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Is the Covid-19 crisis a good time for x-risk outreach?

by adamzerner1 min read19th Mar 202010 comments



With what's happening with the coronavirus, I'd think that people would be particularly receptive to the ideas that:

1) We need to be prepared for long term risks.

2) Things with exponential growth are super scary.

3) We should trust the professionals who predict these sorts of things.

I wouldn't expect anyone to be willing to open their wallets right now, but it could be a good time to "plant the seed".

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Right now, most people are hyperfocused on COVID-19; this creates an obvious incentive for people to try to tie their pet issues to it, which I expect a variety of groups to try and which I expect to mostly backfire if tried in the short run. (See for example the receptiontthe WHO got when they tried to talk about stigma and discriminatio; people interpreted it as the output of an "always tie my pet issue to the topic du jour" algorithm and ridiculed then for it. Talking about AI risk in the current environment risks provoking the same reaction, because it probably would in fact be coming from a tie-my-pet-topic algorithm.

A month from now, however, will be a different matter. Once people start feeling like they have attention to spare, and have burned out on COVID-19 news, I expect them to be much more receptive to arguments about tail risk and to model-based extrapolation of the future than they were before.

I would seriously consider not doing more outreach than you are now – possibly for several years.

In the near-term, I think significantly more people will find x-risk on their own.