It is important to figure out the best way(s) to convince people that AI safety is worth taking seriously because despite the fact that it is (in my opinion, and in the opinion of many people in the EA community) the most important cause area, it often seems weird to people at first glance. I think that one way to improve the persuasiveness of AI safety pitches would be to use the frame that AI safety is a problem because the profit-based incentives of private sector AI developers do not account for the externalities generated by risky AGI projects.
Many groups that EA pitches to are relatively left leaning. In particular, elite university students are much more left leaning than the general population. As such, they are likely to be receptive to arguments for taking AI safety seriously which highlight the fact that AI safety is a problem largely due to deeper problems with capitalism. One such problem is the fact that capitalism fails to take into account externalities, or effects of economic activity which are not reflected in that activity's price. Developing AGI generates huge negative externalities; while a private sector actor who creates aligned AGI would probably reap much of the economic gains from it (at least in the short term - it is unclear how these gains would be distributed over longer time scales), it would pay only a small fraction of the costs of unaligned AGI, which are almost entirely borne by the rest of the world and future generations. Thus, misalignment risks from AGI are significantly heightened by the structural failure of capitalism to account for externalities, a problem which left leaning people tend to be very mindful of. Even beyond left-leaning students, it is widely acknowledged by educated people with an understanding of economics that a major problem with capitalism is that it fails by default to deal with externalities. Similarly, many people in the general public view corporations and big tech as irresponsible, greedy actors who harm the public good even if they lack an understanding of the logic of externalities. Thus, in addition to being particularly persuasive to left-leaning people who understand externalities, this framing seems likely to also be persuasive to people with a wider range of political orientations and levels of understanding of economics.
While this argument does not imply that misaligned AGI constitutes an existential risk, when it is combined with the claim that AI systems will have large impacts of some kind on the future (which many who are skeptical of AI x-risk still believe), it implies that we will by default significantly underinvest in ensuring that the AI systems which will shape the future will have positive effects on society. This conclusion seems likely to make people broadly more concerned about the negative effects of AI. Moreover, even if they do not conclude that AI development could pose an existential risk, the argument still implies that AI safety research constitutes a public good which should receive much more funding and attention than it currently does. Given that it seems to me like alignment research focused on preventing existential catastrophe seems highly related to broader efforts to ensure future AI systems have positive effects on the world, having more people believe the previous claim seems quite good.
As a result, it seems like "AI safety is a public good which will be underinvested in by default" or (more polemically) "AI developers are gambling with the fate of humanity for the sake of profit, and we need to stop them/ensure that their efforts don't have catastrophic effects" should be a more common frame used to pitch the importance of AI safety. It is an accurate and rhetorically effective framing of the problem. Am I missing something?
For a longer explanation of externalities, see https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/basics/external.htm