Show an ad over header. AMP

I am the FIRST

In a world of extreme risks, the world needs a chief risk officer

A future that will see escalating danger from extreme risks demands a longer-term approach to handling these threats.

The big picture: The world was caught off guard by COVID-19, and millions of people have paid the price. But the pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink theapproach to the growing threat from low-probability but high-consequence risks — including the ones we may be inadvertently causing ourselves.


Driving the news: Earlier this week, a nonprofit in the U.K. called the Centre for Long-Term Resilience put out a report that should be required reading for leaders around the world.

  • Spearheaded by Toby Ord — an existential risk scholar at the University of Oxford — "Future Proof" makes the case that "we are currently living with an unsustainably high level of extreme risk."
  • "With the continued acceleration of technology, and without serious efforts to boost our resilience to these risks, there is strong reason to believe the risks will only continue to grow," as the authors write.

Between the lines: "Future Proof" focuses on two chief areas of concern: artificial intelligence and biosecurity.

  • While the longer-term threat of artificial intelligence reaching a level of superintelligence beyond humans is an existential risk by itself, the ransomware and other cyberattacks plaguing the world could be supercharged by the use of AI tools, while the development of lethal autonomous weapons threatens to make war far more chaotic and destructive.
  • Natural pandemics are bad enough, but we're headed toward a world in which thousands of people will have access to technologies that can enhance existing viruses or synthesize entirely new ones. That's far more dangerous.

It's far from clear how the world can control these human-made extreme risks.

  • Nuclear weapons are easy by comparison — bombs are difficult to make and even harder for a nation to use without guaranteeing its own destruction, which is largely why, 75 years after Hiroshima, fewer than 10 countries have developed a nuclear arsenal.
  • But both biotech and AI are dual-use technologies, meaning they can be wielded for both beneficial and malign purposes. That makes them far more difficult to control than nuclear weapons, especially since some of the most extreme risks — like, say, a dangerous virus leaking out of a lab — could be accidental, not purposeful.
  • Even though the risks from biotech and AI are growing, there is little in the way of international agreements to manage them. The UN office charged with implementing the treaty banning bioweapons is staffed by all of three people, while efforts to establish global norms around AI research — much of which, unlike the nuclear sphere, is carried out by private firms — have been mostly unsuccessful.

What to watch: The "Future Proof" report recommends a range of actions, from focusing on the development of technologies like metagenomic sequencing that can rapidly identify new pathogens to having nations set aside a percentage of GDP for extreme risk preparation, just as NATO members are required to spend on defense.

  • A global treaty on risks to the future of humanity, modeled on earlier efforts around nuclear weapons and climate change, could at least raise the international profile of extreme risks.
  • Most importantly, the report calls for the creation of "chief risk officers" — officials empowered to examine government policy with an eye toward what could go very wrong.

The bottom line: We are entering a frightening time for humanity. Ord estimates the chance that we will experience an existential catastrophe over the next 100 years is 1 in 6, the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with our future.

  • But if our actions have put the bullet in that gun, it's also in our power to take it out.

Reports: Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of WH counsel Don McGahn

Apple told former Trump administration White House counsel Don McGahn last month that the Department of Justice subpoenaed information about accounts of his in 2018, the New York Times first reported Sunday.

Why it matters: Although it's unclear why the DOJ took the action, such a move against a senior lawyer representing the presidency is highly unusual.

Keep reading... Show less

Pelosi demands Barr and Sessions testify on data subpoenas she says go "beyond Richard Nixon"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN Sunday that former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions should testify before Congress on reports that the Trump-era Department of Justice seized Democrats' and journalists' data records.

Driving the news: DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Friday an internal investigation into the matter, and Pelosi expressed disbelief to CNN's Dana Brash at assertions that neither Barr nor Sessions knew of probes into lawmakers.

Keep reading... Show less

Shipping giant CEO says business have to avoid global politics

The CEO of the world's largest container-shipping company cautions that international firms have to be careful of taking political stances.

  • What they're saying: "We cannot run a global business if we start to have views on politics in every single country that we are in," Maersk CEO Søren Skou tells "Axios on HBO."
Keep reading... Show less

Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark defends overture to Democrats

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark told me on "Axios on HBO" that the business group was right to endorse vulnerable House Democrats last year, despite the flak that resulted from Republicans.

  • Clark, who took over the top job in March, said those House Democrats "had really helped push business's number one priority, which was the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, over the finish line."
  • "All of the Republicans that we work with on tax, on regulation — those people are really, really important to us," she added: "So we have to be willing to have a different coalition on every issue."
Keep reading... Show less

Nuclear watchdog: “Essential” to have deal with Iran

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency tells "Axios on HBO" that it's "essential" to have a nuclear deal with Iran because otherwise "we are flying blind."

Driving the news: Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi sat down with "Axios on HBO" at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, ahead of Iran's June 18 presidential election and a June 24 extension on negotiations seeking to restore curtailed surveillance of Iranian nuclear sites and salvage the 2015 deal.

Keep reading... Show less

U.N. ambassador Thomas-Greenfield sees tough Putin summit

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told me on "Axios on HBO" that President Biden will be candid, frank — and tough — during this week's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • "The president will make clear to the Russians that they cannot harbor cyber terrorists and criminals in their country and not be held accountable for it," she added. "And they need to take the responsibility for dealing with this issue."
Keep reading... Show less

Dems’ go-it-alone approach faces big hurdles as left’s frustrations spill over

If a bipartisan group of lawmakers fails to strike a deal on the infrastructure proposal it's negotiating with the White House, ramming through a package using the partisan reconciliation process isn't a guaranteed solution.

Why it matters: Getting 51 Democratic votes would be a long, uphill battle. And moderates within the party are balking at the cost of President Biden's spending — even as progressives openly lament that the "transformational" change they seek is slipping out of reach.

Keep reading... Show less

America's U.N. ambassador: "I will always push for women to be part of negotiation teams"

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has argued over her 39-year diplomatic career that educating and empowering women and girls is an investment in peace and security for their nations.

  • "I will always push for women to be part of negotiation teams," she told me in the State Department Treaty Room, during an interview for "Axios on HBO."
  • "I notice ... when they're not in the room. ... Sometimes I'm the only one," she added with a laugh. "And I will call it out."
Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories