Cambridge Conference on Catastrophic Risk 2016

The past five years have seen rapid growth in what Jaan Tallinn calls the “xrisk ecosystem” – a thriving community of researchers and others, inside and outside academia, united by a common interest in potential serious hazards of powerful and beneficial new technologies. This conference aims to bring this community together, to ask ourselves where our efforts should best be directed, over the rest of the decade and beyond.

Read the brochure or watch the videos.

Each of the three days of the conference focused on one of these areas:

  • Machine Intelligence: Creating A Community for Beneficial AI
  • Depreciation of Earth Systems: Biodiversity, Climate and Environmental Risks
  • Bioengineering: Lessons from Recent Cases for Building Engagement between Communities.

Within each focus area the conference explored these three themes:

  • Current best understanding of risks and mitigation strategies
  • Lessons from the history of engagement with these risks, in academia, industry and the policy world
  • Future directions for the ecosystem engaging with the risks.

Keynote lectures tied together lessons learned and steps forward from across the range of extreme technological risks.

Keynote speakers included:

  • Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, Academic Director, CSER
  • Claire Craig, Director Science Policy, Royal Society
  • Rowan Douglas, Head of Willis Towers Watson’s Capital Science and Policy Practice
  • Victoria Krakovna, Future of Life Institute
  • Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, Executive Director, CSER
  • Toby Walsh, Professor of AI, University of New South Wales
  • Peter Kareiva, Director UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
  • Tim Newbold, Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, University College London
  • Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, University of Oxford
  • Jo Husbands, Senior Project Director, Board on Life Sciences, National Academies
  • Zabta Shinwari, Secretary General Pakistan Academy of Sciences, Professor and Chair Biotechnology Department, Quaid-i-Azam University
  • Sam Weiss-Evans, Research Fellow, Program on Science, Technology and Society, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Piers Millett, Wilson Center

The conference was organized by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) and supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation as part of the ‘Managing Extreme Technological Risk’ research programme. We are grateful for additional support from the Future of Life Institute and the Hauser-Raspe Foundation.

The Conference Organising Committee was:

  • Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh
  • Julius Weitzdörfer
  • Catherine Rhodes
  • Huw Price
  • Victoria Krakovna
  • Seb Farquhar

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