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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.
"A book that seems made for the present moment." —New Yorker
About the Author
Toby Ord is a philosopher at Oxford University, working on the big picture questions facing humanity. His earlier work explored the ethics of global poverty, leading him to make a lifelong pledge to donate 10% of his income to the most effective charities helping improve the world. He created a society, Giving What We Can, for people to join this mission, and together its members have pledged over $1.5 billion. He then broadened these ideas by co-founding the Effective Altruism movement in which thousands of people are using reason and evidence to help the lives of others as much as possible. His current research is on risks that threaten human extinction or the permanent collapse of civilization, and on how to safeguard humanity through these dangers, which he considers to be among the most pressing and neglected issues we face. Toby has advised the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the US National Intelligence Council, and the UK Prime Minister's Office.
"A book that seems made for the present moment."
"A powerfully-argued book that alerts us to what is perhaps the most important-and yet also most neglected-problem we will ever face."
—Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation and The Life You Can Save
"The Precipice may be the Silent Spring that the futurists have been waiting for."—Los Angeles Review of Books
"The Precipice separates science from hype and will remain the definitive work on existential risk for a long time to come."—Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0 and Our Mathematical Universe
"The Precipice is a fascinating book, one that showcases both the knowledge of its author and his humanity."—Bryan Walsh, Axios
"This book is a wake-up call to the existential threats of nuclear and biological weapons and the urgent need for action. A must-read that galvanizes us to play a role in addressing these risks." —Angela Kane, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
"A fascinating and persuasive guide to the most important topic of all: how our species will survive the risks we pose to our continued existence."
—Stuart Russell, author of Human Compatible and Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
"Toby Ord is today's Carl Sagan. Clear and inspiring, this book leaves us hopeful for a flourishing human future."
—Christine Peterson, co-founder of the Foresight Institute
"Splendid....The Precipice is a powerful book, written with a philosopher's eye for counterarguments so that he can meet them in advance. And Ord's love for humanity and hope for its future is infectious, as is his horrified wonder at how close we have come to destroying it."—The Spectator
"Many people have recently found that they want to read books offering the grandest perspectives possible on human existence, such as Sapiens . . . Toby Ord's new book is a startling and rigorous contribution to this genre that deserves to be just as widely read."—Evening Standard
"Ord's map of the existential risk landscape is an engaging read for anyone who wants to learn more about this important and interdisciplinary research."
"Ord's analysis of the science is exemplary . . . Thrillingly written"