it, exactly?

The Doomsday Clock can’t give an answer to that—seconds don’t translate well to probabilities—and it’s not designed to, as a public communications and awareness-raising tool. Perhaps the question is fundamentally unanswerable. But new techniques in the nascent science of forecasting suggest that better tools can be built that give early-warning indicators of global catastrophic risks. If policymakers, researchers and funders embrace the possibilities of crowdsourced probabilistic forecasting as a new kind of Doomsday Clock, it might be possible to better see—and avert—the next crisis on the horizon…

Full article:

I think it’s important to translate these kinds of issues in popular and policy-oriented publications, and would encourage others to do the same!

2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 5:32 AM
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Great article! Another thing I just realized: I dislike the clock metaphor. It seems to suggest that we will eventually reach midnight, no matter what. Perhaps a time bomb (which can be deactivated) would be a better illustration.

Thank you! I also really struggle with the clock metaphor. It seems to have just gotten locked in as the Bulletin took off in the early Cold War. The time bomb is a great suggestion — it communicates the idea much better