Press "Enter" to skip to content

[RECRUIT] Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

Dear ITP,
Are any of you interested in using your skills to help minimize risk from global catastrophes? If so, I would like to talk with you. We at the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute (GCRI) are exploring options to promote a larger presence in social media and mobile apps. One idea is to produce an aggregated news feed by monitoring relevant blogs and newsletters and adding our own insights as experts. Perhaps this could be converted into an app. Or perhaps this could be part of an app that links with other social media outlets. We are also in the process of revamping our website. I’d be curious to hear ideas from people with expertise on all of this, aka ITPers!
Perhaps this could be used as a project for school or simply as a learning exercise. It would be great if we could find someone who is really interested in the global catastrophic risk topic and might like an ongoing involvement with GCRI. This could develop into a long-term working relationship.

Please email me if you are interested in discussing further.

Thank you,
Tim Maher

From GCRI’s About page:
What is the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute?
The Global Catastrophic Risk Institute (GCRI) is a startup nonprofit think tank working on the topic of global catastrophic risk. GCRI was founded in 2011 by Seth Baum and Tony Barrett. GCRI is geographically decentralized, meaning that it has no central headquarters and its affiliates are located in many places. GCRI works with researchers from many academic disciplines and professionals from many sectors. GCRI is an initiative of the umbrella organization Blue Marble Space and a division of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.What is global catastrophic risk?
Global catastrophic risks (GCRs) are risks of events that could significantly harm or even destroy human civilization at the global scale. Exactly what qualifies as a global catastrophe and which global catastrophes are most important is a matter of ongoing debate. For example, global catastrophes have been defined as events that cause at least 10 million deaths or $10 trillion in damages [1] or events that would permanently eliminate human civilization’s capacity to colonize space and thus sustain human life beyond the existence of Earth [2]. GCRI supports open debate on the definition and importance of GCR, while its work tends to focus on the most likely and most severe GCRs. Whatever the specifics, it is clear that global catastrophes are risks of the highest magnitude, the worst-case scenarios for humanity. Likewise the risk of global catastrophe raises profound moral and societal issues, such as how much society should sacrifice to reduce the risk of global catastrophe.

What does GCRI do?
GCRI leads research, education, and professional networking on global catastrophic risk. GCRI research aims to identify and assess the most effective ways of reducing the risk of global catastrophe, as well as the issues raised by global catastrophic risk. GCRI education aims to raise awareness and understanding about global catastrophic risk among students, professionals, and the general public. GCRI networking aims to build community between researchers and professionals in other sectors so that the best GCR ideas can be implemented. This broad approach of research, education, and networking aims to identify how a variety of different people can get involved in GCR and to create opportunities for them to do so.

Why is global catastrophic risk important?
Global catastrophes threaten everyone. If one global catastrophe occurs, we may never get a second chance. A global catastrophe could destroy millions or billions of lives and threaten the ability of humanity to sustain itself. GCR stands out relative to many other issues in that success on these other issues depends on us avoiding global catastrophe. It is imperative that we get GCR right. And if we succeed, then we have the whole world – and much of the universe – ahead of us for a very, very long time. The stakes are literally astronomical. Thus GCR may be among the most important issues of our time.

What GCRs does humanity face?
Unfortunately, humanity currently faces many GCRs. Some of these have existed for a very long time, such as asteroid and meteor impacts or supervolcano eruptions. However, these events are relatively unlikely. More likely are events connected to modern civilization, such as nuclear warfare, climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics, and artificial intelligence. The risk of these events is alarmingly large.GCRI research covers each of these major GCRs, and it also sometimes considers the less-likely GCRs.

Why does GCRI study so many GCRs?
Studying multiple GCRs at once offers two important advantages. First, different GCRs often pose similar issues. These cross-cutting issues can relate to the probability of the GCR, the moral, legal, and policy issues raised, the available response options, and other factors. By studying each of these GCRs, GCRI seeks to address these issues for multiple GCRs at once and apply insights from one to another. Second, each GCR is not completely distinct. One catastrophe can cause another or make another more or less severe. Likewise options for reducing one GCR may affect another GCR. By considering the interactions between multiple GCRs, GCRI can gain a more complete understanding of the risks humanity faces and the effectiveness of the available response options.

Why does GCRI work across academic disciplines and professions?
GCR is a complex, multifaceted topic. Try as we might, no single scholar can understand GCR in its entirety. Many different academic disciplines have important contributions to make. GCRI works with all of them. Research alone can bring great insights about GCR, but it cannot put those insights into action. For that, other professions are needed. Furthermore, the practical GCR experience of the non-research professions can help inform research. Without the other professionals, researchers can end up studying topics that are not relevant to actual opportunities to make a difference on GCR. For these reasons, it is important to work across academic disciplines and professions. Unfortunately, few organizations do this. As a geographically decentralized think tank, GCRI is especially well-positioned to transcend the usual disciplinary and professional boundaries.

Why is GCRI geographically decentralized?
Simply put, geographic decentralization enables GCRI to accomplish more for less. The relevant GCR talent is spread across many locations, making some remote collaboration inevitable. Meanwhile modern technologies make remote collaboration increasingly easy and powerful at minimal monetary cost. Remote collaboration also reduces travel to conferences and, for those who work from home, in to the office. Reducing travel saves time and money while conserving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But GCRI does recognize the power of place. Geographic decentralization enables GCRI to access more places. Indeed, GCRI leadership is based in two of the most powerful places for GCR: New York City and Washington, DC.

How can I help?
GCRI welcomes monetary and in-kind donations. Monetary donations can be made online. Donations to GCRI may be tax-deductible if you itemize your deductions on your U.S. tax returns. If you are a researcher or other professional with expertise relevant to GCR and would like to get involved in GCRI activities, please contact Executive Director Seth Baum at seth [at]

[1] Nick Bostrom and Milan Ćirković, 2008. Introduction. In Bostrom and Ćirković (eds), Global Catastrophic Risks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[2] Seth D. Baum, 2010. Is humanity doomed? Insights from astrobiology. Sustainability 2(2) 591-603.