CCCR 2020 - 50/50: assessing the chances of a global catastrophe

Published on 11 December 2020

50/50: assessing the chances of a global catastrophe.

One of the most eye-catching statements in ‘Our Final Century’ was the claim that humanity has a 50/50 chance of making it to 2100 without enduring a truly global catastrophe. Many other global catastrophic risk scholars have made similar predictions of their own, but there is no sign of any agreement between them about the degree of risk we face.
Given the level of public interest in pronouncements such as this, should GCR scholars engage in the art of quantified risk assessment, and,if so, how should we go about it?
Many methods have been proposed for arriving at better estimates of the level of risk we face, from purely analytical tools like the doomsday argument, through subjective probability assessments that seek to balance all of the available evidence, to judgements based upon large scale data sets, such as the geological record or the fate of other stars and planets in the universe.
Equally controversial has been what kind of event should be predicted - should it be a well-defined state such as human extinction, or a fuzzier concept representing a broader set of ‘bad outcomes’ such as civilization collapse or a global catastrophe, and should we even be trying to assess the risks of all kinds of global catastrophe at the same time, or adopt different approaches for different kinds of biological, environmental, technological or security risk?

Nancy Connell: Rapidly Advancing Technology in the Life Sciences and Global Catastrophic Risk: 2003 and 2020 

Nancy Connell is a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Karim Jebari: Existential risks and crunches

Karim Jebari is a researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies where he works on political philosophy, bioethics and the philosophy of science. 

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