Astrobiologist @ Imperial College London
246 karmaJoined Jan 2023Pursuing a doctoral degree (e.g. PhD)London, UK



Astrobiologist @ Imperial College London, Mars2020

Partnerships Coordinator @ SGAC Space Safety and Sustainability Project Group

Interested in: Space Governance, Great Power Conflict, Existential Risk, Cosmic threats, Academia, International policy

How others can help me

If you'd like to chat about space and existential risk please book a meeting! I'm particularly interested in the role of international collaborations in reducing the probability of a great power conflict, and in space activities that tackle existential risks, such as monitoring nuclear weapons testing and climate change impacts, and missions to test asteroid deflection and understand cosmic threats. I'm based in London and happy to meet in person. You can email me at j.stone22 at imperial dot ac dot uk

How I can help others

I am a freelance scientific illustrator. I create diagrams to visualise your research for presentations, publications, grant proposals, visual summaries etc. 

Check out this post on the forum for more info. 


Maybe information on how much good someone can do with the money they donate to charity? 

I have written this post introducing space and existential risk and this post on cosmic threats, and I've come up with some ideas for stuff I could do that might be impactful. So, inspired by this post, I am sharing a list of ideas for impactful projects I could work on in the area of space and existential risk. If anyone working on anything related to impact evaluation, policy, or existential risk feels like ranking these in order of what sounds the most promising, please do that in the comments. It would be super useful! Thank you! :)

(a) Policy report on the role of the space community in tackling existential risk: Put together a team of people working in different areas related to space and existential risk (cosmic threats, international collaborations, nuclear weapons monitoring, etc.). Conduct research and come together to write a policy report with recommendations for international space organisations to help tackle existential risk more effectively. 

(b) Anthology of articles on space and existential risk: Ask researchers to write articles about topics related to space and existential risk and put them all together into an anthology. Publish it somewhere. 

(c) Webinar series on space and existential risk: Build a community of people in the space sector working on areas related to existential risk by organising a series of webinars. Each webinar will be available virtually.

(d) Series of EA forum posts on space and existential risk: This should help guide people to an impactful career in the space sector, build a community in EA, and better integrate space into the EA community. 

(e) Policy adaptation exercise SMPAG > AI safety: Use a mechanism mapping policy adaptation exercise to build on the success of the space sector in tackling asteroid impact risks (through the SMPAG) to figure out how organisations working on AI safety can be more effective. 

(f) White paper on Russia and international space organisations: Russia’s involvement in international space missions and organisations following its invasion of Ukraine could be a good case study for building robust international organisations. E.g. Russia was ousted from ESA, is still actively participating on the International Space Station, and is still a member of SMPAG but not participating. Figuring out why Russia stayed involved or didn’t with each organisation could be useful. 

(g) Organise an in-person event on impactful careers in the space sector: This would be aimed at effective altruists and would help gauge interest and provide value. 

Ah yes good spot thank you! I got the wrong law of thermodynamics S: 

I have corrected this in the post

I don't think there's anything we can do right now about rogue celestial bodies - so not worth thinking about for me. 

For space weather stuff like solar flares, the main jobs are proofing technology against high amounts of radiation, especially when it comes to nuclear reactors and national defence infrastructure. Researching exactly what the impacts might be from different threats, and their probabilities, would definitely help governments defend against these threats more effectively.

Yes good point, thank you. I have updated the post to clarify that the probability estimate is for a scenario as bad as the worst case. 

I think that if I do it as severity in terms of population loss, it will be a lot harder to pin down. In the severity scores I'm also thinking about how badly it will affect our long term future, and how it affects the probability of other x-risks. So if I assessed it on population loss I might have to add other factors, and it might bit out of the scope of what I'm going for with the post. The severity estimates are fairly open to interpretation as I've done them, and I think that's fine for this, which is an introduction/overview of cosmic threats. 

Thanks for the feedback :)

Good point I have edited the post. Lazy writing on my part. Thank you!

Yeah basically that was my reasoning. I'm super sceptical about this risk. The virus may destroy one ecosystem in an extreme environment or be a very effective pathogen in specific circumstances but would be unlikely to be a pervasive threat. 

This theoretical microbe would have invested so many stat points in adaptations like extreme UV radiation resistance, resistance to toxins in Mars soil like perchlorates and H2O2, and totally unseen levels of desiccation, salinity, and ionic strength resistance that would be useless on Earth. And it would have to power all of these useless abilities on a food source that it is likely not suited to metabolising, and definitely not under the conditions it is used to. I just can't imagine how it would be a huge threat around the World. But in a worst case scenario, it could kill a lot of people or damage an ecosystem we rely on heavily with massive global implications, so 7/10.

Thank you, and very good question! The short answer is not really. I think that building momentum on existential risk reduction from the space sector could be tractable. One way to do this would be to found organisations that tackle some of the cosmic threats with unknown severity and probability. But to be honest I'm not sure if that's necessary, maybe the LTTF or other governments and organisations should just fund some more research into these threats. 

I think the main area in which EAs can have an impact is by developing existing organisations, with the aim of increasing their power to enforce policy, developing their interconnectedness, and increasing their prevalence. By doing this, we may be able to increase great power collaboration, build up institutions that will naturally evolve into space governance structures for the long term, while helping to tackle natural existential risks directly. 

I'm making a post about this strategy at the moment, so happy to elaborate, but I don't want to write the whole post in one comment! Here's a diagram from the post draft to show how well covered most areas in space are:

Plugging this into EAometer....

We can propose a project to "direct charitable donations to popular but low-impact causes to the charities with the highest impact within each low-impact cause"

We can score this project on importance, tractability, and neglectdness to help decide if it's worth working on.

Importance: Probably a 3/10 as this project is directed at low-impact causes. But the causes may be fairly important as lots of people care about them/are impacted by them enough to donate. 

Tractability: I think 5/10. Charities like Cancer Research and WWF have monopolies over giving to these causes, and dominate advertising. So I'm not sure how we could peel people away from that. But the fact that lots of people donate to these causes would probably make it easier to get donations to grant funds on these cause areas - but maybe they wont attract the type of people who give through GWWC/EA.

Neglectedness: Not sure, I'd have to do some research. But I would guess it's low because these are popular causes, so they would be very busy with researchers to trying to increase impact. 

So to conclude, I would say it would be hard to implement this project and compete in such busy and giant cause areas that invest a lot of money in advertising. The change in impact is most likely not as great as just directing people to more effective cause areas. Popular cause areas are so over crowded that probably everything gets funded anyway. 

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