Memia by Ben Reid
Memia Podcasts
Memia podcast #3: Matt Boyd on global catastrophic and existential risks

Memia podcast #3: Matt Boyd on global catastrophic and existential risks

All the fun topics: pandemics, nuclear winters, unaligned AI and Aotearoa as island refuge.

I'm delighted to share another (occasional!) Memia podcast - a series of conversations with New Zealanders doing amazing work interpreting and shaping the future.

In this episode I speak with Matt Boyd, director of New Zealand-based firm Adapt Research - Matt is one of Aotearoa’s leading experts focusing on the *BIG Questions* around catastrophic and existential risks for humanity.

In this conversation we spend just over an hour discussing these major risks: ranging through new pandemics, asteroid impacts, nuclear winters and all the way to unaligned artificial intelligence. We also go into the challenges of making this relevant for Aotearoa and Matt's proposals to establish a new government role - a Parliamentary Commissioner for extreme risks.

Matt is a regular correspondent of mine when I’m writing the Memia newsletter and we have also worked together on a few research projects, most notably Te Kahui Atamai Iahiko o Aotearoa / AI Forum NZ’s series of research reports on national AI policy and AI in Health back in 2019.

I really value Matt's insights on some of the biggest questions facing humanity today — and by extension all of us living here in Aotearoa — I hope you enjoy the conversation!

Listen to the audio-only podcast above or watch the whole recording on YouTube here:

Matt’s bio

Originally medically trained, Matt Boyd completed his PhD in Philosophy from Victoria University of Wellington, with his thesis titled: "As We Build our World We Build our Minds: The Causal Role of Technology in the Development and Evolution of Human Psychological Traits".

He's since built a career as an independent researcher spanning academic, public and private sectors. For the last five years Matt's research has attempted to understand and help reduce the largest threats to humanity, global catastrophic and existential risks.

Contact Matt



Twitter: @matt_adapt

Episode Links

Mentioned during the podcast:

Also further relevant reading just out:

Matt's writing:

Podcast outline:

Recorded: May 18th, 2022

01:28 Matt's career progression

04:10 What are the top 10 existential risks facing humanity in 2022?

07:04 Risks and impacts of nuclear winter

10:52 Environmental risks and ecological collapse

12:32 Ecological resilience theory

14:00 Eocene extinction event

15:02 Asteroid impacts

15:30 Becoming an interplanetary species

16:50 Matt's current work - pandemic planning

20:16 Pandemic border closures -"Hermit Kingdom" strategy?

22:50 Island refuges

28:30 Aotearoa government and managing national risks

31:40 Proposal for a Parliamentary Commissioner for extreme risks

35:00 Looking after the interests of future generations

37:00 The Effective Altruism movement / ITN Framework

40:00 "Moral cluelessness"

41:30 "Homo Capitalus"

43:30 S-Risks - intense future suffering

43:50 Prepping

48:15 Unaligned AI / killer robots / evolutionary equilibria?

51:00 Misinformation / Disinformation - "Cascade of Doubt", "The Flume"

55:20 Ben is Matt's "Editor": "I doomscroll through Twitter 5 hours a day so you don't have to"

56:10 "Dark forests" instead of the public internet

57:00 Web3, decentralised architectures cryptocurrencies

59:00 National "business continuity" strategic planning

1:03:00 Aotearoa's obligation to humanity to be an island refuge

Memia by Ben Reid
Memia Podcasts
Conversations about emerging tech and the future with leading technologists and innovators.