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Global Catastrophic Risks Paperback – August 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199606501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199606504
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

`Review from previous edition This volume is remarkably entertaining and readable...It's risk assessment meets science fiction.' Natural Hazards Observer

`The book works well, providing a mine of peer-reviewed information on the great risks that threaten our own and future generations.' Nature

`We should welcome this fascinating and provocative book.' Martin J Rees (from foreword)

`[Provides] a mine of peer-reviewed information on the great risks that threaten our own and future generations.' Nature

About the Author


Nick Bostrom, PhD, is Director of the Future of Humanity Institute, in the James Martin 21st Century School, at Oxford University. He previously taught at Yale University in the Department of Philosophy and in the Yale Institute for Social and Policy Studies. Bostrom has served as an expert consultant for the European Commission in Brussels and for the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington DC. He has advised the British Parliament, the European Parliament, and many other public bodies on issues relating to emerging technologies.

Milan M. Cirkovic, PhD, is a senior research associate of the Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade, (Serbia) and a professor of Cosmology at Department of Physics, University of Novi Sad (Serbia). He received both his PhD in Physics and his MSc in Earth and Space Sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook (USA) and his BSc in Theoretical Physics was received from the University of Belgrade.

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Customer Reviews

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Better would have been..."the iridium anomaly!"
Mike Byrne
Probably the most dangerous future risk is going to be the advent of real Artificial Intelligence within our lifetime or very near into the future.
TretiaK
Well, I find it hard enough to imagine what "motivation/optimization targets" mean to an amoeba or a village idiot, let alone an AI.
David J. Aldous

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Peter McCluskey on September 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a relatively comprehensive collection of thoughtful essays about the risks of a major catastrophe (mainly those that would kill a billion or more people).
Probably the most important chapter is the one on risks associated with AI, since few people attempting to create an AI seem to understand the possibilities it describes. It makes some implausible claims about the speed with which an AI could take over the world, but the argument they are used to support only requires that a first-mover advantage be important, and that is only weakly dependent on assumptions about that speed with which AI will improve.
The risks of a large fraction of humanity being killed by a super-volcano is apparently higher than the risk from asteroids, but volcanoes have more of a limit on their maximum size, so they appear to pose less risk of human extinction.
The risks of asteroids and comets can't be handled as well as I thought by early detection, because some dark comets can't be detected with current technology until it's way too late. It seems we ought to start thinking about better detection systems, which would probably require large improvements in the cost-effectiveness of space-based telescopes or other sensors.
Many of the volcano and asteroid deaths would be due to crop failures from cold weather. Since mid-ocean temperatures are more stable that land temperatures, ocean based aquaculture would help mitigate this risk.
The climate change chapter seems much more objective and credible than what I've previously read on the subject, but is technical enough that it won't be widely read, and it won't satisfy anyone who is looking for arguments to justify their favorite policy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mike Byrne VINE VOICE on January 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
GCR (Global Catastrophic Risks) is a real page-turner. I literally couldn't put it down. Sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night with the book open on my chest, and the lights on, and I'd begin reading again from where I'd dozed off hours earlier, and I'd keep reading till I just had to go to sleep.

I had read a review of GCR in the scientific journal "Nature" in which the reviewer complained that the authors had given the global warming issue short shrift. I considered this a plus.

If, like me, you get very annoyed by "typos," be forewarned. There are enough typos in GCR to start a collection. At first I was a bit annoyed by them, but some were quite amusing... almost as if they were done on purpose.

Most of the typos were straight typing errors, or errors of fact. For example, on page 292 the author says that the 1918 flu pandemic killed "only 23%" of those infected. Only 23%? That seems a rather high percentage to be preceeded by the qualifier "only". Of course, although 50 million people died in the pandemic, this represented "only" 2% to 3% of those infected... not 23%. On p 295 we read "the rats and their s in ships" and it might take us a moment to determine that it should have read, "the rats and their fleas in ships."

But many of the typos were either fun, or a bit more tricky to figure out: on p. 254 we find "canal so" which you can probably predict should have been "can also." Much trickier, on p. 255 we find, "A large meteoric impact was invoked (...) in order to explain their idium anomaly." Their idium anomaly?? Nah. Better would have been..."the iridium anomaly!" (That's one of my favorites.) Elsewhere, we find twice on the same page "an arrow" instead of "a narrow"... and so it goes...
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ian on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a most disappointing volume. I bought it expecting so much, from Oxford, that great source and fount, from supposed young intellectually virile editors located in supposedly buzz centres of excellence. Big flop. For me the best papers were the most irrelevant: the ones that dealt with what's going to happen to us on the billion year time scale or alternatively if the wildest space objects have a say in our future. Too many other papers seemed to say so much that was unsurprising, unhelpful and I have to say sadly, pretentious. Maths used to no good or insightful end in some of that latter group, presumably just to show off ( e.g the Drake equation in a context that just baffles me for relevance).

I may be wrong but as the volume proceeded I gained the growing impression there was an increase in lack of comprehension among authors about what meaningful they could actually say about the topics they'd been assigned. Perhaps I'm harsh, but I did not enjoy this read - or learn much from it. Final pedantic: for OUP, too many glitches and typos, obviously beneath the dignity of the young high flying editors to bother with.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Cathcart on August 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Individual and government policy instigators everywhere, starting with voting citizens, must face the common problem of bringing expert knowledge to bear on globalized public policy-making. This book is rather like a "think tank" in and of itself and could serve such a purpose successfully! Campaigning in 1912, the intellectual and soon-to-be-US President Woodrow Wilson commented that "What I fear is a government of experts". Yet, in the 21st Century, the world-public has to have the best possible advice on macro-problems that can, may or certainly will impact human society. The Canadian scientist Vaclav Smil, in GLOBAL CATASTROPHES AND TRENDS: THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS (2008) has also foreseen, along with the stellar topic-centered name writers in this excellent revelatory text,the necessity of focused individuals, investigative panels and advisory bodies helping the world-public. None express a desire or need to "rule the world", the stealing of choices from the world-public, or the foreclosure of world-public options for future life-styles! However, they do a masterful job of explicating the macro-problems developing, impending or forecastable. The well-edited prose, informative diagrams and necessary illustrations are simply awe-inspiring! This demonstrative text--by no means to be considered a textbook--is fascinating, alarming, inspiring and just plain delicious reading. I reccommend it as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10!!
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