Existential risks, particularly those arising from emerging technologies, are a complex, obstinate challenge for scientific study. This should motivate studying how the relevant scientific communities might be made more amenable to studying such risks. I offer an account of scientific creativity suitable for thinking about scientific communities, and provide reasons for thinking contemporary science doesn't incentivise creativity in this specified sense. I'll argue that a successful science of existential risk will be creative in my sense. So, if we want to make progress on those questions we should consider how to shift scientific incentives to encourage creativity. The analysis also has lessons for philosophical approaches to understanding the social structure of science. I introduce the notion of a ‘well-adapted’ science: one in which the incentive structure is tailored to the epistemic situation at hand.
This paper appears in Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, in the Special Issue Creativity, Conservatism & the Social Epistemology of Science, edited by Dr Adrian Currie. It was presented at the Risk & the Culture of Science workshop in Cambridge.