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COLLEGE 107, Preventing Human Extinction, is a course designed for Stanford frosh who are interested in exploring global catastrophic and existential risks. SERI’s faculty leaders, Paul N. Edwards and Steve Luby, have taught the course annually since 2019. Students in COLLEGE 107 engage with plausible scenarios by which global catastrophes could occur – as well as with existing and potential solutions. They also discuss the psychological, social and epistemological barriers that inhibit society from recognizing, evaluating, and acting on these threats.

STS Major: Catastrophic Risks and Solutions

The interdisciplinary undergraduate major in Science, Technology & Society now offers a special concentration in Catastrophic Risks and Solutions. The concentration allows students to focus on understanding, communicating, and reducing large-scale catastrophic risks, defined as threats to large cities, regions, ethnic groups, entire societies, human civilization, or humanity itself. Examples include climate change, pandemics, ecosystem collapse, famine, nuclear war, genocide, earthquakes, asteroid impacts, and uncontrolled or hostile artificial intelligence.

Students choose one or several such risks and define a plan of study that includes analysis, tools for understanding, and current knowledge of how they might be solved or reduced in scale and scope. Examples of analysis and tools for understanding include scientific approaches (statistics, modeling, risk analysis), social science approaches (psychology, anthropology, or sociology of risk), and humanistic studies (history, philosophy, fiction, film, art).