This episode was recorded in early February 2020 just before the pandemic engulfed the world. We ended up talking about the lack of resilience in society.
In this episode of Stuck@Om, I chat with Toby Ord, author and Senior Research Fellow of Philosophy at Oxford University. Our conversation revolves around topics found in his new book, The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. He tackles tough questions. Could we face the downfall of civilization or human extinction? Even better — what could we achieve if we survive?
His book explores what could happen if humanity ignores the potential dangers we face. One nation making a single, serious mistake could trigger a nuclear war that could lead to massive global repercussions. What about engineered viruses that lead to global pandemics? What about the effects of pollution and global warming?
We discuss these. But we also focus on the need for optimism. After all, without optimism, we can’t invent a better future. Toby points out that we should focus on a vision of what we could create. What could the upper bounds of our achievements look like? Could we change the quality of our lives? Remove pain and suffering? Travel throughout the galaxy?
Will our generation be the one that drops the ball? Or will we be the greatest generation that ever lived? Listen to our conversation as we explore the existential crises we face and how humanity should move forward.
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Outline of This Episode
- Toby’s book — “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity”
- Humanity has been at risk of extinction for our entire lifespan
- Where does the Coronavirus pandemic fit in context with other pandemics?
- Existential risk factors and existential security factors
- The impact of global networks of communication
- We must remain optimistic about a better future for humanity
- Why are the biggest risks so neglected?
- How do we help humanity overcome self-interests?
- The most surprising thing Toby learned from his research
Resources & People Mentioned
- Toby’s Book: The Precipice