Future Proof

The opportunity to transform the UK's resilience to extreme risks

Co-authored by Toby Ord, author of The Precipice

June 2021

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Image by ActionVance

"This should be required reading for policymakers at all levels."
- Sir Oliver Letwin

A Rare Opportunity to 
Transform our Resilience

Out of the wreckage of the Second World War, the UK transformed itself. It rebuilt its shattered economy. It founded the NHS. And it helped ensure the world would never endure a tragedy on this scale again.

 

Another opportunity for transformative change may now be upon us. As the UK begins to emerge from Covid-19, we have a similar opportunity to that which existed in 1945. 

 

We must use this opportunity to become a global leader in ensuring long-term resilience to extreme risks. 

 

We do not know which extreme risk event will come next - it might be another pandemic, or it might be something completely different. But we do know what many of the most extreme risks are, and how best to prepare for them. This report offers a roadmap for how to do just that - it provides an insurance policy for Britain against the biggest threats we face. 

Read our report 

Key recommendations

A roadmap for UK biosecurity

Level of current UK Government focus: Amber / Red

  • Task one body with UK preparedness for full range of biological threats

  • £3 million clinical metagenomics prize

  • New Biosecurity Leadership Council

  • Screen all DNA synthesis for dangerous pathogens

  • Regulate DNA synthesis machines

Level of current UK Government focus: Amber 

A roadmap for responsible
AI development

  • Improve foresight and progress tracking in AI research

  • Bring more tech expertise into Government

  • Do not incorporate AI into NC3

  • Throughout-lifetime stress-testing of computer and AI system security 

  • Update MoD's definition of 'lethal autonomous weapons'

A roadmap to improve UK management of extreme risks

Level of current UK Government focus: Amber

  • Ensure the NSRA focuses on extreme risks

  • Apply the ‘three lines of defence’ model to Government risk management, and install a Chief Risk Officer

  • Lead global resilience to all extreme risks, not just pandemics

  • Normalise red-teaming in Government

  • Revise the Green Book’s discount rate

  • Protect UK defence systems from emerging threats

  • Increase the electrical grid's resilience

A research roadmap to boost resilience to extreme risks

Level of current UK Government focus: Amber / Green

  • Set up a compute fund for AI safety, security, and alignment research

  • Invest further in AI safety

  • Invest further in applied biosecurity R&D

  • Increased caution before undertaking 'gain of function' research

  • Improve long-term forecasting and planning techniques

Summary of Future Proof