Policy Foresight and Global Catastrophic Risks

Record of the Workshop (21 July 2008, James Martin 21st Century School, University of Oxford)

Linked with Future of Humanity Institute FHI (appears on April 07), and with Probing the Improbable: Methodological Challenges for Risks with Low Probabilities and High Stakes.

Published on Future of Humanity Institute FHI, by Director Sir Crispin Tickell, James Martin 21st Century School, University of Oxford.

Download the 19 pdf-pages.

(Short excerpt): … Introduction: On 21 July 2008, the Policy Foresight Programme, in conjunction with the Future of Humanity Institute, hosted a day-long workshop on “Policy Foresight and Global Catastrophic Risks” at the James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford. This document provides a record of the day’s discussion.

Sir Crispin Tickell chaired the day’s events, and began by noting that the purpose of the day was to bring together academics and policymakers to promote discussion on the actions that governments, and in particular the British government, could take now to create a more resilient society in the face of catastrophes. A list of the major recommendations to come out of the workshop is presented in the box to the right.

This workshop immediately followed a three-day conference on Global Catastrophic Risks, organised by the Future of Humanity Institute and held at the University of Oxford.

Recommendations for government: 

  • The government should pay more attention to (and fund more research on) the impacts of the most severe types of catastrophe that could happen in 10-50 years, in order to identity potential adaptation and mitigation measures that need to be put in place soon in order to have the best chances of success.
  • The government should be more involved in international work on preventing proliferation of nuclear material, specifically highly enriched uranium.
  • Planning for catastrophes should include preparedness and research for the occurrence of multiple catastrophes at the same time, the interactions between them, and the possibility of disruption of civil order and international relations in the case of the most serve types of catastrophe.
  • The government should ensure that the Climate Change Bill and Water and Food will create a more stable market for investing in catastrophe adaptation measures.
  • When conducting assessments of catastrophic risks, governments should employ state-of-the-art probabilistic forecasting methodologies, such as prediction markets, the Delphi method, blue team/red team exercises, multidisciplinary expert analysis, and peer review. Attention should be given to how institutional agendas and cognitive biases might skew the results. Proposed mitigation and adaptation strategies should be subjected to expert-reviewed cost-benefit analysis.
  • The government should promote an international process for assessing global catastrophic risks from emerging biotechnologies that could facilitate the design and production of biological weapons of mass destruction, and for identifying regulatory measures for mitigating such risks.

… (full long 19 pages text).

Comments are closed.