A suffering risk (or s-risk) is a potential future with the amount of intense suffering vastly exceeding the amount of suffering that has ever occurred on Earth.
Potential sources of s-risks that have been proposed include artificial sentience, wild-animal suffering beyond Earth, and powerful malevolent agents. Space colonisation often is considered as a risk multiplier of a suffering risk coming about. However, space colonization may reduce suffering instead if there is extraterrestrial sentience that the explorers decide to systematically help.
Several strategies for reducing s-risks have been proposed. One of them is expanding humanity’s moral circle together with raising concern for suffering. This may be the most robust option, as “the values of future decision-makers are arguably the most fundamental determinant of how the future will go, which suggests that improving those values is a good lever”.
This strategy of influencing future values can be viewed as a part of the broader proposed strategy of capacity building: capacity in a form of a "community interested in and knowledgeable about suffering reduction".
Another proposed strategy for reducing s-risks is improving politics and governance. The idea is that this could help society avoid harmful political and social dynamics, create better policies, and improve cooperation more generally. More specific examples of this strategy include screening out malevolent agents who run for public office, preventing excessive polarization, space governance, anti-totalitarian checks and balances, improving standards of political debate, and voting reform.
Given that s-risk is a new and unexplored area of research, researching s-risks may be a robust way to reduce s-risks. Such research could uncover currently unknown s-risks and risk factors and effective ways of reducing them. (Expanding the knowledge of how to best reduce suffering can be viewed as another aspect of capacity building.)
- David Pearce's answer to What does David Pearce think about S-risks (suffering risks)? on Quora
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- Tomasik, B. (2014/2018). Will Space Colonization Multiply Wild-Animal Suffering?
- Baumann, T. (2020). Reducing long-term risks from malevolent actors
- Baumann, T. (2017). A typology of s-risks
- Baumann, T. (2019). Risk factors for s-risks
- Pearce, D. (2014). High-tech Jainism
- Baumann, T. (2021). How can we reduce s-risks?
- Vinding, M. (2018). Moral Circle Expansion Might Increase Future Suffering
- Vinding, M. (2020). Suffering-Focused Ethics: Defense and Implications, 14.5
- Baumann, T. (2020). Space governance is important, tractable and neglected