November-December 2013 Newsletter

Dear friends,

GCRI is actively shifting its focus towards activities related to our four GCR synthesis research topics: integrated assessment, interaction effects, research priorities, and response options. Some other activities, including online lectures, will pause as the shift proceeds. We expect that increased attention to the synthesis topics will help us prioritize further work on the most important GCR issues. I look forward to sharing more details when they are ready for public distribution. Please contact me if you would like to discuss privately.

Meanwhile, Robert de Neufville has published two more excellent news summaries. See GCR News Summary November 2013 and GCR News Summary October 2013.

And if you will be in Baltimore for next week’s Society for Risk Analysis Annual Meeting, please join us at our two GCR sessions Wednesday afternoon. We will also host one or more dinner gatherings in Baltimore – please contact me for details.

Seth Baum, Executive Director

ps – For your convenience, here are descriptions of our four GCR Synthesis topics, copied from our website:

Integrated Assessment

Integrated assessment is the process of integrating ideas from multiple fields of study to yield insights that could not come from studying each field separately. GCRI is interested in the integrated assessment of major GCR topics such as the most likely GCRs and the most effective response options.

Interaction Effects

Some global catastrophic risks interact with each other. For example, nuclear war puts a lot of smoke into the atmosphere, cooling the planet in a form of climate change known as nuclear winter. Or, a major financial collapse could have secondary effects on other aspects of society. GCRI is interested in exploring the various ways in which different GCRs interact.

Research Priorities

Global catastrophic risk is a complex subject with numerous opportunities for future research. Since there are more GCR research topics available to be studied than there are researchers who can study them, it is important to prioritize among research topics. Furthermore, some lines of research could themselves be considered risky, such as research on dangerous emerging technologies. GCRI is interested in helping formulate research priorities for a range of GCR research areas, including by drawing on ‘research about research’ topics including value of information theory and social studies of science.

Response Options

A core question in the study of global catastrophic risk is what we can do in response to the risks. GCRI is interested in a range of response options, examining their efficacy at reducing GCR and any additional issues they raise. Of particular interest are those response options that may be most effective at reducing GCR and those options that have impacts on multiple different GCRs.

This post was written by
Seth Baum is Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute.