3 Recent Publications on Existential Risk (May 2020 update)

31 May 2020

Each month, The Existential Risk Research Assessment (TERRA) uses a unique machine-learning model to predict those publications most relevant to existential risk or global catastrophic risk. All previous updates can be found here. The following are a selection of those papers identified this month.

Please note that we provide these citations and abstracts as a service to aid other researchers in paper discovery and that inclusion does not represent any kind of endorsement of this research by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk or our researchers.

1. Engaging Scientists, Citizens, and International Youth in Diplomacy to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

The role of scientists, citizens and international youth in abolishing nuclear weapons is a topic that the International Campaign to Abolish nuclear weapons knows quite a lot about. As a campaign of over 500 partner organizations in over 100 countries, we bring together scientists and activists and citizens of all ages in pursuit of one common goal—banning and eliminating nuclear weapons.

2. Verification of Arms Control Treaties with Resonance Phenomena 

Nuclear disarmament treaties are not sufficient in and of themselves to neutralize the existential threat of nuclear weapons. Technologies are necessary for verifying the authenticity of the nuclear warheads undergoing dismantlement before counting them toward a treaty partner’s obligation. Here we present a review of concepts involving isotope-specific resonance processes, Nuclear Resonance Fluorescence (NRF) [1] and Neutron Resonance Transmission Analysis (NRTA) [2, 3], used to authenticate a warhead’s fissile components by comparing them to a previously authenticated template. All information is encrypted in the physical domain by the addition of an encrypting filter to the target, leading to measurements with an outcome similar to an equation with two unknowns. Using Monte Carlo simulations and experiments, we show that the measurements readily detect hoaxing attempts, while no significant isotopic or geometric information about the weapon is released. These nuclear techniques can be used to dramatically increase the reach and trustworthiness of future nuclear disarmament treaties.

3. Deforestation and world population sustainability: a quantitative analysis

In this paper we afford a quantitative analysis of the sustainability of current world population growth in relation to the parallel deforestation process adopting a statistical point of view. We consider a simplified model based on a stochastic growth process driven by a continuous time random walk, which depicts the technological evolution of human kind, in conjunction with a deterministic generalised logistic model for humans-forest interaction and we evaluate the probability of avoiding the self-destruction of our civilisation. Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10% in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse.

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