Suffering risks (also known as s-risks) are risks of the creation of suffering in the far future on an astronomical scale, vastly exceeding all suffering that has existed on Earth so far. In this sense, many s-risks can be considered a form of existential risk according to Bostrom’s original definition, as they threaten to “curtail [humanity’s] potential”. However, it is often useful to distinguish between risks that threaten to prevent future populations from coming into existence (extinction risks) and those which would create a large amount of suffering (s-risks).
Although the Machine Intelligence Research Institute and Future of Humanity Institute have investigated strategies to prevent s-risks, the only EA organization with s-risk prevention research as its primary focus is the Foundational Research Institute. Much of FRI’s work is on suffering-focused AI safety and crucial considerations. Another approach to reducing s-risk is to “expand the moral circle”, so that future (post)human civilizations and AI are less likely to instrumentally cause suffering to non-human minds such as animals or digital sentience. Sentience Institute works on this value-spreading problem.