top of page

Research Areas 

CAE pursues applied and transdisciplinary research into several areas of global and existential catastrophe, focusing on those most likely to produce rapid and broad-based impact. 



  • Supervolcano

    • Volcanos were responsible for at least two of the five great extinctions in Earth’s history. The question isn’t if it will happen again, but when. How might we harness this awesome power and accelerate the process?  

  • Asteroid or comet strike

    • Everyone knows a meteorite strike wiped out the dinosaurs, but could it happen to us? Our solar system is filled with enormous asteroids floating aimlessly through space. New technologies could finally give them purpose. 

  • Pandemic

    • The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than 50 million people. In our increasingly crowded and connected world, supported by factory farming and teeming with new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the potential for a new pandemic has never been greater. 



  • Climate change

    • The increasing rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions and increasingly rapid rise in global temperatures has produced an upwardly spiraling series of climate-related disasters. We may be nearing a critical tipping point. But are things moving rapidly enough? 

  • Biodiversity loss

    • All over the globe, species of plants and animals are vanishing at an ever-accelerating rate. All evidence suggests we may be in the midst of a sixth great extinction event—this one of our own making. At no time in human history has our world-changing power been greater.

  • Artificial intelligence

    • There is perhaps no technology with greater potential to transform our world, and even the cosmos, in wholly unrecognizable ways. Once we achieve the goal of artificial general intelligence (AGI), the possibilities are limited only by the incomprehensible imagination of an algorithmic mind. 

  • Nanotechnology

    • Unimaginably tiny technology has broad potential to bring enormous change. Self-replicating, molecule-sized machines could transform the ecosystem into a churning mass of what riskologists call “grey goo.” We’re exploring a rainbow of other options. 

  • Robotics

    • Robot apocalypses are among the most popular of science fiction scenarios. But a future where robots displace workers causing widespread economic and social disruption is far more likely. In fact, it’s already happening. Autonomous vehicles are the leading edge of a trend that could bring global transformation in our lifetimes. 

  • Biotechnology 

    • CRISPR and related new biotechnologies empower us to seize the reins of evolution and guide the destiny of humankind and the entire biosphere. Extinctions can happen through die-offs or evolution to a new species; if gene editing allows us to expand our imaginations further, who knows what futures we can build?

  • Nuclear weapons

    • In 1945, the United States exploded the first nuclear bomb, ushering in the atomic age and the ensuing logic of mutual assured destruction. This was the dawn of anthropogenic extinction and global catastrophe scenarios, and, with post-Cold War nuclear proliferation, remains a path of great potential. 



  • Computer simulation shutdown

    • What if we’re all living in a vast computer simulation? As far-fetched as it may sound, the likelihood of this scenario has a deeply compelling logic, leaving open the possibility that the operators may shut it all down, and the known universe wink out of existence. How might we influence these cosmic controllers?

  • Totalitarian states

    • Not an extinction scenario or a global catastrophe in the familiar sense, a global takeover by a ruthless totalitarian state could irreversibly mire the world in endless enslavement and crushing brutality. Current disintegration of liberal democracies around the world, as well as the rapid advances in surveillance and data management technologies make this a direction of growing promise.  

  • Alien invasion

    • If there is intelligent life on other worlds, might they one day visit our planet to exterminate or enslave us? The likelihood of this scenario remains highly uncertain. Yet advances in space exploration, and especially the communications by SETI and others groups, offer tantalizing hope for future close encounters. 

  • Supernatural events

    • Cultures and religions throughout history have woven tales of end times. Imagine if one of them were true. How might we manipulate a divine or diabolical order to speed matters to a prophesied conclusion? Though such tales are hard to credit, and though CAE is a secular institution, we cannot discount the beliefs of billions without thorough investigation.   

Disruptive change. Universal scope.

bottom of page