How to avoid extinction

Thomas Raines on one man’s calculation of humanity’s survival chances.

The World Today
3 minute READ

Thomas Raines

Former Director, Europe Programme

The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity
Toby Ord
Bloomsbury, £25.00

Lockdown is either a very good or a very bad time to read this work by the philosopher Toby Ord. It explores a very simple question: how do we avoid human extinction?

Its title comes from Ord’s name for the era we are now living through, an era that began on July 16, 1945, with the Trinity test, the first detonation of an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert.

This was the moment humans gained the power to destroy themselves. At that point we entered ‘the Precipice’, a period of unique vulnerability in human evolution, where the gap between the power of our species and its wisdom has become dangerously wide.

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