A quick update on our recent activities – it’s been a busy but remarkably successful year for us.
1) From our first postdoc starting in September of last year, we’ve built up to a team of eight postdocs from across fields. Our team now consists of Shahar Avin (currently working on a classification framework for global catastrophic risk scenarios), Yang Liu (decision theory for advanced AI), Bonnie Wintle (horizon-scanning for risk), Catherine Rhodes (biorisk, biotech governance, and academic project management), Julius Weitzdorfer (law, governance, and catastrophic risk), Simon Beard (population ethics, future generations, and alternatives to cost-benefit analysis), Adrian Currie (extreme risk and the culture of science), Tatsuya Amano (ecological risks and tipping points) as well as Huw Price, Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh and Jens Steffensen (CSER’s new administrator).
We are delighted to announce that we will be joined in the spring by synthetic biologist Lalitha Sundaram, who will work with us on bio-threats. More on our team here: http://cser.org/people/
2) Our postdocs have already begun submitting their first papers, and have been hard at work organising workshops on key workshops relating to emerging risks. Recent workshops have included
– Population, ethics and risk (in collaboration with Cumberland Lodge).
– Gene drives: regulatory, legal and ethical issues (with the Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative, the Centre for Science and Policy, and the Centre for Law, Medicine and the Life Sciences)
– Data Analytics for sustainability and environmental risk (in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment, and Google DeepMind).
– Horizon-scanning for advances and risks related to biological engineering.
We will next be co-organising a workshop with the Centre for Risk Studies and the UK Cabinet Office to share knowledge on resilience planning and risk assessment, and will be supporting the organisation of several workshops and symposia on legal, regulatory and risk challenges relating to AI at this year’s Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference.
We are currently preparing for our first Cambridge Conference on Catastrophic Risk (December 12-14) to which you would all be welcome (http://cser.org/cccr2016/)
3) Our public lecture series, generously supported this year by the Blavatnik Foundation continues to be a great success. Highlights have included talks by Paul Ehrlich (long-term environmental risks) and Hilary Greaves (population ethics and existential risk). Talks available online here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoMIcy9-8QxuhhRSwc9cVQg
4) Our other major accomplishment has been our role in the development of a sister Centre, the Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI; http://lcfi.ac.uk/), which launched last month and is currently recruiting for postdocs to work on a range of topics related to the future of artificial intelligence. Funded by the Leverhulme Foundation and consisting of a partnership between Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley and Imperial, CFI is collaborating with CSER on AI-related research topics.
For more information, see our CSER Summer report.