Presentation given at the 2014 American Mensa Annual Gathering in Boston, Massachusetts.
Management of Positive and Negative Singularities
A technological singularity occurs when exponentially improving technology approaches infinity, creating awesome transformations. Some think this will happen soon. A positive singularity is a benevolent version. A reasonable possibility of this has enormous expected value (probability times value). A negative singularity threatens the existence of civilization and the human species. When contemplating these areas, probability and decision theory have problems, but they do tell us something and their problems are intellectually interesting. Hopefully our limited knowledge and the limited guidance we can accomplish are better than nothing. We are compelled to make decisions since not deciding is also a decision.
James Blodgett, MA (Sociology), MBA, MS (Biometry and Statistics), is Coordinator of the Global Risk Reduction Special Interest Group in American and International Mensa and is a member of Advisory Boards of the Lifeboat Foundation. Both groups have an interest in these issues.
Presentation given at the 2012 American Mensa Annual Gathering in Reno, Nevada.
Calculating the Probability of Human Survival.
Proliferating man-made hazards already threaten humanity. Emerging threats include genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, geoengineering, and more. Economic growth, world population, and environmental stress aggravate the risk. Several renowned scholars have expressed concern including Martin Rees, Bill Joy, John Leslie, and Stephen Hawking.
One way to numerically estimate survivability is to run simulations based on a list of hazards, the so-called bottom-up approach. This requires many assumptions about risk rates, technological progress, alternative futures, and the like. Such assumptions are endlessly debatable and subject to bias.
By contrast, this top-down analysis leaves individual hazards unspecified. Instead, it uses past survival to infer probable fitness for future survival. An explicit formula for survivability depends on the ratio of projected future hazard exposure to past exposure, the latter indicating our robustness. Various statistics quantify exposure: the number of published technical papers, gross world product, world population, and more.
Results show that the current risk rate of civilizationís collapse is about 11% per decade, while civilizationís half-life is 5 to 8 billion people-centuries. With about 80% confidence, this collapse will ultimately rescue our species from extinction by destroying man-made hazards. The current extinction risk is about 3% per decade.
Willard Wells is a Ph.D. physicist, a member of the Lifeboat Foundation, and author of the book Apocalypse When? Calculating How Long the Human Race Will Survive
Presentation given at the 2009 American Mensa Annual Gathering in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
The Intellectual Challenge of Global Risk Reduction.
There are several risks that, if actualized, could make the human race extinct. If it were easy to eliminate these risks someone would have done so. However, it is quite possible to reduce some of these risks by a small amount. A small reduction in a global risk is still a substantial contribution. We will discuss things we have done, and ways you can help.
James Blodgett is Coordinaor of the Global Risk reduction Special Interest Group. James Tankersley is Assistant Coordinator. Win Wenger is a member and a creativity expert.
Presentation given at the 2008 American Mensa Annual Gathering in Denver, Colorado.
Use of the Precautionary Principle When Science Evokes Global Risk
The precautionary principle reverses the burden of proof in cases of scientific risk. Normally scientific publication requires good evidence that one's theories are true. In cases of scientific risk precaution does not wait to prove a risk. Instead those who propose risky experiments have the burden of proving them safe. The precautionary principle is accepted by many risk specialists. However, it presents philosophical difficulties and is disliked by some scientists. Current global risk case studies highlight its value and its problems.
James Blodgett, MS, MBA, MA, is Coordinator of the Global Risk Reduction Special Interest Group, Contact Person for Risk Evaluation Forum, a member of the Ethics Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation, and a member of the Society for Risk Analysis.
Presentation given at the 2007 Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama
Global Risk Reduction
Here is your chance to save the world, or at least to have a good think about the issues and choices involved. Several threats could eliminate our species, with varying probabilities and varying potential solutions. Current public thought on this could sometimes use improvement, so there is room for intellectual contribution, there is work to be done. We will review the range of global risk issues, possible solutions, and their costs and challenges.