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Global Catastrophic Risks 1st Edition

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199606504
ISBN-10: 0199606501
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Editorial Reviews


`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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199606501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199606504
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 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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10 of 11 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TretiaK on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a compendium of what are referred to as GCRs (Global Catastrophic Risks) that represent future risks and cases, and merit much consideration if the human species is to survive into the future. Some of the cases given can seem "out there" so to speak in that they can seem like very futuristic and remote possibilities, but nonetheless are still very pertinent for the continuity of humanity. Social collapse, astrophysical catastrophes, technological breakthroughs, apocalyptic ideas given social consideration and credibility, thermonuclear war, and biases in human reasoning are all among the broad categories discussed within the books content. Some areas could have been expanded upon more, and other areas have an intermix of technical jargon here and there. This book would due very well to people looking to supplement their efforts for things like social work and for people in scientific disciplines, and to get a sense of general awareness and exposure from experts in the field as to how relevant these issues already are, or are going to become in the future.

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. Eliezer Yudkowsky is the top figurehead and spokesman for factors involved in this risk and is the editor for this specific risk within the book. If our fears are to become a reality, then it doesn't matter much of whatever else we get right. Many of the other risks to worry about, we already have a wealth of information on their occurrences, how they work, how likely they are to affect us, and how they will affect us when they come.
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