On 6th September, we ran a pre conference event at “Existential risk to humanity” Conference at the GoCAS (Gothenburg Centre for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology). It was a one day catastrophe planning exercise, in Gothenburg, to explore the impact of shocks to the global food production system.
We would like to thank Chalmers Technological University for providing the room and food. We had 19 people in attendance, including people attending the conference, but also representatives from corporate/government.
The catastrophes explored in detail were: 1) a volcanic eruption like the one that caused the year without a summer in 1816, with a 10% global agricultural shortfall and 2) an extreme solar storm, perhaps more intense than the 1859 Carrington event, which disrupted electricity and therefore fossil fuel extraction and industrial civilization for an extended period of time. We had time for more in-depth group discussions than at previous workshops we have run.
Some of the concrete outcomes included a LinkedIn group for future collaboration and two blog posts by advisory board member Robin Hanson with some new ideas on incentivizing the production of alternate foods. Some other new ideas included 1) getting a selection of global influencers to star in targeted cooking shows distributed through social media, TV, radio etc teaching the public how to cook alternate foods and 2) targeting countries that could not feed themselves if trade were cut off (for any reason).
Outcomes associated with the rest of the conference included adding three new advisory board members: Robin Hanson, Anders Sandberg, and Karin Kuhlemann. We learned about the extensive preparations that Sweden made during the Cold War. David Denkenberger also spoke on cost effectiveness of alternate foods in the main conference.
Overall, the conference and planning session allowed for valuable in person communication between many people who had only corresponded online.