Entries by Ariel Conn

Success for Cluster Munitions Divestment

“Great news!” said Don’t Bank on the Bomb’s Susi Snyder in a recent blog post, “American company Textron has announced it will end its involvement with cluster munitions.” This decision marks a major success for those who have pushed for a cluster munition divestment in an effort to stigmatize the weapons and the companies that […]

New Center for Human-Compatible AI

Congratulations to Stuart Russell for his recently announced launch of the Center for Human-Compatible AI! The new center will be funded, primarily, by a generous grant from the Open Philanthropy Project for $5,555,550. The center will focus on research around value alignment, in which AI systems and robots will be trained using novel methods to […]

Podcast: Could an Earthquake Destroy Humanity?

Earthquakes as Existential Risks Earthquakes are not typically considered existential or even global catastrophic risks, and for good reason: they’re localized events. While they may be devastating to the local community, rarely do they impact the whole world. But is there some way an earthquake could become an existential or catastrophic risk? Could a single […]

Earthquakes As Existential Risks?

Could an earthquake become an existential or catastrophic risk that puts all of humanity at risk? Seth Baum of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute and Ariel Conn of the Future of Life Institute consider extreme earthquake scenarios to figure out if such a risk is plausible. Featuring seismologist Martin Chapman of Virginia Tech. (Edit: This […]

Congress Subpoenas Climate Scientists in Effort to Hamper ExxonMobil Fraud Investigation

ExxonMobil executives may have intentionally misled the public about climate change – for decades. And the House Science Committee just hampered legal efforts to learn more about ExxonMobil’s actions by subpoenaing the nonprofit scientists who sought to find out what the fossil fuel giant knew and when. For 40 years, tobacco companies intentionally misled consumers […]

Op-ed: When NATO Countries Were U.S. Nuclear Targets

Sixty years ago, the U.S. had over 60 nuclear weapons aimed at Poland, ready to launch. At least one of those targeted Warsaw, where, on July 8-9, allied leaders will meet for the biennial NATO summit meeting. In fact, recently declassified documents, reveal that the U.S. once had their nuclear sites set on over 270 […]

U.S. Conference of Mayors Supports Cambridge Nuclear Divestment

The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) unanimously adopted a resolution at their annual meeting this week in support of nuclear reduction. The resolution called for the next U.S. President to: “pursue diplomacy with other nuclear-armed states,” “participate in negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons,” and “cut nuclear weapons spending  and redirect funds to meet […]

The White House Considers the Future of AI

Artificial intelligence may be on the verge of changing the world forever. In many ways, just the automation and computer-science precursors to AI have already fundamentally changed how we interact, how we do our jobs, how we enjoy our free time, and even how we fight our wars. In the near future, we can expect […]

Writing the Human Genome

The Human Genome Project made big news in the early 2000s when an international group of scientists successfully completed a decade-long endeavor to map out the entirety of the human genome. Then, last month, genetic researchers caused some minor controversy when a group of about 150 scientists, lawyers and entrepreneurs met behind closed doors to […]

When AI Journalism Goes Bad

Slate is currently running a feature called “Future Tense,” which claims to be the “citizens guide to the future.” Two of their recent articles, however, are full of inaccuracies about AI safety and the researchers studying it. While this is disappointing, it also represents a good opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about why AI […]

Research and Communication to Help Avert Global Environmental Catastrophe

Actions may speak louder than words, but research and communication are critical to helping people understand what actions they can take to help stem some of the increasing climate risks. This week, three opportunities from three very different groups have appeared on our environmental radar, and they’re opportunities that most of our readership can and […]

News of the Week: AI Writes

The obvious news of the week is Microsoft’s debacle with TayTweets, the twitter bot that, as @geraldmellor explained in his own popular tweet, “went from ‘humans are super cool’ to full nazi in <24 hrs.” But we have guest bloggers working on upcoming articles about Tay that will hopefully go live in the next few […]

AlphaGo and AI Fears

Two important pieces of AI news came out last week. The first, of course, was AlphaGo beating the world champion Go player, Lee Se-dol, 4-1 in their well publicized match up. The other was a survey by the British Science Association (BSA) that showed 60% of the public fear that AI will take over jobs, […]

Have Nuclear Weapons Kept the Peace?

Miliatry.com published a piece this week about the Pentagon leaders who recently went to Congress to defend spending $1 trillion to overhaul the nuclear triad. Among the quotes mentioned, one by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley stood out: “I just want to be clear, I don’t have a part of the triad, but I […]