SJ Beard; Rachel Bronson

Published On


Page Range

pp. 1–26


  • English

Print Length

26 pages

1. A Brief History of Existential Risk and the People Who Worked to Mitigate It

This chapter explores the history of Existential Risk Studies through the stories of people who have sought to understand and avert threats like nuclear weapons, environmental breakdown, and disruptive technologies over the last seventy-five years. It offers new perspectives to people working on reducing existential risks today, from politicians to activists or academics, so that we can “turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock”.


SJ Beard

Academic Programme Manager and Senior Research Associate at Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

SJ Beard is an Academic Programme Manager and Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. They work across CSER’s research projects, including foundational research on the ethics of human extinction; developing methods to study extreme, low probability, and unprecedented events; understanding and addressing the constraints that prevent decision-makers taking action to keep us safe; and building existential hope in the possibility of safe, joyous, and inclusive futures for human beings on planet earth. They have a PhD in Philosophy and an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics. As well as research, SJ has extensive experience across politics and policy-making, including as a researcher in the UK parliament, think tanks, and NGOs. They have taught moral and political philosophy and provide mentorship and supervision through Magnify Mentoring and the Effective Thesis Project.

Rachel Bronson


Rachel Bronson is the President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. She oversees the publishing programmes, management of the Doomsday Clock, and a growing set of activities around nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive technologies. Before joining the Bulletin, Bronson served as the vice president of studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and taught “Global Energy” at the Kellogg School of Management. Prior to moving to Chicago, she worked at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Columbia University. Rachel’s writings have appeared in publications such as Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Chicago Tribune. She has appeared as a commentator on numerous radio and television outlets, including National Public Radio, CNN, Al Jazeera, the Yomiuri Shimbun, “PBS NewsHour,” and “The Daily Show.” She has also testified before the congressional Task Force on Anti-Terrorism and Proliferation Financing, Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, and the 9/11 Commission. Her book, Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia, was published by Oxford University Press.