Landscape

Our problems are manmade—therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. John F. Kennedy, speech at American University, Washington, 1963

Investing for Impact and our Framework can be applied to any area of investment.

However, as a small team we have chosen to highlight a few high priority areas. This page highlights these areas.

We have also listed some of the most important BACOs in the overall landscape.

Especially high-priority areas

The prevention of the supreme catastrophe ought to be the paramount object of all endeavour. Winston Churchill, ‘Shall We All Commit Suicide?’, 1924.

The areas that we highlight here all have to do with Extreme Risks to the world as we know it.

Our goal is to highlight the investment implications of these areas, not to comprehensively detail all the research behind why these risks are global priorities.

The reasons we are focused on these areas are:

Neglectedness.

These areas all related to issues that are systematically neglected. The issues guiding our view on the landscape are neglected both because they affect others (different nations, future generations, animals) and because they are about extreme risks that are hard to comprehend and unlikely to occur any given year (but likely to occur at some time this century). Even in the case of COVID-19, an event that massively disrupted the lives of everyone on Earth, we’ve still seen a substantial lack of investment in vaccine manufacturing capacity and other ways of controlling the spread of the virus, relative to what economists recommended.

Catalytic value.

We believe that progress on these areas can, by example, stimulate and reinvigorate progress in other areas. We have chosen these areas as they are objectively global priorities and we believe that if exceptional opportunities in these areas can be proven then similar approaches can then be applied to other areas. We also expect that there are many smart people skilled at investing in related areas who may never have thought about how their work can contribute to efforts to avert extreme risks.

Robustness.

These areas appear to have opportunities within them that are ‘robust’. That is, they seem generally positive from a number of perspectives, and unlikely to be negative.

The areas we highlight are aligned with the priorities highlighted in the UN’s Common Agenda and the Future Proof report prepared by the Centre for Long-term Resilience for the UK.

We can’t predict which extreme risk event will come next. But we can work to limit the risks we know about. Our welfare, and indeed the permanence of human life, depends on us working effectively together to do this.

In highlighting extreme risks we’re not saying we’re looking for opportunities that are only about extreme risks. In fact, such opportunities may not exist (except for some grants). Rather, we look at any opportunity has having different components. And we are highlighting we would be more excited to invest in an opportunity with a 10% extreme risk component than 0-1%. For example, it could be that simply investing to reduce GHG emissions is good both in terms of improving the average future outcome and decreasing the likelihood of worst case scenarios.

Our two highest priority areas and associated examples are:

Biosecurity
  • Investments in DNA vaccines
  • Investments in improving and scaling up Personal Protective Equipment manufacturing
  • Investments that mitigate dual-use risk and/or promote differential technology development
Catastrophic resilience
  • Climate adaptation
  • Investment to preserve valuable fossil fuel resources for emergency use AND help reduce GHG emissions
  • Investments in resilient food production technology
  • Investments to improve the electrical grid

Contact us for more information on our review of the biosecurity-related investment landscape.

Other priority areas

There are no catastrophes that loom before us which cannot be avoided; there is nothing that threatens us with imminent destruction in such a fashion that we are helpless to do something about it. If we behave rationally and humanely; if we concentrate coolly on the problems that face all of humanity, rather than emotionally on such nineteenth century matters as national security and local pride; if we recognize that it is not one’s neighbors who are the enemy, but misery, ignorance, and the cold indifference of natural law—then we can solve all the problems that face us. We can deliberately choose to have no catastrophes at all. Isaac Asimov, A Choice of Catastrophes, 1979

There are many other areas that have overlaps with extreme risks and resilience and seem valuable to explore further. These include:

  • Mental health
  • AI Safety
  • Climate (non-catastrophic risks)
  • General economic development
    • Fertility in countries which are below replacement rate
  • Meat alternatives
  • Nuclear security
  • Cybersecurity
  • Development of outer space
  • Autonomous defence systems
  • Govtech
  • Area X (to be discovered)

We have advised on investments in many of these areas. However, we’re not listing them as top priorities because of a combination of them being less neglected/catalytic/robust and the limited size of our team. We would be excited to explore one or more of these areas with collaborators.