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Four New Horsemen of an Apocalypse? Solar Flares, Super-volcanoes, Pandemics, and Artificial Intelligence

Ilan Noy () and Tomáš Uher
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Tomáš Uher: Victoria University of Wellington

Economics of Disasters and Climate Change, 2022, vol. 6, issue 2, No 10, 393-416

Abstract: Abstract If economists have largely failed to predict or prevent the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, and the more disastrous economic collapse associated with the pandemic of 2020, what else is the profession missing? This is the question that motivates this survey. Specifically, we want to highlight four catastrophic risks – i.e., risks that can potentially result in global catastrophes of a much larger magnitude than either of the 2008 or 2020 events. The four risks we examine here are: Space weather and solar flares, super-volcanic eruptions, high-mortality pandemics, and misaligned artificial intelligence. All four have a non-trivial probability of occurring and all four can lead to a catastrophe, possibly not very different from human extinction. Inevitably, and fortunately, these catastrophic events have not yet occurred, so the literature investigating them is by necessity more speculative and less grounded in empirical observations. Nevertheless, that does not make these risks any less real. This survey is motivated by the belief that economists can and should be thinking about these risks more systematically, so that we can devise the appropriate ways to prevent them or ameliorate their potential impacts.

Keywords: Solar; Volcano; Pandemic; Artificial intelligence; Extinction; D81; O33; D81; O33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s41885-022-00105-x

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