Risk & The Culture of Science

Risk & The Culture of Science

Friday the 28th – Sunday the 30th of April 2017

The Junior Parlour & OCR

Trinity College

Many scientists have expressed concern about potential catastrophic risks associated with powerful new technologies. But expressing concern is one thing, identifying serious candidates another. By definition, such risks will be novel, rare and difficult to study; data will be scarce, speculation necessary. This pushes us to the fringes of science, the realm of ‘mavericks’ and the unconventional – often a hostile and uncomfortable place. Scientists value consensus, at least about the big issues.

Catastrophic risk is both a big issue and a highly charged one: so fringe-dwellers may be doubly unwelcome. Do we need to make special efforts to protect our mavericks, if catastrophic risk is to get the attention it deserves? If so, how can we do it? Can we use the values of science to protect useful fringe-dwellers from science’s own immune system? Can we engineer a Maverick Room, and would this actually help?

Several different communities have interests and expertise relevant to these questions. Our initial aim is to bring these communities together, to make connections and identify common goals. Our own motivation is the study of new technological risks, but we hope and intend the results to range beyond that focus.

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