Home Building Survey Engineering Controls Catatrophic Risks SERI

Global Catastrophic Risks

At any given moment, we are at risk of facing a catastrophe that could damage human society on a global scale, possibly causing irreversible changes to life on Earth. The potential for an event like this to occur is more formally known as global catastrophic risk that can be either natural or man-made like severe weather or artificial intelligence. The possibility of an extinction or near-extinction event is known as an existential risk, or more colloquially as x-risks.

As humans become more technologically advanced, abundant, and interconnected, the possibility of a catastrophic event grows. Unfortunately, these risks are largely neglected by research scientists, policy makers, and the population at large. In part, this is because humans tend to hold short-term mindsets that generally lack the inherent desire to invest energy into preventative measures, even when the potential consequence is extinction. This lack of engagement with these risks is also perpetuated by ambiguity and the unknown. There is no straight-foward nor bullet-proof way to prevent a catastrophic risk. While preventing these risks may be a wicked problem, they pose incremental danger to both modern civilization and subsequent generations.

The scope of this project focuses on biological threats including natural, engineered and weaponized pathogens ultimately resulting in a catastrophic pandemic. By implementing wide-scale engineering controls, we can reduce the risk of both unpredictable biological threats and seasonal illnesses.

Common Catastrophic and Existential Risks

Biological threats (GCBR)
Global Warming
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Severe Natural Disasters
Nuclear Winter, Mass Destruction
Cosmic Threats


Open Philantropy
Future of Humanity Institute
Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Vox's Future Perfect: Designer Bugs
CDC: Bioterrorism
Center for Health Security: Defining GCBRs