[ Question ]

What is EA opinion on The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists?

by VPetukhov 10d2nd Dec 20191 min read9 comments

34


Looks like The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is the first organization in the world working on existential risks with the clearly stated mission "to reduce man-made threats to our existence". This organization started with nuclear weapon, but this century also included Climate Change and Disruptive Technologies into their agenda. Indeed, their oldest article on Biosecurity is dated Feb 2007, which is older then OpenPhil and almost the same age as FHI.

Nevertheless, I didn't see a single mention of The Bulletin on 80k, and even on this forum they were mentioned only several times. I went through some of their articles, and they're too vague and informal for my taste, though it can be just a bad selection. Does someone knows if something is wrong with The Bulletin in general or is there any specific reason it doesn't appear in EA-related discussions?

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2 Answers

I've read some useful stuff in the Bulletin as well as some stuff I really disagree with. I definitely don't think there's anything *wrong* with it.

Greg Lewis, an EA who works on biorisk at FHI, published an article I really like in the Bulletin called "Horsepox synthesis: A case of the unilateralist’s curse?" Here's a post on their critique of Open Phil's biorisk program.

I think there are a bunch of potential reasons the Bulletin doesn't appear much in EA discussions:

-It's a media/magazine/news organization so it mostly publishes articles on current events, which EAs tend not to focus on. [ETA: As cwgoes mentions, the journal has a longer time horizon but is still more focused on currentish stuff than most EAs. More like a policy journal than an academic one.]

-While it does have some content on biorisk and AI, the two potential x-risks EAs tend to focus on, it's still quite focused on nukes.

-EA can be a bit insular and a lot of EAs know a lot more about GCR-relevant orgs with some connection to EA than those without.


I don't recommend the public-facing website. Their journal is higher-quality and tends to focus more on longer-term strategic questions / analysis, although there's still a lot of variance. Older issues are pay-walled but I believe articles are open-access for a short time when published.