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The Precipice

Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity
Written by: Toby Ord
Narrated by: Toby Ord
Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
5 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This urgent and eye-opening book makes the case that protecting humanity's future is the central challenge of our time.

If all goes well, human history is just beginning. Our species could survive for billions of years - enough time to end disease, poverty, and injustice, and to flourish in ways unimaginable today. But this vast future is at risk. With the advent of nuclear weapons, humanity entered a new age, where we face existential catastrophes - those from which we could never come back. Since then, these dangers have only multiplied, from climate change to engineered pathogens and artificial intelligence. If we do not act fast to reach a place of safety, it will soon be too late.

Drawing on over a decade of research, The Precipice explores the cutting-edge science behind the risks we face. It puts them in the context of the greater story of humanity: showing how ending these risks is among the most pressing moral issues of our time. And it points the way forward, to the actions and strategies that can safeguard humanity.

An Oxford philosopher committed to putting ideas into action, Toby Ord has advised the US National Intelligence Council, the UK Prime Minister's Office, and the World Bank on the biggest questions facing humanity. In The Precipice, he offers a startling reassessment of human history, the future we are failing to protect, and the steps we must take to ensure that our generation is not the last. 

©2020 Toby Ord (P)2020 Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Precipice

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Excellent assessment of humanity's greatest risks

The author does an excellent job explaining the major existential risks to humanity and offers solutions and actionable steps people can make at all levels of involvement.

We have a lot of power but we often lack the wisdom to use it well. I would go so far as to say that this should be mandatory reading for anyone involved in making decisions that impact humanity at large.

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  • Ben West
  • 2020-04-07

Good summary of long-term risks

Good overview and introduction to long-term risks facing humanity. It balances accurate summaries of the problem with optimistic and hopeful outlooks for the future, as well as things readers can do to improve the likelihood that the future is positive.

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  • Cristi
  • 2020-08-06

The 80000hours website is better

TLDR; First of all, it should've been 3 chapters instead of 14. Second, if you like statistics and probably this book is for you. If not, just read the 80000hours website because it has better resources and you can skip the boring parts.

My reasoning for giving it 4 stars:
The author has great advice and there is no dough about it. But let's take the example of climate change.
If you take a city that is in extreme poverty, how do you transform that city into a modern one without the downsides of a modem society... so without contributing to climate change in the process. All cities, big or small, struggle with this.
If you think about it, even making solar panels (green tech) contributes a little to climate change when making the components, etc.
There are many more topics besides climate change, so you can imagine whatever example you want, even AI misalignment if you like.
But with that example in mind, my point is... I get it! Things are bad and modern society is a "work in progress" mess to say the least. We can do better on all fronts.
So, I would've loved a book that talks about solutions and the 80000hours website has super awesome advice on that for free.

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  • Ralph
  • 2020-07-28

Informative

Great read. This book is a great reminder to all of us - especially for those who hold powerful positions, those who are intellectuals and visionaries, those who are well-off to understand their roles and behaviors they play in the world and the ecosystems.

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  • Roberto Guidetti
  • 2020-07-08

Mind opening

Thanks to the author for disrupting current context of short termism and parochialism and remind us of the big picture and its appeal if we get our act together.

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  • Greg Stanley
  • 2020-07-04

Rquired reading for all citizens of the cosmos!

The topics in this book are the most important to contemplate. Wake up and live!

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  • JHK
  • 2020-06-01

Important Message

Through thoroughly expressed conceptual explanation, Ord paints a picture both terrifying and optimistic. I came away much more aware, yet viewing that awareness with absolute belief that the human experience can face those challenges effectively.

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  • Ofer
  • 2020-04-09

Fascinating and inspiring

A fascinating, thought-provoking and inspiring book about the biggest risks that humanity may face, and the incredible amount of influence that people alive today have over the fate of all future life in our galaxy and beyond.