Existential Risk Observatory Newsletter
Latest updates - 3rd Quarter, 2022
Funding from the Survival and Flourishing Fund!
We have been selected by the Survival and Flourishing Fund backed by Jaan Tallinn for funding! Assuming due diligence and administration will work out, this marks our evolvement from a self-funded start-up to an increasingly developed and effective organization. We are grateful for the trust we received from the fund, and looking forward to increasing our existential risk communication and research efforts!
In the Media: Op-ed in Trouw - It is undesirable that billionaires like Elon Musk may soon be the ones to determine our discourse
The news that tech billionaire Elon Musk would buy Twitter travelled wide and far. This acquisition means Musk has bought himself an unprecedented amount of influence on societal discourses and the rules that bind it. He claims he will use his newly gained power in order to defend the freedom of speech, but the fact alone that one man wields this power is a highly undesirable situation.
Billionaires such as Elon Musk sponsor institutes which fund research that tries to answer the question how AGI can be bound to our values. That is, in itself, fine, but what does this mean exactly? If AGI can become more powerful, i.e. smarter, than we humans are, then who controls who? Possibly Musk and others like him. Their influence on the shaping of the 21st century is unequivocally big, and as such, risky.
Profile: Otto Barten
I am the founder and director of the Existential Risk Observatory. It is about five years ago when I visited a lecture by Anders Sandberg, a futurist and academic from FHI in Oxford, titled Grand Futures and Existential Risk. I am not a futurist and I was not that much triggered by the grand futures, however enormous they seemed. However, this was the first time when I realized that, sadly, there is a real possibility that we go extinct. More worryingly, that prospect seems near on large timescales, and our odds are not comforting. Still, most of us are not discussing this option seriously, and we are hardly working structurally on existential risk reduction. The Existential Risk Observatory aims to change that. We hope you want to join us on that mission!
Is the AI game over? Existential Risk Observatory responds
“‘The Game is Over’: Google’s DeepMind says it is on verge of achieving human-level AI”, or so said The Independent a few weeks ago. For those who believe human-level AI can result in incontrollable superintelligence, which is a commonly held belief among scientists, this news would mean high alarm. But does this truly spell doom for the world? Yes and no, says Otto Barten.
The precautions taken by DeepMind and others fall short, the planned research into the ethics and safety considerations are vague at best, and the total amount of labour dedicated to this is minimal. Waiting for AGI to happen would mean it is too late for action. Previously, the Existential Risk Observatory published pieces in the Dutch newspapers Het Parool and Trouw on this topic, with three suggestions for what the Dutch Government could do.
Add existential risks from AI and other technologies to the Dutch Integrated Risk Analysis for National Security.
Start an Agency for Existential Risk Planning which tracks the extent of the risks and conceives how to reduce them.
Establish a Director-General for Existential Risks to the Ministery of Foreign Affairs and Kingdom Relations.
More info can be found here (in Dutch).
Existential Risk responded to Floor Rusman’s recent column about the dangers of AI (in Dutch).
Op-ed in NRC by Maxim Februari, inspired by Existential Risk Observatory’s recent meeting: The World is collapsing, but how does one make that hot and trendy (in Dutch).
De Letters van Utrecht, a part of the 1 Million Generations Project, has laid yet another stone in its continuous line of letters, on June 4th. Every Saturday, a stone containing 1 engraved letter will be installed into the pavement.
Effective Altruism Netherlands organises a Young Professionals Fellowship, starting the 7th of June.
Otto Barten will talk at De Koninklijke Industrieele Groote Club about Data Science and AI on Monday 27th of June (in Dutch).
Last but not least: WE ARE HIRING! Check out our vacancies here.