Humanity stands at a precipice.
We live at a time of unprecedented innovation. Technology is accelerating faster than at any point in history, granting us ever greater power, and creating ever greater risk. In the twentieth century, we developed the means to destroy ourselves – without developing the moral framework to ensure that we won't.
The Precipice introduces us to the risks to humanity's future, from the familiar man-made threats of climate change and nuclear war, to the greater risks on the horizon from engineered pandemics and advanced artificial intelligence. With clear and rigorous thinking, Toby Ord calculates the various risk levels, and shows how our own time fits within the larger story of human history. Can we protect the legacy of the hundred billion who have come before us, and secure a future for the trillions of generations that could follow? What can we do, in our present moment, to face the risks head on?
Guided by a positive vision of the long-term future, The Precipice is a call for a new ethical perspective: a major reorientation in the way we see the world, our history, and the role we play in it.
"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
"Toby Ord has written 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
"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 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
"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 galvanises us to play a role in addressing these risks"
– Angela Kane, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
"Humanity has never been more vulnerable – there's now a one-in-six chance that civilisation won't make it to the end of the century, argues a highly influential philosopher [...] Ord's analysis of the science is exemplary [...] Thrillingly written"
– Sunday Times
"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
"Splendid [...] The Precipice is a powerful book, written with a philosopher's eye [...] Ord's love for humanity and hope for its future is infectious"
"The Precipice is a fascinating book, one that showcases both the knowledge of its author and his humanity"
"A book that seems made for the present moment"
– New Yorker
"A story of the greatest risks to humanity's future, from the climate crisis and nuclear war to pandemics and artificial intelligence"
– Highlights for 2020, Guardian