Pluralisms in Existential Risk Studies

"We...declare our support for moving the existential risk community towards greater pluralism, and acknowledge our responsibility in trying to bring this about...We don’t wish to merely respect each other at a distance, but desire more active engagement, sharing ideas and disagreement with people from across the community, and empowerment of each other to take different approaches. We don’t merely wish for the perspectives of those of us with the most power to dominate, but rather to create a culture where a genuine proliferation of evidence-backed insights can occur. This requires support in many different forms from different actors in the community, which we are optimistic can happen; certainly, if we are to bring about a less endangered world, it must."

Statement on Pluralisms in Existential Risk Studies, 15th August 2023


As existential risk studies as a field has grown, there has become an increasing awareness of the need for greater pluralism in this field. This website primarily hosts one such call for pluralism, the Statement on Pluralisms in Existential Risk Studies, drawn up by a group of researchers who attendeed the FHI and CSER Workshop on Pluralisms in Existential Risk Studies on the 11th-14th May 2023. 

This website also hopes to be a hub for the presentation of perspectives relevant to this mission of increasing pluralism in the field, and so also has resources and will hopefully publish blogs and host events on this theme. The signatories of the statement, however, do not necessarily endorse anything beyond the statement they signed. 

Statement Summary

  • Pluralism is necessary for the community studying existential risk to achieve a variety of epistemic, ethical and pragmatic goals that each of us hold to be important.
  • Existential Risk has many definitions, however, we have enough in common that being part of the same pluralistic community is mutually beneficial
  • We all differ on a lot, and these differences emerge from both 'minor' intellectual differences and more global structural factors
  • Differences are a strength and the community can be better suited to its purpose of reducing xrisk by embracing these differences
  • This is justified by four key reasons:
    • High levels of uncertainty which 'hedging our bets' and scientific creativity may be appropriate responses to
    • Disagreement can be constructive in helping us generate new ideas none of us individually would have come up with
    • Pluralism allows us to politically collaborate with a broader spectrum of people to combat xrisk
    • Ethical pluralism at the communal level may be an appropriate response to normative uncertainty
  • We need to increase diversity of disciplines present in xrisk, as well as expand beyond 'expert' groups
  • We need to increase the geographic, socio-economic, cultural, gender, racial and ability diversity in the community and of the individuals the community engages with. This can only be brought about through mutual respect and equality, rather than on the terms of those who already have entrenched privilege