Dr. David Denkenberger co-founded and directs the Alliance to Feed the Earth in Disasters ( and donates half his income to it. He received his B.S. from Penn State in Engineering Science, his masters from Princeton in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the Building Systems Program. His dissertation was on his patented expanded microchannel heat exchanger. He is an assistant professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks in joint in mechanical engineering and Alaska Center for Energy and Power. He received the National Merit Scholarship, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, is a Penn State distinguished alumnus, and is a registered professional engineer. He has authored or co-authored 104 publications (>2700 citations, >50,000 downloads, h-index = 27, third most prolific author in the existential/global catastrophic risk field (, including the book Feeding Everyone no Matter What: Managing Food Security after Global Catastrophe. His food work has been featured in over 25 countries, over 200 articles, including Science, Vox, Business Insider, Wikipedia, Deutchlandfunk (German Public Radio online), Discovery Channel Online News, Gizmodo,, and Science Daily. He has given interviews on 80,000 Hours podcast and Estonian Public Radio, WGBH Radio, Boston, and WCAI Radio on Cape Cod, USA. He has given over 80 external presentations, including ones on food at Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Cornell University, University of California Los Angeles, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Lab, Imperial College, and University College London.

Wiki Contributions


On the assessment of volcanic eruptions as global catastrophic or existential risks

One of the authors here - yes there is risk trying to prevent an eruption. Lower risk and providing protection against many other catastrophes than volcanic is preparing to scale up resilient foods quickly. It is also more cost effective.

Beyond fire alarms: freeing the groupstruck

this seems to have involved waves of escalating and de-escalating average concern with very high variance in individual concern and action in which purportedly some people have continued to favor more incaution to their graves, and others have seemingly died of caution.

How have people died of caution?

Some Thoughts on Cultured Meat Feasibility

??? other tech alternatives

Protein from seaweed (which GFI is now interested in), methane consuming single cell protein, hydrogen consuming single cell protein, leaf protein concentrate, and maybe even electrically powered single cell protein, though it looks like they are better at producing vinegar than protein.

Great Power Conflict

From the same reference, twelve out of 16 times that there has been a switch in which is the most militarily powerful country in the world, there has been war (though one should not take that literally for the current situation). China will likely become the most powerful (economically at least) in the next few decades, unless the US allows a lot more immigration.

Resilient food

They have started work, but I'm not aware of any publications yet.

Resilient food

Thanks to Pablo for letting me know about this discussion. We were using alternate, but that had a different definition in Australian English, so we switch to alternative. But then we saw that there is an official definition of "alternative food" here. So we think resilient food is the best. We are going to be releasing a new version of our website with resilient food, and we have already switched our papers under review to resilient food.

[Paper] Interventions that May Prevent or Mollify Supervolcanic Eruptions

Thanks! Those are good questions. I have not put any more effort into it because resilient foods are likely lower cost to prepare for and protect against multiple catastrophes including super-volcanic eruptions. However, if we can get a few hundred million dollars for resilient foods, maybe working on preventing super-volcanic eruptions will be next on the list…

Neglected biodiversity protection by EA.

I think the first dot point deserves fleshing out. I have done a very preliminary analysis of getting prepared with resilient foods for agricultural catastrophes such as nuclear winter, and it appears that this is a very cost-effective way of saving species. This is because if many people were starving, not only would they generally not care about preventing other species from going extinct due to the climate impacts, but they would likely actively eat many species to extinction. It would not take that much more work to turn this into an actual paper, and ALLFED would be happy to do it if someone wanted to fund it specifically (~$20,000). The model also has AGI safety, so we could look at the cost-effectiveness of that work of saving species. Naïvely, one might argue that preventing human extinction from a pandemic would be bad for biodiversity. However, the only hope of biodiversity continuing beyond about a billion years when the earth would naturally get too hot would be humans controlling the climate or relocating species. So overall, I would agree that work on existential risk is likely effectively helping biodiversity in the long term.

Linch's Shortform

I think it would be valuable to see quantitative estimates of more problem areas and interventions. My order of magnitude estimate would be that if one is considering spending $10,000-$100,000, one should do a simple scale, neglectedness, and tractability analysis. But if one is considering spending $100,000-$1 million, one should do an actual cost-effectiveness analysis. So candidates here would be wild animal welfare, approval voting, improving institutional decision-making, climate change from an existential risk perspective, biodiversity from an existential risk perspective, governance of outer space etc. Though it is a significant amount of work to get a cost-effectiveness analysis up to peer review publishable quality (which we have found requires moving beyond Guesstimate, e.g. here and here), I still think that there is value in doing a rougher Guesstimate model and having a discussion about parameters. One could even add to one of our Guesstimate models, allowing a direct comparison with AGI safety and resilient foods or interventions for loss of electricity/industry from a long-term perspective.

What are examples of technologies which would be a big deal if they scaled but never ended up scaling?

I think most technologies don't end up scaling. This says 2 to 10% of patents make enough money to maintain protection. A prototype is not required for a patent, but there would be lots of demonstrated ideas in the lab that are not patented. There is also the concept of the Valley of Death in commercialization where most technologies die. This is not necessarily the same as technologies that would be a "big deal" but I think it is a useful reference class.

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