[MORESAFE] Starting global risk discussion

I am writ­ing to pro­pose an on­line dis­cus­sion of global risk within the dis­cus­sion part of Less Wrong. We might call this dis­cus­sion “More Safe”. In fu­ture it could be a site where any­one in­ter­ested could dis­cuss global risks, pos­si­bly to ag­gre­gate all ex­ist­ing in­for­ma­tion about global risks. The idea comes from dis­cus­sions at the Sin­gu­lar­ity sum­mit that I had with Anna Solomon, Seth Baum, and oth­ers.

I pro­pose la­bel­ing such dis­cus­sions “More Safe”. Less wrong means more safe. Fewer mis­takes means fewer catas­tro­phes.

At Seth’s sug­ges­tion, we should be care­ful to fol­low safety guidelines for such dis­cus­sions. For ex­am­ple, no tech­ni­cal de­tail should be posted on­line about top­ics which could be used by po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists es­pe­cially in biol­ogy. The point of the dis­cus­sion is to try to re­duce risk, not to have open dis­cus­sion of risky ideas.

Here are some fur­ther thoughts on my idea:

In­tel­li­gence ap­peared as an in­stru­ment of adap­ta­tion which lead to longer sur­vival of an in­di­vi­d­ual or a small group. Un­for­tu­nately it was not adapted as an in­stru­ment for sur­vival of tech­nolog­i­cal civ­i­liza­tions. So we have to some­how up­date our in­tel­li­gence. One way to do it is to re­duce per­sonal cog­ni­tive bi­ases.

Another way is to make our in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tive. Col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence is more effec­tive in find­ing er­rors and equil­ibrium - democ­racy and free mar­kets are ex­am­ples. Sev­eral peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cated them­selves to pre­vent­ing ex­is­ten­tial risks.
But we do not see a place which is ac­cepted as main dis­cus­sion point on ex­is­ten­tial risks.

Life­boat Foun­da­tion has a mailing list and blog, but its themes are not strictly about ex­is­ten­tial risks (a lot of star travel) and no open fo­rum ex­ists.

Fu­ture of Hu­man­ity In­sti­tute has ex­cel­lent col­lec­tion of ar­ti­cles and the book but it’s not a place where peo­ple could meet on­line.

Less Wrong was not spe­cially ded­i­cated to ex­is­ten­tial risks and many risks are out of its main theme (nu­clear, cli­mate and so on).

Im­mor­tal­ity In­sti­tute has a sub­fo­rum about global risks but it is not a pro­fes­sional dis­cussing point.

J.Hughes has a mailing list on ex­is­ten­tial risks [x-risk].

The pop­u­lar blog “ex­tinc­tion pro­to­col” is full of fear mon­ger­ing and fo­cuses mostly on nat­u­ral dis­asters like earth­quakes and floods.

There are sev­eral small or­ga­ni­za­tions which are cre­ated by one per­son and limited to a small web­site that no­body reads.

So efforts of differ­ent re­searchers are scat­tered and lost in noise.

In my view the col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence as an in­stru­ment should con­sist of fol­low­ing parts:

1. An open-struc­tured fo­rum in which ev­ery­one could post but a strict mod­er­a­tion policy should pre­vent any gen­eral dis­cus­sion about Obama, poverty, and other themes that are in­ter­est­ing but not re­lated to ex­is­ten­tial risks. It should have sev­eral level of ac­cesses and sev­eral lev­els of proof—strict sci­ence, hy­pothe­ses, and un­prov­able claims. I think that such fo­rum should be all in­clu­sive, but niburu-stuff should be moved in sep­a­rate sec­tion for de­bunk­ing.
Good ex­am­ple of such or­ga­ni­za­tion is site flu­track­ers.com which is about flu.

2. Wiki-based knowl­edge base

3. Small and effec­tive board of ex­perts who re­ally take re­spon­si­bil­ity to work on con­tent ( but no paid stuff and fund ris­ing prob­lems). Also there will be no head, oth­er­wise it will not be effec­tive col­lec­tive in­tel­li­gence. All work for the site should be done on free vol­un­teer­ing.

4. Open com­plete library of all liter­a­ture on ex­is­ten­tial risks.

5. The place should be friendly to other risks sites and should cross-link in­ter­est­ing posts there.

In fu­ture the site will be­came a database of knowl­edge on global risks.

Now i am go­ing to start se­quence of posts about main prob­lems of global risk pre­ven­tion and i in­vite ev­ery­one to post about global risks un­der ‘more­safe’ tag.