Introduction: Expanding the Field of Existential Risk Studies


The past two decades have seen anthropogenic global catastrophic and existential risks (x-risks) develop into an increasingly prominent source of academic study, policy focus, and public concern. The proceedings of the third annual Stanford Existential Risks Conference present a diverse array of research by both established and emerging scholars on the past, present, and future of x-risk studies. Some papers sum up the fruits of existing approaches to existential risks, while others address their blind spots or propose potential directions for the future of x-risk studies. Papers vary both by topic—ranging from nuclear risks, biosecurity, ecological collapse, and artificial intelligence and machine learning risks—and by disciplinary approach, featuring works of history, ethics, aesthetics, psychology, political science, sociology, and policy study. Many papers share a common thread in recognizing the importance of cascading risks—particularly potential interactions among acknowledged x-risks, or how cascades of “merely'' catastrophic risks could combine to jeopardize human survival. Collectively, they contribute to the task of expanding the field of x-risk studies to encompass insights, methods, and ethical orientations drawn from a more diverse and broadly representative range of academic disciplines.


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Date modified September 14, 2023; September 14, 2023; September 14, 2023; September 14, 2023; September 14, 2023
Publication date September 14, 2023; September 14, 2023


Author Zimmer, Daniel ORCiD icon (unverified)
Author Undheim, Trond


Subject existential risk
Subject AI risk
Subject biorisk
Subject policy
Subject scenarios planning
Genre Text
Genre Article

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Undheim, T. and Zimmer, D. (2023). "Introduction: Expanding the Field of Existential Risk Studies" in Intersections, Reinforcements, Cascades: Proceedings of the 2023 Stanford Existential Risks Conference. The Stanford Existential Risks Initiative. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at


Intersections, Reinforcements, Cascades: The Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Stanford Existential Risks Conference

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