Over the next few decades, the continued development of dual-use technologies will provide major benefits to society. They will also pose significant and unprecedented global risks, including risks of new weapons of mass destruction, arms races, or the accidental deaths of billions of people. Synthetic biology, if more widely accessible, would give terrorist groups the ability to synthesise pathogens more dangerous than smallpox; geoengineering technologies would give single countries the power to dramatically alter the earth’s climate; distributed manufacturing could lead to nuclear proliferation on a much wider scale; and rapid advances in artificial intelligence could give a single country a decisive strategic advantage. These scenarios might seem extreme or outlandish. But they are widely recognised as significant risks by experts in the relevant fields. To safely navigate these risks, and harness the potentially great benefits of these new technologies, we must proactively provide research, assessment, monitoring, and guidance, on a global level.
This report gives an overview of these risks and their importance, focusing on risks of extreme catastrophe, which we believe to be particularly neglected. The report explains why market and political circumstances have led to a deficit of regulation on these issues, and offers some policy proposals.
View the Unprecedented Technological Risks report.
View the Government Chief Science Adviser’s annual report, which drew on our report.