SJ Beard

Senior Research Associate

SJ Beard is an emerging research leader in the transdisciplinary field of Existential Risk Studies. Their work covers a wide range of topics, with a particular focus on the evaluation and mitigation of environmental breakdown as a contributor to global catastrophic and existential risk. They have published research into the ethics of human extinction and future generations; methods to study extreme, low probability, and unprecedented events; the history, present challenges, and possible future for Existential Risk Studies as a field, understanding and addressing the constraints that prevent decision makers taking action to keep us safe; and building existential hope in the possibility of safe, joyous, and inclusive futures for human beings on planet earth.

Much of their work focuses on understanding global systemic risks such as those relating to climate change and biosphere disintegration, which has been described by Vice as "bringing scientific precision to the doomsday scenario that wipes us off the planet." This draws on a comprehensive study of methods for assessing global catastrophic risk and includes considerations of injustice and public policy, as discussed on the Future of Life Podcast. Their first book with Julius Weitzdörfer, Double Deabt Disaster, assessed injustice as a barrier to recovery from mega-disasters. They have also edited two introductory volumes to the field of Existential Risk Studies, published with Open Book, and are currently working on a monograph on existential hope for Polity.

SJ is also a Borysiewicz Interdisciplinary Fellow, an advisor to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations, a BBC New Generation Thinker, and a member of the editorial board of the journal Futures. They have made radio programmes for the BBC, such as What do you do if you are a manically depressed robot? and I love my children but are they the biggest moral mistake I ever made?, and have also appeared on Radio and TV programmes, including Newsnight, Analysis, and the Naked Scientists.

Before joining CSER, SJ was a postdoctoral research fellow with the Future of Humanity Institute’s project ‘Population Ethics: theory and practice'. They have a PhD in Philosophy and an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford. Alongside working on existential risk, they have published on population ethics and intergenerational justice and have a strong interest in big questions about the nature and future of morality

SJ has extensive experience across politics and policy-making, including as a researcher in the UK parliament, think tanks, and NGOs and as a parliamentary candidate. They have taught moral and political philosophy at Cambridge, the LSE, and VU Amsterdam, supervise students through the Effective Thesis Project, and were formally a private tutor in economics.

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