The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity

Toby Ord (Author)


From a leading philosopher, an urgent and eye-opening book that makes the case that safeguarding humanity from extinction is the central challenge of our time.
From nuclear war and climate change to AI and synthetic biology, the risk of human extinction during this century is frighteningly high. Reducing these risks should be the top global priority-but it isn't. Bringing together key scientific evidence and insight from the humanities, Toby Ord, University of Oxford professor and advisor to the World Bank, U.S. National Security Council, and other global organizations, provides novel tools and concrete strategies for making the largest possible difference in saving our species.

The moral argument is simple: society has begun to value diversity across a wide array of genders, races, religions, and sexual orientations, and the Western world is beginning to see the injustice of devaluing those who live in distant countries as well. The next step is to recognize the equality of people distant from us in time-the millions of future generations that should follow our own. The value of many trillions of lives, billions of years of civilization, and untold heights of flourishing and achievement dramatically increases the stakes of existential risks. To destroy such a future would break the partnership across the generations that has raised the human project up to its current heights; it would betray the collective virtues of our civilization; and it might even eliminate the only part of the universe that will ever be capable of appreciating its wonders.

Despite the daunting stakes we face, The Precipice resists doom and gloom: Ord's style and message are optimistic, and the book is animated by an inspiring vision of our vast potential.

Product Details

Price: $30.00  $27.00
Publisher: Hachette Books
Published Date: March 24, 2020
Pages: 480
Dimensions: 6.2 X 1.7 X 9.1 inches | 1.5 pounds
ISBN: 9780316484916
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Toby Ord is a philosopher at Oxford University, working on the big picture questions facing humanity. His earlier work explored the ethics of global poverty, leading him to make a lifelong pledge to donate 10% of his income to the most effective charities helping improve the world. He created a society, Giving What We Can, for people to join this mission, and together its members have pledged over $1.5 billion. He then broadened these ideas by co-founding the Effective Altruism movement in which thousands of people are using reason and evidence to help the lives of others as much as possible. His current research is on risks that threaten human extinction or the permanent collapse of civilization, and on how to safeguard humanity through these dangers, which he considers to be among the most pressing and neglected issues we face. Toby has advised the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the US National Intelligence Council, and the UK Prime Minister's Office.


"The Precipice separates science from hype and will remain the definitive work on existential risk for a long time to come."--Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0 and Our Mathematical Universe
"A powerfully-argued book that alerts us to what is perhaps the most important-and yet also most neglected-problem we will ever face."--Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation and The Life You Can Save
"This book is a wake-up call to the existential threats of nuclear and biological weapons and the urgent need for action. A must-read that galvanizes us to play a role in addressing these risks."
--Angela Kane, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
"A fascinating and persuasive guide to the most important topic of all: how our species will survive the risks we pose to our continued existence."--Stuart Russell, author of Human Compatible and Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
"Toby Ord is today's Carl Sagan. Clear and inspiring, this book leaves us hopeful for a flourishing human future."--Christine Peterson, co-founder of the Foresight Institute
"The Precipice is a fascinating book, one that showcases both the knowledge of its author and his humanity."--Bryan Walsh, Axios
"Splendid....The Precipice is a powerful book, written with a philosopher's eye for counterarguments so that he can meet them in advance. And Ord's love for humanity and hope for its future is infectious, as is his horrified wonder at how close we have come to destroying it."--The Spectator
"Many people have recently found that they want to read books offering the grandest perspectives possible on human existence, such as Sapiens . . . Toby Ord's new book is a startling and rigorous contribution to this genre that deserves to be just as widely read."--Evening Standard