80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin

#9 - Christine Peterson on how insecure computers could lead to global disaster, and how to fix it

80,000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin

Take a trip to Silicon Valley in the 70s and 80s, when going to space sounded like a good way to get around environmental limits, people started cryogenically freezing themselves, and nanotechnology looked like it might revolutionise industry – or turn us all into grey goo.

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In this episode of the 80,000 Hours Podcast Christine Peterson takes us back to her youth in the Bay Area, the ideas she encountered there, and what the dreamers she met did as they grew up. We also discuss how she came up with the term ‘open source software’ (and how she had to get someone else to propose it).

Today Christine helps runs the Foresight Institute, which fills a gap left by for-profit technology companies – predicting how new revolutionary technologies could go wrong, and ensuring we steer clear of the downsides.

We dive into:

* Whether the poor security of computer systems poses a catastrophic risk for the world. Could all our essential services be taken down at once? And if so, what can be done about it?
* Can technology ‘move fast and break things’ without eventually breaking the world? Would it be better for technology to advance more quickly, or more slowly?
* How Christine came up with the term ‘open source software’ (and why someone else had to propose it).
* Will AIs designed for wide-scale automated hacking make computers more or less secure?
* Would it be good to radically extend human lifespan? Is it sensible to cryogenically freeze yourself in the hope of being resurrected in the future?
* Could atomically precise manufacturing (nanotechnology) really work? Why was it initially so controversial and why did people stop worrying about it?
* Should people who try to do good in their careers work long hours and take low salaries? Or should they take care of themselves first of all?
* How she thinks the the effective altruism community resembles the scene she was involved with when she was wrong, and where it might be going wrong.

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