Anna Goldsworthy is a writer and a pianist. Her most recent book is Melting Moments, and her most recent album is Trio Through Time.
At the beginning of lockdown, seeking reassurance that the coronavirus, while clearly sub-optimal, was not necessarily an existential risk to humanity, I tuned into Azeem Azhar’s technology podcast Exponential View, for his interview with Australian philosopher Toby Ord. A senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, Ord had just released his new book, The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, into a pandemic for which it might have been tailor-made. He explained that historically, over any given century, the risk of humanity’s existential collapse was about 1 in 10,000. In the 21st century, this probability has risen to one in six.
These figures failed to provide the consolation I had hoped for. Over the weeks that followed, I could think of little...
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