FLI May, 2020 Newsletter

New Podcast Episodes: Sam Harris & George Church

Human civilization increasingly has the potential both to improve the lives of everyone and to completely destroy everything. The proliferation of emerging technologies calls our attention to this never-before-seen power — and the need to cultivate the wisdom with which to steer it towards beneficial outcomes. If we’re serious both as individuals and as a species about improving the world, it’s crucial that we converge around the reality of our situation and what matters most. What are the most important problems in the world today and why? In this episode of the Future of Life Institute Podcast, Sam Harris joins us to discuss some of these global priorities, the ethics surrounding them, and what we can do to address them. Listen here.

You can find all the FLI Podcasts here and all the AI Alignment Podcasts here. Or listen on SoundCloudiTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher.

Progress in synthetic biology and genetic engineering promise to bring advancements in human health sciences by curing disease, augmenting human capabilities, and even reversing aging. At the same time, such technology could be used to unleash novel diseases and biological agents which could pose global catastrophic and existential risks to life on Earth. George Church, a titan of synthetic biology, joins us on this episode of the FLI Podcast to discuss the benefits and risks of our growing knowledge of synthetic biology, its role in the future of life, and what we can do to make sure it remains beneficial. Will our wisdom keep pace with our expanding capabilities? Listen here.

FLI’s Unsung Hero Search

The Future of Life Institute is seeking nominations for the Future of Life Award, a $50,000 prize given to an individual who, without receiving much recognition at the time, has helped make today dramatically better than it may otherwise have been. Our first two recipients were Vasili Arkhipov and Stanislav Petrov, whose heroic actions may have prevented all-out nuclear war in 1962 and 1983, respectively. Our 2019 recipient was Dr. Matthew Meselson, who spearheaded the international ban on bioweapons. We are confident that there are many more unsung heroes out there who have done incredible work to ensure a beneficial future of life on Earth, and we need your help to ensure they get the recognition and honor they deserve.

Do you know someone who deserves the Future of Life Award? If so, please submit their name to our Unsung Hero Search page. If your nominee wins the award, you will receive a $3,000 award from FLI as a token of our appreciation. Moreover, to incentivize the search, we also reward those recruiting other nominators, inspired by MIT’s successful red balloon strategy, allocating up to $6,000 in nomination bonus for each award: the first to nominate the winner gets $3,000, the first to invite that person to nominate gets $1,500, whoever first invited them gets $750, whoever first invited them gets $375, and so on. So please pass this email along to anyone else who may have information about unsung heroes! For example, do you know someone who may know someone who’s worked in nuclear command-and-control or high-security Biolabs and know about a close call when someone averted disaster? Or someone who behind the scenes averted a war, massacre, pandemic, or new type of arms race? Let’s pay it forward by honoring these unsung heroes!

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