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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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Engaging guide to humanity's future survival

How will our species survive and thrive? This is one of my favourite non-fiction reads to date. I love how Toby Ord leaves hype behind and uses sound reasoning to lay out the case for existential risk reduction. He has very strong arguments and a enjoyable writing style. He makes the case that existential risks are some of the the most important and neglected problems we face. He covers major risks from nuclear and biological weapons to climate change, pandemics, artificial intelligence, asteroid impacts, and more.

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Not much factual content

I felt like it was a bit of a philosophical attempt to feel good about things without much justification. The wild sci fi speculation about the future towards the end also missed the mark for me.

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A brilliantly crafted view of our potential

This author is capable of communicating the some very complex information in the most compelling way. I am equally trepidatious and hopeful of what the future holds.

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  • Ben West
  • 07-04-2020

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Cristi
  • 06-08-2020

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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  • Sahar
  • 22-10-2020

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-09-2020

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
  • 31-08-2020

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
  • 31-08-2020

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 21-08-2020

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
  • 09-08-2020

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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  • Ralph
  • 28-07-2020

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
  • 08-07-2020

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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  • Hauke Hillebrandt
  • 31-03-2020

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.

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  • Ahmet
  • 21-05-2020

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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  • Jo Pearson
  • 09-11-2020

A precise exploration of existential risks

A fascinating book on a heady subject. I find that authors occasionally struggle when trying to thread the needle between usefulness and accessability, but Ord has no such issues. This works' tone and flow resembles that of an extended essay, and this is a particularly masterful one. In terms of feel and clarity of thought, this book reminded me most of Enlightenment texts by the likes of Thomas Paine. Ord's language is always only as technical as it needs to be, but without ever becoming so oversimplified as to be patronising. Regarding the book's structure, approximately the first quarter of the book is concerned with setting out the exact parameters of this exploration of existential risk. The second and third quarters are concerned with the identity and likelihood of the risks themselves. The fourth quarter is concerned with what I can only describe as 'an appeal to a better future'. Perhaps it is because I am already overwhelmingly in agreement with Ord before starting this book, but this final set of chapters is much weaker and more speculative than those that preceded it, and is the only reason this book doesn't rate a perfect score from me. But overall, this is a supremely worthy text for anyone who is interested in humanity's long-term future. Listening to it gives one what you might describe as 'a heady dose of perspective', which is something we certainly need more of.

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  • Lauren Blunt
  • 09-09-2020

Very insightful

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

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-08-2020

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-07-2020

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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  • Amazon Customer
  • 17-07-2020

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-05-2020

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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  • Mr D
  • 05-05-2020

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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  • Jan Wyllie
  • 30-04-2020

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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