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The Precipice

Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity
By: Toby Ord
Narrated by: Toby Ord
Length: 8 hrs and 13 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (76 ratings)

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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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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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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The future of humanity

A thoroughly researched and well argued work, brimming with information and insights. One of its most admirable qualities is that it is, quite deliberately, not the final word on the matter.

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The book for our time

This book presents us with a calling and exquisitely argues why we should take it up. To save humanity from losing its full potential in the eras to come is the primary goal of our time.

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Tour de Force!

Excellent survey of the threats to human survival and what could or should be done to counter them. And the final chapter is a lyrical inspiring clarion call as to why humanity needs s grand strategy to maximise its potential.

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A neglected story, an inspiring framing

Subject: the past, present and future (maybe) of humanity/earth-based life. Contents: profound insights, thoroughly researched ideas, transparent reasoning, thoughtful conclusions; a compelling story and vision for humanity. Significance: simultaneously obvious and profound; a clear statement of ideas with huge importance and universal appeal; ideas which are currently shockingly neglected.

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Long Term Thinking

Where are we heading? Towards a grim fate of AI or Nuclear Holocaust? Or into the vastness of space and a trillion years of exploration and development. We may never know, but the future of humanity will.

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Pure silliness

Look around. The future is fantasy. The planet is fast becoming uninhabitable. It's grand plans like this for the future which brought us down.

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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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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-09-20

Beautifully written and narrated.

Toby Ord is an amazing writer and narrator! I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook.

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  • Emerson Spartz
  • 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.

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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.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

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  • Adam Brown
  • 09-08-20

Existential risk and exponential opportunity

An excellent introduction. Not as in depth, but more accessible, than “global existential risks”. 5 stars.

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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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  • Ralph
  • 28-07-20

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
  • 08-07-20

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
  • 04-07-20

Rquired reading for all citizens of the cosmos!

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