Sharing resources and Sharing Risk: Lessons from Small-scale Societies and Biological Collectives about How to Manage Catastrophic Risk
Abstract: Humans have had to grapple with challenges including infectious diseases, famines, environmental changes, wars, and other sources of catastrophic risk throughout our evolutionary history as a species. Managing these risks effectively requires strategies including risk retention, risk avoidance, risk reduction and risk transfer. Risk transfer (also called risk sharing) is the only risk management strategy which is obligately social, requiring formal or informal relationships among actors to take on a portion of each other’s risk, essentially insuring one another. In this talk, I will discuss risk sharing and resource sharing across the societies that we study in The Human Generosity Project, drawing from fieldwork, computational modeling and laboratory experiments to understand the structure and function of risk sharing arrangements in small-scale societies. Scaling up social risk sharing for dealing with the massive, wicked, and multidimensional problems of today will require creative solutions, broad interdisciplinary cooperation, and an appreciation of the fundamental interdependence that underlies our collective futures.
About the Speaker: Athena Aktipis is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University and co-Director of The Cooperation Science Network and The Human Generosity Project. She studies cooperation across systems from human sharing to cancer. She is the founder of Zombified Media; host of the podcast, Zombified, and author of the book from Princeton University Press, The Cheating Cell: How evolution helps us understand and treat cancer. When COVID-19 was on the verge of becoming a pandemic, she started the Cooperation in the Apocalypse project to better understand how crises affect cooperation, interdependence and other social behaviors. She is passionate about building interdisciplinary teams to tackle tough questions, empowering students to learn about the topics they are most curious about, and leveraging cooperation theory to improve our universities and the broader communities in which we are all embedded.