What Questions Should We Ask Speakers at the Stanford Existential Risks Conference?

by kuhanj1 min read10th Apr 20212 comments

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As announced earlier, the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative is running a conference on existential risks, on April 17th and 18th. (If you’d still like to apply, you have until April 12th to do so, at our conference website.) 

Since we want to ask speakers questions that are useful for people seeking to mitigate existential threats, and since many of these people are active on this forum, we’d love to hear your suggestions/requests on what questions we should ask our speakers.


In case you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for questions for all speakers listed on our website, the speakers not listed below are giving talks. There will be a platform to ask questions about their talk (and other questions) on Swapcard, the conference platform we’ll be using.

We’ll be hosting Q&As/fireside chats with the following people:

  • Ajeya Cotra
    • Senior Research Analyst at Open Philanthropy
  • Christoph Winter
    • Director of the Legal Priorities Project; Assistant Professor of Legal Philosophy at the Mexican Autonomous Institute of Technology; Visiting Scholar at Harvard University
  • Habiba Islam
    • Advisor at 80,000 Hours; former Senior Administrator at the Global Priorities Institute and the Future of Humanity Institute
  • Helen Toner
    • Director of Strategy at the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology
  • Jaan Tallinn
    • Co-founder of the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Future of Life Institute, and Skype
  • Longtermism Education Panel
    • Hilary Greaves
      • Professor of Philosophy at Oxford; Director of the Global Priorities Institute; taught Population Ethics
    • Kevin Esvelt
      • Assistant Professor at MIT Media Lab; Director of the Sculpting Evolution Group; teaches The Great Problems
    • Shelly Kagan
      • Clark Professor of Philosophy at Yale University; teaches Ethics and the Future
    • Steve Luby
      • Stanford Existential Risks Initiative Faculty Co-Director; Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and Health Research and Policy at Stanford;  co-teaches Preventing Human Extinction
  • Natalie Cargill
    • Founder and CEO of Longview Philanthropy
  • Paul Brest
    • Former Dean of the Stanford Law School; former President of the Hewlett Foundation
  • Rose Gottemoeller
    • Former Deputy Secretary of NATO, Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford

If there are any questions you’d like to have us ask to any of the above speakers, please write an answer to this post listing both the speaker and the question. If you like someone else’s proposed question, please upvote it.

Thank you!

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To what extent do you think the field of risk management is applicable to x-risks, and where is it most lacking? 

  • What are some "obscure" existential risks that we should look more into?
  • What's the biggest x-risk and why is it bigger than the others?