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Beth_Barnes comments on The person-affecting value of existential risk reduction - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Beth_Barnes 13 April 2018 01:57:31PM 3 points [-]

See also the models in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5576214/ (cost-effectiveness of mitigating biorisk) and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2007.00960.x (asteroid risk), which have estimates for the risk level, cost of reducing it, and cost per qualy for different future discount levels.

"If we ignore distant future generations by discounting, the benefits of reducing existential risk fall by between 3 and 5 orders of magnitude (with a 1% to 5% discount rate), which is still far more cost-effective than measures to reduce small-scale casualty events. Under our survey model (Model 1), the cost per life-year varies between $1,300 and $52,000 for a 5% discount rate and between $770 and $30,000 for a 1% discount rate. These costs are even competitive with first-world healthcare spending, where typically anything less than $100,000 per quality adjusted life-year is considered a reasonable purchase.29

This suggests that even if we are concerned about welfare only in the near term, reducing existential risks from biotechnology is still a cost-effective means of saving expected life if the future chance of an existential risk is anything above 0.0001 per year."

I think their model ought to include a category of catastrophic risk - they don't have anything between disaster (100,000 deaths) and extinction.

"Even if we expected humanity to become extinct within a generation, traditional statistical life valuations would warrant a 32 billion annual investment in asteroid defense (Gerrard & Barber, 1997). Yet the United States spends only $4 million per year on asteroid detection and there is no direct spending on mitigation."