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Research Questions

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This is a compilation of sources of potential research questions on existential risk mitigation. All credit for these research questions and lists goes to Arden Koehler, Howie Lempel, David Manheim, and particularly Michael Aird, as well as other researchers and experts cited in these lists; mistakes are our own. We have compiled this list as a conversation-starter, not as strong endorsements. Listings are lightly edited for this context. 

Research questions about entirely natural risks (e.g. asteroid strikes, supervolcanoes) have been excluded from this list because research strongly suggests that the risks involved are extremely low; anthropogenic risks appear more urgent (Ord, 2020).

Longtermism, Existential Risks, or GCRs Generally

AI Risks: Technical

AI Strategy/Governance


Climate Risks

  • Climate research suggestions from The Precipice - Toby Ord, 2020
  • Additional research questions - 80,000 Hours, 2020
  • More generally, what environmental problems — if any — pose existential risks? (Adapted from Effective Thesis)
  • What are potential risks from geoengineering technologies and which of these technologies — if any — might be promising for mitigating climate change?

Nuclear Risks

  • Nuclear risks research suggestions from The Precipice - Toby Ord, 2020
  • Improve modeling on nuclear winter and climate effect of asteroids, comets, and supervolcanoes
  • Work on resolving the key uncertainties in nuclear winter modelling.
  • Characterise the remaining uncertainties then use Monte Carlo techniques to show the distribution of outcome possibilities, with a special focus on the worst-case possibilities compatible with our current understanding.
  • Investigate which parts of the world appear most robust to the effects of nuclear winter and how likely civilisation is to continue there.
  • Research and develop methods for genetically engineering or breeding crops that could thrive in the tropics during a nuclear winter scenario (Adapted from ALLFED, Effective Theses Topic Ideas)
  • How does Chinese nuclear no first-use policy affect global stability and potential strategic doctrines for emerging technologies? (Adapted from Brian Tse, personal correspondence)

Global Priorities