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Anthropic Shadow: Observation Selection Effects and Human Extinction Risks


Address correspondence to M. M. Ćirković, Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade, Volgina 7, 11160 Belgrade-74, Serbia; tel: +381-11-3089079; fax: +381-11-2419553;


We describe a significant practical consequence of taking anthropic biases into account in deriving predictions for rare stochastic catastrophic events. The risks associated with catastrophes such as asteroidal/cometary impacts, supervolcanic episodes, and explosions of supernovae/gamma-ray bursts are based on their observed frequencies. As a result, the frequencies of catastrophes that destroy or are otherwise incompatible with the existence of observers are systematically underestimated. We describe the consequences of this anthropic bias for estimation of catastrophic risks, and suggest some directions for future work.