Probabilities, Methodologies and the Evidence Base in Existential Risk Assessments

(2018)
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Abstract

This paper examines and evaluates a range of methodologies that have been proposed for making useful claims about the probability of phenomena that would contribute to existential risk. Section One provides a brief discussion of the nature of such claims, the contexts in which they tend to be made and the kinds of probability that they can contain. Section Two provides an overview of the methodologies that have been developed to arrive at these probabilities and assesses their advantages and disadvantages. Section Three contains four suggestions to improve best practice in existential risk assessment. These suggestions centre on the types of probabilities used in risk assessment, the role of methodology rankings including the ranking of probabilistic information, the extended use of expert elicitation, and the use of confidence measures to better communicate uncertainty in probability assessments. Finally, Section Four provides an annotated literature review of catastrophic and existential risk probability claims as well as the methodologies that were used to produce each of them.

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