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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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facinating thesis but a touch repetitive

fascinating an important topic, thoroughly explored and well told, but the last few chapters were at times a bit repetitive. well worth a listen though and definitely worth acting on!

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very thought provoking

Well worth the read, albeit quite repetitive. Opens up new ways of thinking about humanity and our potential. highly recommended.

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Best book of 2020

An important message. Clearly written. Just the right level of detail.

Changed my prior beliefs on the probability of various existential risks.

Painted a picture for how unaligned AI can be dangerous to humanities future.

Forced me to contemplate the vastness of human potential.

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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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  • 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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  • 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.

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  • Chérie
  • 06-02-2021

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!

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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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  • Emerson
  • 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.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • The Bookie
  • 24-09-2021

Outstanding book on a critical topic

I'm not gonna lie... If you don't want to be disturbed, maybe even a little depressed, beware of this book. Its subject matter isn't exactly cheerful. And lets be honest, humanity is facing multiple potential existinction level threats, many of which are completely manmade, in the very near future. Other possible extinction threats are not driven by human action, though the risk may be mitigated with targeted and thoughtful action right now, before those threats can become imminent.

Regardless of the source of our possible demise, mankind is in the unique position to understand, to act, or to stick our heads in the proverbial sand and hope the Big Scary just goes away... Which is unlikely.

Toby Ord was at least prescient and cognizant enough of humanity's precarious position on the precipice of complete annihilation to analyze the statistical probability of each way we could feasibly kill ourselves off. I don't want to give it away, but let's just say his estimate of this probability in the next 100 years is astonishing... And dreadful.

So, you should read this book. If you have children or want to, read this book. If you merely care about mankind's future, read this book. Then take what you learn and put some effort towards preventing these contingencies. Please.

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  • Scott Lombardo
  • 17-07-2021

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
  • 10-07-2021

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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  • H
  • 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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • john
  • 04-08-2021

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-07-2021

Existential Risk

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

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-03-2021

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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Colin
  • 27-01-2021

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.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • JD
  • 18-11-2021

Mouth noise

One of those cases where a professional voice actor really would have been a good idea. If you are sensitive to mouth noise this is difficult to listen to. Some very interesting ideas, and a good introduction to existential risk studies for those unfamiliar with the field.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-09-2021

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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  • jellyberg
  • 02-09-2021

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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