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The Future of Life Institute announces grants program for existential risk reduction

Published:
June 3, 2021
Author:
Anna Yelizarova

Contents

The Future of Life Institute announces $25M grants program for existential risk reduction


Emerging technologies have the potential to help life flourish like never before – or self-destruct. The Future of Life Institute is delighted to announce a $25M multi-year grant program aimed at tipping the balance toward flourishing, away from extinction. This is made possible by the generosity of cryptocurrency pioneer Vitalik Buterin and the Shiba Inu community.

COVID-19 showed that our civilization is fragile, and can handle risk better when planning ahead. Our grants are for those who have taken these lessons to heart, wish to study the risks from ever more powerful technologies, and develop strategies for reducing them. The goal is to help humanity win the wisdom race: the race between the growing power of our technology and the wisdom with which we manage it.



Program areas

Our grants program is focused on reducing the very greatest risks, which receive remarkably little funding and attention relative to their importance. Specifically, they are focused on xrisk (existential risk, i.e., events that could cause human extinction or permanently and drastically curtail humanity's potential) and ways of reducing it directly or indirectly:

  1. Directly reduce xrisk
    Example: Ensure that increasingly powerful artificial intelligence is aligned with humanity's interests.
  2. Don't destroy collaboration
    Avoid things that significantly increase xrisk by destabilizing the world and reducing geopolitical cooperation. Examples: nuclear war, bioengineered pandemics, a lethal autonomous weapons arms race, media-bias-fueled hyper-nationalism and jingoism
  3. Support collaboration
    Support things that significantly decrease x-risk by improving geopolitical cooperation. Examples: institutions, processes and activities that improve global communication and cooperation toward shared goals
  4. Create incentives & goals for collaboration
    Develop shared positive visions for the long-term future that incentivize global cooperation and the development of beneficial technologies. Examples:  nurture existential hope, study how people can be helped and incentivized to set and pursue positive long-term goals

The emphasis on collaboration stems from FLI's conviction that technology is not a zero-sum game, and that the most likely outcomes are that all of humanity will ultimately flourish or flounder together.

Types of grants

We will be running a series of grants competitions of two types: Shiba Inu Grants and Vitalik Buterin Fellowships. Shiba Inu grants support projects, specifically research, education or other beneficial  activities in the program areas. Buterin Fellowships bolster the talent pipeline through which much-needed talent flows into our program areas, tentatively including funding for high school summer programs, college summer internships, graduate fellowships and postdoctoral fellowships. For example, the Vitalik Buterin Postdoctoral Fellowship for AI Safety will tentatively open for applications in September, and will fund computer science postdocs for three years at institutions of their choice. Academic research grants and fellowships are focused in three areas: computer science, behavioral science, and policy/governance.

To conclude, we wish to once again express our profound gratitude to all who've made this possible, from Vitalik Buterin and the Shiba Inu Community to the amazing team at Alameda Research.

Media inquiries: Max Tegmark, max@futureoflife.org




FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Q: What's the Future of Life Institute?

A: A 501(c)3 non-profit that wants the long-term future of life to exist and be as positive as possible. We focus particularly on the benefits and risks of transformative technology.

Q: Who's Vitalik Buterin?

A: A cryptocurrency pioneer and philanthropic supporter of effective altruism.

Q: What's the Shiba Inu Community?

A: An experiment in decentralized spontaneous community building with hundreds of thousands of members, that by promoting the Shiba Inu cryptocurrency token is having remarkable positive impact on charities, including Indian COVID-19 relief.

Q: When and how can I apply?

A. If you sign up for our mailing list,  we will send you instructions when grants programs open for applications. For efficiency and fairness, we do not accept unsolicited applications.

Q: Who can apply?

A: We wish to support promising people and ideas anywhere in the world. Since we are a non-profit organization, we are normally only able to support work associated with research institutions and other non-profits; if you're unsure whether you qualify, please reach out once our application portal is live.

Q: Will the Shiba Inu Grants be paid  in cryptocurrency?

A: No, in US Dollars etc., as our past grants.

Q: Why would humanity cause its own destruction?

A: By mistake or miscommunication, which has brought humanity to the brink of catastrophe many times in the past (example, more examples, comic relief), and biotech & AI poses arguably greater threats.

Q: Isn't this naïve to think that humanity would abstain from developing destructive technologies?

A: No. Several national bioweapon programs existed around 1970, and yet bioweapons are now illegal under international law. Thanks in significant part to Future of Life Award winner Prof. Matthew Meselson, this such weapons of mass destruction never entered into widespread use, and biology's main use is saving lives.

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”

Isaac Asimov

This content was first published at futureoflife.org on June 3, 2021.

About the Future of Life Institute

The Future of Life Institute (FLI) is a global non-profit with a team of 20+ full-time staff operating across the US and Europe. FLI has been working to steer the development of transformative technologies towards benefitting life and away from extreme large-scale risks since it's founding in 2014. Find out more about our mission or explore our work.

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