Climate Risk and AI Risk for Dummies

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source:  Information Processing

The two figures below come from recent posts on climate change and AI. Please read them.

The squiggles in the first figure illustrate uncertainty in how climate will change due to CO2 emissions. The squiggles in the second figure illustrate uncertainty in the advent of human-level AI.


Many are worried about climate change because polar bears, melting ice, extreme weather, sacred Gaia, sea level rise, sad people, etc. Many are worried about AI because job loss, human dignity, Terminator, Singularity, basilisks, sad people, etc.

You can choose to believe in any of the grey curves in the AI graph because we really don’t know how long it will take to develop human level AI, and AI researchers are sort of rational scientists who grasp uncertainty and epistemic caution.

You cannot choose to believe in just any curve in a climate graph because if you pick the “wrong” curve (e.g., +1.5 degree Celsius sensitivity to a doubling of CO2, which is fairly benign, but within the range of IPCC predictions) then you are a climate denier who hates science, not to mention a bad person :-(

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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