The Precipice: ‘A book that seems made for the present moment’ New Yorker

· Bloomsbury Publishing
5 reviews

About this ebook

What existential threats does humanity face? And how can we secure our future?

The Precipice is a powerful book . . . Ord's love for humanity and hope for its future is infectious' Spectator
'Ord's analysis of the science is exemplary . . . Thrillingly written'
Sunday Times

We live during the most important era of human history. In the twentieth century, we developed the means to destroy ourselves – without developing the moral framework to ensure we won't. This is the Precipice, and how we respond to it will be the most crucial decision of our time.

Oxford moral philosopher Toby Ord explores the risks to humanity's future, from the familiar man-made threats of climate change and nuclear war, to the potentially greater, more unfamiliar threats from engineered pandemics and advanced artificial intelligence.

With clear and rigorous thinking, Ord calculates the various risk levels, and shows how our own time fits within the larger story of human history. We can say with certainty that the novel coronavirus does not pose such a risk. But could the next pandemic? And what can we do, in our present moment, to face the risks head on?

A major work that brings together the disciplines of physics, biology, earth and computer science, history, anthropology, statistics, international relations, political science and moral philosophy, The Precipice is a call for a new understanding of our age: a major reorientation in the way we see the world, our history, and the role we play in it.

Ratings and reviews

5 reviews
Michael Aird
March 30, 2020
This book tackles one of the most important issues of our time, and does so excellently. The book is accessible for those new to the topic of existential risks, while also being packed with new and often surprising facts and insights for those more familiar with the topic. Additionally, Ord manages to make a topic that can sometimes feel somewhat distant and abstract instead feel immediate and vivid, and to write surprisingly poetically without sacrificing hard-headed, nuanced analysis. And it is clear throughout that this is not a book about how we will inevitably perish, or about how barren the future will be. Instead, this is a book about what we can do to ensure we succeed, why it's so important that we do those things to succeed, and how vast, breathtaking, and literally marvellous our success could be.
3 people found this review helpful

About the author

Toby Ord is a moral philosopher focusing on the big picture questions facing humanity. Born in Australia, he is a Senior Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. He is the founder of Giving What We Can and co-founder of the Effective Altruism movement, which has raised more than a hundred million pounds for some of the world's most deserving causes. In 2020, alongside Shonda Rimes, Kanye West and JK Rowling, he was included on the Financial Times's 'the good list', which highlights the work of the world's ten most inspiring philanthropists. He has also advised DeepMind, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the US National Intelligence Council and the UK Prime Minister's Office, among others. He lives in Oxford.

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