Field-building and the epistemic culture of AI safety


  • Shazeda Ahmed
  • Klaudia Jaźwińska
  • Archana Ahlawat
  • Amy Winecoff
  • Mona Wang



The emerging field of “AI safety” has attracted public attention and large infusions of capital to support its implied promise: the ability to deploy advanced artificial intelligence (AI) while reducing its gravest risks. Ideas from effective altruism, longtermism, and the study of existential risk are foundational to this new field. In this paper, we contend that overlapping communities interested in these ideas have merged into what we refer to as the broader “AI safety epistemic community,” which is sustained through its mutually reinforcing community-building and knowledge production practices. We support this assertion through an analysis of four core sites in this community’s epistemic culture: 1) online community-building through Web forums and career advising; 2) AI forecasting; 3) AI safety research; and 4) prize competitions. The dispersal of this epistemic community’s members throughout the tech industry, academia, and policy organizations ensures their continued input into global discourse about AI. Understanding the epistemic culture that fuses their moral convictions and knowledge claims is crucial to evaluating these claims, which are gaining influence in critical, rapidly changing debates about the harms of AI and how to mitigate them.




How to Cite

Ahmed, S., Jaźwińska, K., Ahlawat, A., Winecoff, A., & Wang, M. (2024). Field-building and the epistemic culture of AI safety. First Monday, 29(4).