Thanks for this great post mapping out the problem space! I'd add that trade disruption appears to be one of the most significant impacts of nuclear war, and plausibly amplifies the 'famine' aspect of nuclear winter significantly and a range of potential civilisation collapse risk factors, see my earlier post here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/7arEfmLBX2donjJyn/islands-nuclear-winter-and-trade-disruption-as-a-human Trade disruption disappears into the 'various risk factor mechanisms' category above, but I think it's worth more consideration. Here's a report on a workshop we recently ran on nuclear winter risk and New Zealand and how the impact of trade disruption pushes nuclear war into the very severe regions of a risk matrix: https://adaptresearchwriting.com/2023/02/20/workshop-on-nuclear-war-winter-nz-wellbeing-of-millions-and-1-trillion-plus-at-risk-strategic-resilience-must-become-bread-butter-nz-policy/ We now have a survey across a range of sectors in pilot to better understand the cascading impacts of such disruption on NZ's technological/industrial society (and how to avoid collapse). The full survey will be deployed soon. A lot of likely resilience measures against nuclear winter will have co-benefits across a range of other 'ordinary' and catastrophic risks, we hope to identify those with Delphi processes later this year. Project outline here: https://adaptresearchwriting.com/2022/09/13/introducing-the-aotearoa-nz-catastrophe-resilience-project/ I'd be interested to chat with anyone at Rethink Priorities who is continuing your work.
Thanks. I guess this relates to your point about democratically acceptable decisions of governments. If a government is choosing to neglect something (eg because its probability is low, or because they have political motivations for doing so, vested interests etc), then they should only do so if they have information suggesting the electorate has/would authorize this. Otherwise it is an undemocratic decision.
Thanks for this, great paper.
We transform ourselves all the time, and very powerfully. The entire field of cognitive niche construction is dedicated to studying how the things we create/build/invent/change lead to developmental scaffolding and new cognitive abilities that previous generations did not have. Language, writing systems, education systems, religions, syllabi, external cognitive supports, all these things have powerfully transformed human thought and intelligence. And once they were underway the take-off speed of this evolutionary transformation was very rapid (compared to the 200,000 years spent being anatomically modern with comparatively little change).
The GCRMA was included in the the final National Defense Authorization Act for FY2023 which became law in December 2022. The text is altered a little from the draft version, but can be read here: https://www.congress.gov/117/bills/hr7776/BILLS-117hr7776enr.pdf#page=1290 I have blogged about it here: https://adaptresearchwriting.com/2023/02/05/us-takes-action-to-avert-human-existential-catastrophe-the-global-catastrophic-risk-management-act-2022/ Not sure why there isn't much discussion about it. It seems like something every country could replicate, and then the Chairs of each nation's risk assessment committee could meet to coordinate.
I generally think that all these kinds of cost-effectiveness analyses around x-risk are wildly speculative and susceptible to small changes in assumptions. There is literally no evidence that the $250b would change bio-x-risk by 1% rather than, say, 0.1% or 10%, or even 50%, depending on how it was targeted and what developments it led to. On the other hand if you do successfully reduce the x-risk by, say, 1%, then you most likely also reduce the risk/consequences of all kinds of other non-existential bio-risks, again depending on the actual investment/discoveries/developments, so the benefit of all the 'ordinary' cases must be factored in. I think that the most compelling argument for investing in x-risk prevention without consideration of future generations, is simply to calculate the deaths in expectation (eg using Ord's probabilities if you are comfortable with them) and to rank risks accordingly. It turns out that at 10% this century, AI risks 8 million lives per annum (obviously less than that early century, perhaps greater late century) and bio-risk is 2.7 million lives per annum in expectation (ie 8 billion x 0.0333 x 0.01). This can be compared to ALL natural disasters which Our World in Data reports kill ~60,000 people per annum. So there is an argument that we should focus on x-risk to at least some degree purely on expected consequences. I think its basically impossible to get robust cost-effectiveness estimates for this kind of work, and most of the estimates I've seen appear implausibly cost-effective. Things never go as well as you though they would in risk mitigation activities.
Hi Christian, thanks for your thoughts. You're right to note that islands like Iceland, Indonesia, NZ, etc are also where there's a lot of volcanic activity. Mike Cassidy and Lara Mani briefly summarize potential ash damage in their post on supervolcanoes here (see the table on effects). Basically there could be severe impacts on agriculture and infrastructure. I think the main lesson is that at least two prepared islands would be good. In different hemispheres. That first line of redundancy is probably the most important (also in case one is a target in nuclear war, eg NZ is probably susceptible to an EMP directed at Australia).
More recent works than those cited above:
Famine after a range of nuclear winter scenarios (Xia et al 2022, Nature Food): https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-022-00573-0
Resilient foods to mitigate likely famines (Rivers et al 2022, preprint): https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-1446444/v1
Likelihood of New Zealand collapse (Boyd & Wilson 2022, Risk Analysis): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/risa.14072
New Zealand agricultural production post-nuclear winter (Wilson et al 2022, in press): https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.05.13.22275065v3
Optimising frost-resistant crops NZ nuclear winter (Wilson et al, preprint): https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-2670766/v1
Project examining New Zealand's resilience to nuclear war (with focus on trade disruption):