[Question] Do we know how many big asteroids could impact Earth?


Will MacAskill dis­cussing as­ter­oids with Joe Ro­gan, start­ing around 1:24:00 in this record­ing

Ro­gan: When you think about how big that thing was, that kil­led the dinosaurs 65 mil­lion years ago, and that there are hun­dreds of thou­sands of those things float­ing around in space.
MacAskill: I was ask­ing some peo­ple at NASA, just two days ago ac­tu­ally, how many of them we’ve man­aged to iden­tify – cause they’re se­ri­ous about scan­ning the skies to find them all…
I thought we had it cov­ered. I thought this was some­thing where NASA was like “Yeah yeah, we know where all the earth-kil­lers are.”
And their re­sponse was like “No, we have no idea. We don’t know how many of them are out there, and so we don’t know [what pro­por­tion] we’ve man­aged to track.”

That was in 2017. It cuts against this 2013 Open Phil re­port (a) which states:

Un­like other GCRs (e.g., nu­clear war), as­ter­oid risk is ex­tremely quan­tifi­able: sci­en­tists have es­ti­mated the num­ber and size of near-earth as­ter­oids and are able to track how many have been dis­cov­ered.

I’m in­clined to fol­low MacAskill here, as the Open Phil in­ves­ti­ga­tion is based on pub­lic sources and NASA may have in­cen­tive to over­state their han­dle on the prob­lem in pub­lic-fac­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

But I haven’t looked into this closely. Has any­one in EA thought about as­ter­oid risk, re­cently?

(It looks like this isn’t to­tally ne­glected – the B612 Foun­da­tion was set up to “to pro­tect Earth from as­ter­oid im­pacts.” I haven’t poked them enough to know how good their stuff is.)

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