(This is an abstract for a talk presented at the 2008 Society for Risk Analysis Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.)
The scope and possible impact of global, long-term risks presents a unique challenge to humankind. The analysis and mitigation of such risks is extremely important, as such risks have the potential to affect billions of people worldwide; however, little systematic analysis has been done to determine the best strategies for overall mitigation. Direct, case-by-case analysis can be combined with standard probability theory, particularly Laplace’s rule of succession, to calculate the probability of any given risk, the scope of the risk, and the effectiveness of potential mitigation efforts. This methodology can be applied both to well-known risks, such as global warming, nuclear war, and bio-terrorism, and lesser-known or unknown risks. Although well-known risks are shown to be a significant threat, analysis strongly suggests that avoiding the risks of technologies which have not yet been developed may pose an even greater challenge. Eventually, some type of further quantitative analysis will be necessary for effective apportionment of government resources, as traditional indicators of risk level- such as press coverage and human intuition- can be shown to be inaccurate, often by many orders of magnitude.
My PowerPoint presentation: