Monday, July 13, 2020

Toby Ord warns us about our civilization's "making it" in "The Precipice"

As a globalist who doesn’t feel allegiance to any particular minority, I do think more about existential threats to “our way of life” and the meaning of my own (schizoid) “independence”.  I think the power grid (or the pandemic) is a more important issue than bathroom bills – although the pandemic and anti-racism do come together.

(Interview video above is at the Future of Humanity Institute.)

Fahreed Zakaria has recommended Toby Ord’s “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity”, published in May 2020, 480 pages, from Hachette.

The book apparently starts with the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in 1945 for the Manhattan Project. People didn’t know if it could start a chain reaction to destroy the world (like a strangelet).

Stepan Jerabek provides a nice overview in Science Magazine.

There is a tendency when you look at your own life to realize that if you avoid death by one means (your own health) you face more risk of an end brought on by the actions of potential enemies.  The perception of the greatest risk changes. 

Ord apparently does fear a deliberately introduced pandemic based on political motives, one that is like Covid (asymptomatic people spread it) but much more inevitably deadly, like a casually contagious form of AIDS.  He also fears runaway artificial intelligence.  A virus, after all, is in a sense, a kind of chemical intelligence, evolving ways to reproduce itself merely through quantum opportunity which we seem to have underestimated.


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