Exploring Futures for the Science of Global Risk

Published on 31 March 2023

This paper presents a collaborative exercise to explore divergent futures for the field of global risk, and especially the global risk community intersecting with the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge. While this community often advocates for the value of futures and foresight to others, we believe this is the first attempt to use these same techniques to think about our own futures and the opportunities and challenges they may bring. The paper begins by setting out the nature of the global risk community, the ParEvo process that was applied, and the background to this specific exercise. Next, we offer a more in-depth presentation of the methods used, both to undertake the exercise itself, analyse and evaluate its results, and theorize about what these mean. We then offer a brief presentation of key results and themes that originated from this exercise, including summaries of the stories produced and how these were evaluated by participants, and focused results across three core themes ‘conflict and rapprochement, agents of change, and story outcomes and impacts. Finally, we discuss the exercise's limitations and challenges and possible lessons, both for the application of ParEvo and other futures tools (including the benefits of participatory exercise design and more detailed and ongoing evaluation of contributions) and for the global risk community as it seeks to grow and develop (including the need for conflict resolution mechanisms, greater planning about how global risk research may interact with actual global risk, and more reflection on what the community aims to achieve and how to assess whether we are making progress. Full results from the exercise are presented in a detailed appendix.

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