Risks Posed by Political Extremism

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The world’s democracies are set to face their gravest challenge yet as viable and ongoing political options. George Dvorsky, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Humanity+ while bloging at Sentient Developments, presented at the Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View on how given these high stakes situations, democratic institutions may not be given the chance to prevent global catastrophes.

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Building Civilizational Resilience

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Jamais Cascio is a Senior Fellow for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future, and blogs at Open the Future.  He presented on the concept of engineering civilization to be more resilient in the face of catastrophic risks at GCR08, the November Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View. A day-long seminar on threats to the future of humanity, natural and man-made, the meeting offered various viewpoints on the pro-active steps we can take to reduce global risks.

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Cognitive Biases in the Assessment of Risk

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The study of reproducible errors of human reasoning, and what these errors reveal about underlying mental processes, is known as the heuristics and biases program in cognitive psychology. This program has made discoveries highly relevant to assessors of global catastrophic risks.  Eliezer Yudkowsky, who writes on the subject of cognitive biases at Overcoming Bias, presented at the  Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View on the subject of cognitive biases in the assessment of risk.

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Mitigating Impact Risks

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Bruce Damer is the CEO of DigitalSpace, an international corporation with a leading practice in virtual worlds for industrial design engineering, education and public outreach.  He is also the director of Contact Consortium, a California 501c(3) non-profit organization catalyzing the development of multi-user virtual worlds and virtual communities in cyberspace.  For the 2008 Global Catastrophic Risks conference in Mountain View, he presented on the subjects of mitigating impact risks from Near-Earth objects, and the long-term potential for utilizing the source of these possible threats as stepping stones to a sustainable space program.

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Building a Resilient Civilization: An Introduction

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Mike Treder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and J. Hughes of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies introduce the November 14 conference on Global Catastrophic Risks taking place in Mountain View, California.  The event followed a meeting on the same subject, an immensely diverse collection of events could constitute global catastrophes, in July at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.  The topic for the conference was “Building a Resilient Civilization.”

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Global Catastrophic Risks: An Overview

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Global catastrophic risks are risks that seriously threaten human well-being on a global scale. An immensely diverse collection of events could constitute global catastrophes: potential factors range from volcanic eruptions to pandemic infections, nuclear accidents to worldwide tyrannies, out-of-control scientific experiments to climatic changes, and cosmic hazards to economic collapse.  Anders Sandberg, James Martin Research Fellow of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, provides an overview of aims of the Global Catastrophic Risks conference series at GCR08, a meeting in Mountain View, California in November of 2008.

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Strengthening Transnational Governance to Mitigate Risks

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The IEET, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and the Lifeboat Foundation hosted a meeting on Global Catastrophic Risks on Friday, November 14 in Mountain View, California, one day prior to the Convergence 08 Unconference.  The seminar’s theme was “Building a Resilient Civilization,” for which IEET executive director J. Hughes argued in favor of strengthening transnational governance to mitigate risks.

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Preventing Technological Armageddon

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Brian Wang and Michael Anissimov at the 2007 Foresight Vision Weekend

Michael Anissimov co-founded the Immortality Institute in 2002, a life extension advocacy organization that today includes hundreds of members and an online community. In 2003, he founded the SF Bay Area Transhumanists. He has also written numerous articles for the Q&A site WiseGEEK, offering “clear answers for common questions” on technology. Michael is Fundraising Director, North America for the Lifeboat Foundation, and serves on the Global Task Force for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. At the 2007 Foresight Vision Weekend, he gave a presentation on the measures currently being taken by the Lifeboat Foundation to address existential risks, or possible human extinction event scenarios.

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In the Great Silence, there is Great Hope

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BBC – Radio 3: “Life, But Not As We Know It.” A biologist, a writer and a philosopher each explore their fascination with the notion of extraterrestrial intelligence and what such a discovery could imply. Philosopher Nick Bostrom explains why he believes that the discovery of aliens would be a disaster for the future of humanity and lead to the end of civilization as we know it. His portion of the program is titled “In the Great Silence, there is Great Hope.”

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Artificial Intelligence and Existential Risks

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Nick Bostrom presenting at the 2006 Singularity Summit at Stanford

Nick Bostrom, Ph.D., is Director of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, which takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and evaluating humanity’s long-term prospects. He is also University Fellow in the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization at Oxford. Prior to these appointments, Bostrom spent several years teaching at Yale University in the Department of Philosophy and the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies. His formal education spans physics, computational neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, as well as philosophy.

Dr. Bostrom is one of the world’s leading experts on the consequences and ethics of anticipated technologies, including human enhancement and global catastrophic risks. He has also done extensive work in the foundations of probability theory and philosophy of science. His book Anthropic Bias (New York: Routledge, 2002) presented the first mathematical theory of observation selection effects, phenomena which can introduce methodological bias into our reasoning if not properly understood and accounted for. He is a highly sought-after speaker on the future of humanity and emerging technologies, and has done more than 150 interviews for television, radio, and print media. He also contributes to the online forum dedicated to Overcoming Bias in individual personal beliefs and actions.

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