Public Lecture: Existential Risk: Surviving the 21st Century, February 26th 5:30pm

ER talk 80K

CSER is pleased to present a public lecture on “Existential Risk: Surviving the 21st Century” alongside 80,000 Hours: Cambridge and Giving What We Can: Cambridge

DATE: Wednesday, February 26th at 5:30pm-6:45pm (drinks reception to follow).

LOCATION: Lady Mitchell Hall, Sidgwick Site, Cambridge

Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype
Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge

“In the coming century, the greatest threats to human survival may come from our own technological developments. However, if we can safely navigate the pitfalls, the benefits that technology promises are enormous. A philosopher, an astronomer, and an entrepreneur have come together to form the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. The goal: to bring a fraction of humanity’s talents to bear on the task of ensuring our long-term survival. In this lecture, Huw Price, Martin Rees and Jaan Tallinn will outline humanity’s greatest challenge: surviving the 21st century. This event is free and open to all.”

No registration is required.

Find the event on Facebook and the CRASSH website.


*There will be a drinks reception in the Alison Richard building following the talk.*

Ó hÉigeartaigh interviewed on trajectories and risks of AI

Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh was recently interviewed by RealClearTechnology on the future prospects and risks of artificial intelligence, alongside the Machine Intelligence Research Institute‘s Luke Muehlhauser and NYU’s Professor Gary Marcus:
“Most of the AI applications we are familiar with represent “narrow” intelligence,” O’Heigeartaigh said. “Like Deep Blue and chess, they are hard-coded to do a specific task, and may be super-human at that, but cannot adapt to new tasks without significant rewriting — i.e. the extent to which they can learn is very limited. One goal of the field of AI, for a long time, has been to develop more ‘general intelligence’ — algorithms that can learn about their environments and adapt to a variety of different tasks.”

CSER Funding update: new sponsors

Two new sponsors, Matt Wage and Victoria Elenowitz, have generously agreed to build on Jaan Tallinn’s initial seed funding for the Centre. Mr. Wage is a member of the effective altruist organisation 80,000 Hours and was instrumental in establishing The Life You Can Save. He currently works in finance and supports what his research suggests are the most important global causes.
Ms. Elenowitz is the Managing Director of Golden Seeds, an angel fund in New York, and is Chair of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Advisory Council. Having previously worked with Cambridge’s Development Office, we are very grateful that she continues to provide such valuable support for Cambridge’s work on emerging global challenges.

Together, their funding will support the Centre’s activities over the coming year in the areas of workshop and lecture organisation, grantwriting and fundraising, research network establishment, and media outreach and communication.

Our “A New Science of Existential Risk” research grant to the European Research Council was highly ranked, but unfortunately was not selected in the final round of assessment. However, we have had several promising new developments, and are are currently exploring a number of promising grant opportunities to fund CSER’s research programmes. We hope to announce progress later in the year, but continue to welcome expressions of interest and offers of support for the Centre’s research.

Advisory board additions – Peter Singer and Stuart Russell

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk is delighted to welcome two more world-leading academic experts to its Advisory Board.

Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. In addition to his high-profile work in bioethics, he is a leading figure in Effective Altruism, which is a philosophy which applies evidence and reason to working out the most effective ways to improve the world. In recent years he has highlighted the importance of working towards preventing human extinction. He is the author of a number of influential books, including Practical Ethics and The Life You Can Save.

Stuart Russell is one of the leading figures in artificial intelligence (AI). He is Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and adjunct Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Alongside Peter Norvig, he is the author of what is considered the foremost textbook in AI, Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. Russell will provide guidance and advice to CSER’s research team in their work on safe trajectories for the development of advanced artificial intelligence.

Huw Price: “Science of Existential Risk” Arizona workshop

Huw Price - Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, Cambridge

Huw Price led a workshop titled “Towards A New Science of Existential Risk”, as part of the “Evidence, Ideology, and Orthodoxy: Science in the University and the Public Sphere”  conference at Arizona State University on the 6th-8th of February. The workshop investigated efforts to establish new approaches to studying existential threats. The event was co-sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

This session will investigate efforts to establish new approaches to studying ‘existential threat’ – it will ask what sort of science can make sense of such questions and with what sort of engagement with wider publics. It will explore the political role of university scientists who are engaged in public discussions about existential risk, climate change, for example.  It will also explore the tensions between a ‘science of existential threat,’ and the role of universities in advancing technologies with the potential for new extinction-level risks—such dangers have been suggested from progress in AI, from developments in biotechnology and artificial life, and from nanotechnology.”