About the Book

Existential risk studies is a growing field that attempts to understand the greatest dangers to humanity from a scientific perspective. This book offers the most comprehensive scholarly survey of existential risks to date, from asteroid impacts and climate change to molecular nanotechnology and machine superintelligence. It argues that avoiding an existential catastrophe should be among our highest priorities and explores a number of high-level strategies for reducing the probability of a worst-case outcome. The dangers facing humanity this century are real and unprecedented, but the future course of civilization is not beyond our control.

About the Author


ISBN: 978-1634311427 (paperback)

SRP: $17.95

Page count: 328 pages

Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5

Pub date: October 2017

Ebook availability: Yes

Audiobook availability: Forthcoming

Phil Torres is a philosopher who writes about emerging technologies, existential risks, and religious eschatology. He's published articles in a wide range of academic journals, is a regular contributor at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and is the author of The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us about the Apocalypse. He lives in Philadelphia.

“Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing is an excellent introduction to a new and important area of research. I hope it will be widely read.”

Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and author of Animal Liberation and The Most Good You Can Do

“A careful study of modern-day emerging risks by one of the real emerging thinkers of our time. A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of the planet—in other words, a must-read for all of us.”

Rachel Bronson, Executive Director and Publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

“This is a welcome and timely book which draws attention to issues that our civilisation's entire fate may depend on--and which need far more attention and focus than they currently receive.”

Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, cofounder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, and author of Our Final Hour (from the book's foreword.)

“The path to our future is rife with threats to the very existence of humanity. How can we avoid creating technologies that destroy us, as well as other global catastrophes? We need a roadmap, and this is precisely what Torres provides in this carefully thought-out and useful book.”

Susan Schneider, Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut, author of The Language of Thought: A New Philosophical Direction, and editor of Science Fiction and Philosophy

“This book presents a sober and careful examination of the emerging field of existential risk studies, and will provide a useful introduction to all those who want to come up to speed quickly on developments over the past decade.”

Lawrence Krauss, Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, and Chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; his most recent book is The Greatest Story Ever Told... So Far: Why Are We Here?

“Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing is an exceedingly thought-provoking book on a topic that must garner humanity's attention, namely the potential extinction of our species. This well-researched and well-written book is necessarily transdisciplinary because contributions pertinent to this topic entail perspectives from philosophy to climate change, and artificial intelligence to cognitive science. It is a must-read for those concerned with moving the world from myopic, crisis-driven policymaking to the proactive decision making needed to protect the future of humanity.”

Bruce Tonn, Consulting editor for the journal Futures and president of the nonprofit Three3

“Taking the reader on a harrowing yet hopeful tour of the landscape of existential risks, Torres masterfully molds complex, often abstract--but critically important--ideas about our continued existence into a concrete introduction to the topic. . . . Absolutely essential reading for anyone with the curiosity to learn of the dangers that lie in wait for humanity and the courage to believe that we can act to avoid them.”

Gary Ackerman, director of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), and associate of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute

“For millions of years, prior to the mid-1950s, humans lacked the ability to create or avoid a global catastrophe of any sort. Now we can do both--and for so many different scenarios that we now need a thorough review of threats and options for avoidance. We need this both because some of these scenarios interact and because considerable planning and prioritization is vital. This book by Phil Torres provides this essential resource with insights into both the high-level philosophical and the ‘how-to’ detailed levels. We must work hard to persist and thrive.”

George Church, Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and advisor for the Future of Life Institute

“A primer for existential risk in the twenty-first century, including how humans are now a hazard to ourselves, not only as individuals but as a species. Read this book at your risk--and probably not before bedtime.”

Jennifer Jacquet, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University and author of Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool

“How might our world end? By our own hand? Or might danger loom from outside forces? Either way, Phil Torres takes you on a tour of the new field of Big Risk assessment, including ways we might protect our fragile promise.”

David Brin, physicist and award-winning science fiction author

“Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing offers an authoritative guide to the emerging scientific discipline of existential risk in all its guises. . . . Highly recommended.”

David Pearce, moral philosopher and author of The Hedonistic Imperative

Advance Praise

“The exponential development of information technology promises extraordinary benefits for humanity, from the elimination of disease to radical life extension. But intertwined with this promise is great peril—existential risks associated with ‘GNR’ (genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics or AI). This book offers a careful exploration of this promise-versus-peril challenge. It is a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of humanity—and beyond.”

—Ray Kurzweil, inventor, futurist,

and author of The Singularity Is Near and How to Create a Mind