A compound existential risk (also known as a combination existential risk[1] and as an intermediate existential risk[2]) is an existential risk arising from two or more distinct events.

Owen Cotton-Barratt, Max Daniel and Anders Sandberg illustrate the concept of a (non-existential) compound risk with the following historical incident:[3]

the deadliest accident in aviation history occurred when two planes collided on an airport runway; this was only possible because a previous terrorist attack on another airport had caused congestion due to rerouted planes, which disabled the prevention measure of using separate routes for taxiing and takeoff.

The events whose conjunction constitute the compound existential risk may, but need not, themselves be existential risks. For example, climate change may pose a small existential risk in and of itself but, in addition, pose a compound risk by increasing international tensions and in turn triggering an AI race.[1]

Further reading

Brennan, Ozy (2019) Combination existential risks, Thing of Things, January 14.
Introduces the concept of a combination existential risk and presents a preliminary taxonomy.

existential risk | existential risk factor

  1. ^

    Brennan, Ozy (2019) Combination existential risks, Thing of Things, January 14.

  2. ^

    Ćirković, Milan M., Anders Sandberg & Nick Bostrom (2010) Anthropic shadow: observation selection effects and human extinction risks, Risk Analysis, vol. 30, pp. 1495–1506.

  3. ^

    Cotton-Barratt, Owen, Max Daniel & Anders Sandberg (2020) Defence in depth against human extinction: prevention, response, resilience, and why they all matter, Global Policy, vol. 11, pp. 271-282, p. 279.