On September 26th, 1983, the world was nearly destroyed by nuclear war. That day is Petrov Day, named for the man who averted it. Petrov Day is now a yearly event on September 26 commemorating the anniversary of the Petrov incident. Last year, Citadel, the Boston-area rationalist house, performed a ritual on Petrov day. We will be doing it again - and have published a revised version, for anyone else who wants to have a Petrov Day celebration themselves.

The purpose of the ritual is to make catastrophic and existential risk emotionally salient, by putting it into historical context and providing positive and negative examples of how it has been handled. This is not for the faint of heart and not for the uninitiated; it is aimed at those who already know what catastrophic and existential risk is, have some background knowledge of what those risks are, and believe (at least on an abstract level) that preventing those risks from coming to pass is important.

Petrov Day is designed for groups of 5-10 people, and consists of a series of readings and symbolic actions which people take turns doing. It is easy to organize; you'll need a few simple props (candles and a candle-holder) and a printout of the program for each person, but other than that no preparation is necessary.

Organizer guide and program (for one-sided printing) (PDF)
Program for two-sided print and fold (PDF)

There will be a Petrov Day ritual hosted at Citadel (Boston area) and at Highgarden (New York area). If you live somewhere else, consider running one yourself!

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An interesting tidbit I haven't hear before, which casts the event into a completely different light (not sure how accurate):

I decided that the computer made a misidentification, I let myself distrust it, all because I was the one who designed it. Only its creator can be allowed liberties like that. I knew every piece of code better than the computer did.

Petrov was not just a random soldier thrust into a critical situation and possibly out of his depth, he was an expert. He had a B.Sc./M.Sc. in Computer Science and Engineering, then he had a two-year (!) training course of information processing on nuclear watch, and he participated in the design and testing of the target identification system in question. I cannot imagine a more qualified person in this situation, and I doubt that the US procedures come anywhere close.

Another quote:

The infamous red button was not actually connected to anything. The wires underneath were cut. I had to decide what and how to report to my superiors. I sent my assistant to report a false alarm.

Wikipedia says Stanislav Petrov is still alive and well; does he know about this celebration?

It feels like he'd be interested, does anyone know how to try and contact him?

He's been interviewed about it several times, see e.g. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24280831 or http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2013/02/26/4981721.shtml (in Russian).


The interviews don't mention anything about the celebration, though. It might be possible to get in touch with him through this tribute website.

I'm getting an error when trying to access the files. "Something went wrong. Don't worry, your files are still safe and the Dropboxers have been notified. Check out our Help Center and forums for help, or head back to home."

I'm unable to reproduce the problem; are you still seeing it?

By coincidence, September 26th is also my brother's birthday. I'm not quite sure how to celebrate both...

Did your brother fail to destroy the world on the day of his birth?