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).

Responses[edit | edit source]

Key responses are avoidance, mitigation of impact and enhancement of human potential to survive and flourish.

Related[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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Authors Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 8 pages link here
Aliases Existential risk
Impact 378 page views
Created August 24, 2017 by Chris Watkins
Modified March 2, 2022 by Page script
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