Sexy vs Unsexy catastrophic risks: complexity, creeping normalcy, and conceit (CCCR2018)

Video by Karin Kuhlemann
Published on 17 April 2019

Karin Kuhlemann is a lawyer and a PhD candidate at University College London.

Karin sets out a typology of sexy vs unsexy catastrophic risks. ‘Sexy’ risks get more resources and air time, while ‘unsexy’ risks tend to be neglected, downplayed, and/or re-characterised as something else. These different responses are not necessarily rational, and are best understood as a function of the complexity and “creep” of unsexy problems and of how they play on our cognitive biases and behavioural weaknesses. Unsexy risks are undeniably awkward, but may be far more urgent than some or all sexy risks.

This talk was given at 2018’s Cambridge Conference on Catastrophic Risk (CCCR2018), the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk’s major international conference, supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. It focused on four challenges faced by research communities focused on existential and global catastrophic risk research: Challenges of Evaluation and Impact; Challenges of Evidence; Challenges of Scope and Focus; and Challenges in Communication.

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