Sentinel minutes for week #21/2024


Forecasters did not anticipate events spiraling into global catastrophes this week.



Russia began its tactical nuclear weapons drills close to the Ukraine border. Forecasters previously noted that Russia was planning to do this in response to the possibility of France sending troops to Ukraine.

Russia indicated that it no longer respects the maritime borders of Finland and Lithuania, but later backtracked. This was highlighted by most of our forecasters, but the probability of an armed conflict between Russia and one of the Baltic states or Finland remains exceedingly low.

Ukraine has called on the US to allow it to use American weapons to strike targets inside Russia. The US, fearing escalation (up to and including the use of a nuclear device), has so far prevented Ukraine from doing so. Conditional on Ukraine being allowed to use these weapons, one forecaster thinks that the probability of a Russian offensive nuclear detonation is less than 3% within 12 months.

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Western military trainers would “eventually” be sent to train Ukrainian troops on Ukrainian soil. Forecasters highlighted similar discussions within EU circles last week.

Novo Nordisk, which makes the weight loss drug Ozempic, suffered two fires within a couple of weeks. In the context of potential sabotage events across Europe, forecasters considered the possibility that Russia could be behind these fires, though they ultimately thought it was more likely than not to be a coincidence.

The populist right is expected to gain seats in the European Parliament elections that are to be held in June, though forecasters think there is around a 95% chance that the center-right grouping (the EPP) wins the most seats.


China has been holding military drills around Taiwan following the inauguration of the new Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te. Forecasters think that these drills are significant in that they simulated an invasion of the island (as opposed to a blockade) for the first time. One forecaster increased their forecast of an invasion or blockade of Taiwan by China to around 10% for 2024 (from around 8%), while another remained at 10%.

On a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Polymarket went as high as 17%, and is now at 14%—this reflects both a real jump, but is mediated by the dynamics of its market maker: it might not be profitable for participants to correct the probability, particularly since the market only resolves at the end of the year.

ASML and TSMC, which are key companies involved in semiconductor chip manufacturing, say that they can disable chip machines if China invades Taiwan. Forecasters saw this as an attempt to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, with the companies assuming that the island’s chip manufacturing capacity is a significant part of why China wants to control Taiwan.

A man who was charged with spying for China was found dead in a park in Berkshire, England. However, given that he had attempted to take his own life six days earlier, forecasters accepted the police claim that the death was not suspicious.

US officials are warning companies like Meta and Google about vulnerabilities in the undersea cables that carry internet traffic in the Pacific Ocean. In particular, Chinese repair ships have been found to intermittently hide their locations from tracking services, raising suspicions that sabotage could be conducted.

Cyber and nuclear defense

The US Environmental Protection Agency has warned that cyberattacks on water utilities in the country are becoming more frequent and more severe. They cite China, Russia and Iran as the perpetrators.

The US plans to boost output of bombs that can damage or destroy underground nuclear facilities. The bombs will be produced by an ammunition plant in southeast Oklahoma and could be used to target underground nuclear facilities in Iran and North Korea.


The number of dairy farms in the US in which H5N1 bird flu has been found keeps going up. H5N1 risks from cattle infections are not going away.

A dairy farm worker in Michigan was diagnosed with H5N1 bird flu. The farm worker was exposed to infected cows, had a mild disease course and has recovered. The virus that infected this case did not have a mutation (PB2 E627K) found in the previous human case but did have one other mutation (PB2 M631L) that is associated with mammalian adaptation and is also found in most cattle cases.

A study has shown that mice that drank raw milk containing H5N1 virus (naturally, from an infected cow) became infected with the virus. The H5N1 virus was also detected in muscle tissue – aka meat – from a dairy cow that had been slaughtered. The meat did not enter the food supply because inspectors at a meat packing plant found signs of illness in the cow carcass and rejected it.

A child in Australia was found to have H5N1 bird flu but had no known exposure. Cases with no known exposures can be – but are not necessarily – harbingers of human-to-human transmission; however, no forward transmission from this child has been seen. According to ProMED, “Interview with the child’s family has been unable to identify a clear acquisition source, with the child having no interaction with birds, animals or sick human contacts either in India or Australia, and no geographic or epidemiological links to any of the previously isolated homologous cases. There was also no known consumption of undercooked poultry or meat products during the acquisition period.”

Brazil surpassed 5M cases of dengue, and 3K deaths, this year.


Anthropic released a significant paper on interpretability. Forecasters thought it was significant because it was the first detailed look inside a modern, advanced model and because it presented AI safety work in an engaging and accessible format. It did not materially alter forecasters’ p(doom).

The EU Council passed the Artificial Intelligence Act. It might result in a Brussels effect, as its legislation might affect companies beyond Europe’s borders if they have a presence in Europe.

Scroll to Top