Global catastrophic biological risk

A global catastrophic biological risk (GCBR) is a global catastrophic risk that is biological in nature (Lewis 2020; cf. Schoch-Spana et al. 2017).

Existential risks from biotechnology

Biotechnology offers potentially exciting ways to make people much better off, to find new ways to tackle disease, and to address climate change. However, because many biological systems are at least in principle self-replicating, significant modifications of some kinds could also pose serious risks.

A life-sciences area which currently receives attention from risk experts is gain-of-function (GOF) research, in which particularly concerning pathogens like H5N1 influenza are modified to increase their virulence or transmissibility. Researchers are divided as to whether the benefits of such experiments are worth the risks that come from either accidental release of pathogens or the misuse of discoveries by malicious actors (Duprex et al. 2015; Selgelid 2016). In the near term, such pathogens probably pose a non-existential global catastrophic risk, but there is some chance that related life-sciences work might one day pose an existential risk....

(Read More)