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Hello, Effective Altruism community!

In my work around biosecurity, I've come to ponder a pressing question: As biotechnology continues its rapid evolution, how likely is it that we'll face events in the next few decades that significantly elevate public concern about bioweapons and engineered pathogens?

From my work in the field, there appears to be a high probability that we'll experience several "warning shots" related to bioweapons. These events might be terrifying and harmful but wouldn’t necessarily end civilization. Such incidents could therefore result in increased awareness and urgency, leading to heightened demands from both the public and officials for better protective measures against these threats. Perhaps such crisis could be turned into opportunity as they might make it easier to get funding and government backing for putting in place better defense mechanisms.

Supporting this notion, I found a Metaculus prediction estimating a concerning 34% chance of at least 100 individuals being infected by a synthetic bioweapon by 2030. This, in my opinion, might hint at an even higher likelihood of smaller-scale events that would still boost the demand for protections against bioweapons. Moreover, projecting forward to 2050, as biotech becomes more accessible and affordable, I am beginning to sense that such a warning shot seems almost inevitable. I'd estimate this probability to be around 80% or higher.

Given this perspective, I'd love to hear your insights:

  • Does it seem very likely we will have bioweapons warning shots in the coming decades?

If so, and from a strategic viewpoint, I am then interested in the question of how we can best prepare for a future where the demand for protection against bioweapons might surge. 




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The below is from this Metaculus question about when a bio catastrophe is most likely to happen. This indicates that actually, the question referenced above might want to be interpreted in the context of bio risks being anticipate to accelerate drastically only after 2030 (that said, with only 35 forecasters we should not lean too heavily on only this forecast). So looking at warning shots before 2050 which includes some of the period of increased risk from 2030-2070 likely yields a higher chance of a warning shot:

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