23 April 2018

Governing Boring Apocalypses

Framing law and policy responses against the world ending in unspectacular ways.

On the rare occasions where people think about the how the world might end, Hollywood imagery of asteroid strikes, pandemics, and the robot apocalypse tend to come to the fore and this is reinforced by dystopian visions of single-source apocalypses.

These action-packed scenarios may have subtly pervaded the academic discussions of existential risks, which at any rate is heavily biased towards the ‘hazard’ component of the larger equation which we elaborate in a new article. We argue that the focus on one-hit knock-out hazards elevates the importance of scientific and technological counters to such hazards, which in turn sidelines legal, policy, regulatory and governance responses.

As a counter-balance, we propose a new model of existential risks that emphasises vulnerability and exposure to existential hazards. This means that smaller hazards below the current thresholds of existential risks can knock humanity out if our societies are vulnerable and exposed to such hazards. By over-stating existential hazards, the current approach leaves gaps that render us more susceptible to ‘boring apocalypses’.

Our aim is to spark the discussion on how law, policy, regulation and governance can help to stall such boring apocalypses.

Our article can be found here

Hin-Yan Liu

Kristian Cedervall Lauta

Matthijs Michiel Maas