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Global catastrophic risk
A global catastrophic risk is a hypothetical event which damages human well-being on a planetary level. Such an event could lead to massive numbers of deaths, the crippling or even destruction of modern civilization and irreversible environmental damage.
The extreme case is existential risk – an event causing human extinction or destroy humanity's potential.
Many potential global catastrophic risks have been identified – some more likely than others and some being very controversial:
- Asteroid impact. (The risk has decreased significantly due to asteroid mapping, and clear plans for deflecting asteroids by a long, slow push to one side. More exhaustive mapping remains to be done.)
- Supervolcano eruption.
- Runaway or unfriendly artificial intelligence. (While popular culture versions tend towards Terminator scenarios, more likely risks involve poorly defined value functions, including the "Midas effect", inadequate safety protocols in case of runaway scenarios, and the concentration of power in hands that may not have the necessary wisdom or share the interests of the wider population).
- Weapons of mass destruction, notably nuclear. (Through war or accident – note the disturbing number of near misses in the launching of nuclear weapons since 1945.)
- Runaway nanotechnology.
- Runaway climate change (e.g. in the event of large scale methane clathrate release –see Wikipedia: Clathrate gun hypothesis).
Key responses are avoidance, mitigation of impact and enhancement of human potential to survive and flourish.
- Food security:
- Feeding Everyone No Matter What
- Feeding Everyone if Industry is Disabled
- Feeding Everyone: Solving the Food Crisis in Event of Global Catastrophes that Kill Crops or Obscure the Sun
- Vitamins in Agricultural Catastrophes
- Integrative Risk Management for Catastrophe Destroying 10-20% of Global Food Supply
- Existential Risks, Nick Bostrom (Professor of Philosophy, Oxford University)