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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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If you just read one book this year make it this.

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in philosophy, ethics, and effective altruism. very well written and carefully argued. A must read.

2 people found this helpful

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Broad and deep assessment of existential risks

Excellent analysis and thorough understanding of megatrends. Unusual in appraising each with statistical rigour leading to recommendations and actions we should take.

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Hope for humanity

Worth a couple of careful listens and very thought provoking. If we can survive our own stupidity we might enjoy the future. Very good and nicely narrated too.

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Very insightful

I would definitely recommend this book. Really eye opening and insightful. Something everyone should read.

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ethics, technology and our future

Loved how author structured the book. you may say "wow" while listening about very detailed thoughts and ideas about our future.

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Don't buy it

Monotonous reading of an uninspiring story. No revolutionary ideas on the topic. Better read something by Nick Bostrom.

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An immensely important book

Toby Ord lays out, elegantly, carefully, and passionately, the case for not safeguarding our future being a critical priority, and some steps towards how we do it.

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Existential Risk

Interesting but repetitive, interesting but repetitive, interesting but repetitive. This is the format of the book.

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A book everyone should read

I was aware of a good bit of the content already from different books hit it didn't substract from this at all. The author does a fantastic job at bringing all the elements into a common currency, so you can clearly see and compare the different risks we face. What I enjoyed even more was the picture he paints of our potential, the possibility of our nearly endless discovery of the cosmos and the near infinity we have to do it, if we don't f**k up right now.

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Most of this I considered a given anyway.

Risk vs impact analysis
We should focus more on global disasters but we won't because we think in the short term.

There really wasn't much I this book if you've considered these ideas before.

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  • Cristi
  • 06-08-20

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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  • Ben West
  • 07-04-20

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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  • Chérie
  • 06-02-21

Future of hamanity

Such a wonderful thought provoking book, I am recommending it to everyone I know and don’t know - we as humans need to focus more on what actions mean for tomorrow. Toby Ord provides the science, history, and facts to steer us on a path to be better!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Sahar
  • 22-10-20

A necessary book/audio book

We need to know where we are heading in our 200,000 years journey. This book is the answer to our question regarding what would happen to humanity if we continue negligence in our affairs. Read it and pass it to your loved ones. Better to know and take action to save humanity. It’s a moral obligation to spread wisdom.

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  • Emerson
  • 31-08-20

Inspiring, important, and well written book

Exceptional book about an issue that has an excellent case for being the most important topic of our times. I can't recommend it highly enough.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 31-08-20

A Rare Find

This is one of those rare kinds of book that will shift your perspective on how you view the world, and hopefully, shift your behavior as well. A must read for those who believe there is great purpose to be found in our lives.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 21-08-20

Been waiting for this my whole life

Very good, realistic and hopeful. It was a great inspiration for me to actually do something about these big and very important problems.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Scott Lombardo
  • 17-07-21

Thought provoking study of human potential.

I’d recommend this book to anyone capable and interested in exploring future human potential. It considers humanity’s future risks, controllable and uncontrollable.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-07-21

Great book! Great as an audiobook too

It’s an eye opening book, even if you don’t buy 100% of the arguments. Love the discussion of pandemics (scarier than you’d expect), nuclear winters (less scary than you’d expect), and more!

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  • Matthew Parrish
  • 09-02-21

Excellent considerations

This book presents some very interesting considerations for the risks humanity faces but also presents the potential of humanity in the long term. I highly recommend it.