Visiting Scholars

In collaboration with the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative (SERI), STS hosts postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars in a variety of fields with a research and teaching focus on mitigating existential or global catastrophic risks. Visiting scholars and postdocs teach STS courses centered on existential risk reduction, pursue their independent research agendas, and collaborate with and contribute to SERI programming. 

SERI is a collaboration between Stanford faculty and students dedicated to mitigating existential risks, such as extreme climate change, nuclear winter, global pandemics (and other risks from synthetic biology), and risks from advanced artificial intelligence. The goal of the initiative is to foster engagement from both within and beyond the Stanford community to produce meaningful work aiming to preserve the future of humanity. SERI aims to provide skill-building, networking, professional pathways, and community for students and faculty interested in existential risk reduction. Current SERI programs include mentored summer research fellowships, an annual conference, speaker events and workshops, discussion groups, and a COLLEGE class (Preventing Human Extinction) taught annually by the initiative's faculty directors, Steve Luby and Paul Edwards.

Learn more about SERI Postdoctoral Fellowships and how to apply

Trond Undheim

Trond Undheim

Research Scholar, SERI

Trond is a futurist, scholar, podcaster, venture partner, nonresident Fellow at the Atlantic Council, co-founder of Yegii, and Lead Ecosystem evangelist at Tulip. He formerly worked with MIT, WPP, Oracle, and the EU. He’s a co-author (with Natan Linder) of Augmented Lean (Wiley 2022), an author of Health Tech (Routledge 2021), Future Tech (Kogan Page 2021), Pandemic Aftermath (Atmosphere Press 2020), Disruption Games (Atmosphere Press 2020), and Leadership From Below (Lulu Press 2008). In addition, he hosts two podcasts, Augmented and Futurized, and is a Forbes columnist. He holds a Ph.D. on the future of work and artificial intelligence. His current role at Stanford is Research Scholar in Global Systemic Risk, Innovation, and Policy, affiliated with the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative (SERI) at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).  See Trond's Stanford Profile

Trond will be teaching STS 156: The Future of Global Systemic Risk in the Winter 2023.

Daniel Zimmer

Dan Zimmer

Postdoctoral Fellow, SERI

Dan Zimmer is a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative. He holds a BA in the history of science from the New School, an MA in social science from the University of Chicago, and a PhD in political theory from Cornell University. His research draws on these fields to conduct a comparative study of anthropogenic existential risks to human survival (X-risk), taking the perils posed by thermonuclear weapons, cascading ecological collapse, and artificial intelligence as cases. In doing so, it pays particular attention to how scientific developments have transformed both how these risks are understood and what counts as ‘human.’ His dissertation was one of the first studies to trace the influence of X-risk on the development of Western political thought, identifying a previously overlooked legacy of rethinking fundamental political concepts such as the nature of freedom and the limits of universalism by thinkers such as Bertrand Russell, Karl Jaspers, Hannah Arendt, Jonathan Schell, and Michel Foucault in light of what the last of these termed ‘the power to kill life itself.’

His ongoing research explores how understandings of X-risk have developed in dialogue with the entwined cybernetics, systems, and information theoretic revolutions of the mid-twentieth century and their continuing legacies. It focuses in particular on tracing the conceptual consequences of a growing divide between those who turned outward and applied these powerful new tools to study the environment and those who turned inward to study the mind: the former giving rise to systems ecology, Earth System science, and contemporary discussions of the Anthropocene; the latter launching cognitive science, artificial intelligence research, and the field of X-risk studies as it has developed since the early 2000s. His working hypothesis is that the Anthropos of the Earth System Anthropocene and the substrate agnostic ‘humanity’ of X-risk research hubs such as Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute are categorically distinct and each inspire starkly conflicting sets of political priorities. The book manuscript in progress seeks to develop several conceptual tools to help bridge this divide. See Dan's Stanford Profile

Dan will be teaching STS 158: The Science and Politics of Apocalypse in the Spring 2023.