Established in January 2022 as a research centre within the department of Philosophy at Lingnan University, the central mission of the Hong Kong Catastrophic Risk Centre (HKCRC) is to conduct and disseminate academic research on foundational issues in the study of global catastrophic risks, as well as the ethical and theoretical controversies arising from specific risks posed by new technologies.
The need to conduct and disseminate research on global catastrophic risks has once again been highlighted by the pandemic that started in 2019. Prior to the first case of the disease being detected in late 2019, experts had been warning for decades about the risk of catastrophe posed by pandemics. Similarly, existing research has shown that human activities pose significant risks of global catastrophe through climate change, nuclear war, engineered pathogens, and possibly poorly implemented artificial intelligence. We also face natural risks of global catastrophe from asteroids, comets, and supervolcanic eruptions. Each of these risks threatens to significantly diminish human well-being across the world and for generations to come.
Were decision-makers around the world better positioned to make decisions on the nature of such risks, some of the catastrophic results we are now facing could have been prevented or at least mitigated. To ensure that risks of catastrophe are not ignored but taken into consideration, there is a dire need for rational and ethical discussion of those risks and how to address them. The HKCRC seeks to meet this need.
The HKCRC also plans to investigate the long-term consequences of our actions in specific areas of risk — as, for instance, artificial intelligence. This intellectual undertaking is an urgent and complex task that draws on various areas of philosophy, including philosophy of mind, population ethics, decision theory, medical ethics, meta-ethics, personal identity, and studies on well-being, justice, and equality. It will also involve the pooling of talents from other relevant disciplines, including economics, political science, social policy, and risk analysis.
The center organizes academic seminars, workshops, and lectures with leading international experts. It also plans events aimed at the general public. The HKCRC is the first of its kind in Asia and will join the small group of pioneering research centers that work on these topics internationally.