The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It

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We talked to her about what these new results might reveal for the future of life on this planet. Is there any chance we can put the brakes on this massive loss of life? Are humans destined to become casualties of our own environmental recklessness? The study that's generated so much conversation estimates that as many as three-quarters of animal species could be extinct within several human lifetimes, which sounds incredibly alarming.

That study is looking at very well-studied groups of animals. And they document pretty compellingly that extinction rates were already extremely elevated in [the year] , and are just getting worse and worse.

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Read about a study that says extinction rates are a thousand times higher because of humans. People have been debating whether we really are in the throes of a sixth mass extinction. What is your opinion? What is clear, and what is beyond dispute, is that we are living in a time of very, very elevated extinction rates, on the order that you would see in a mass extinction, though a mass extinction might take many thousands of years to play out.

Are there habitats or species—or groups of animals that you think are especially vulnerable to the changes that are going on? Island populations are very vulnerable to extinctions for a couple of reasons. They tend to have been isolated. New Zealand had no terrestrial mammals. Species that had evolved in the absence of such predators were incredibly vulnerable. A staggering number of bird species have already been lost on New Zealand, and a lot of those that remain are in deep trouble.

So, places that have been isolated for a long time. Those are very vulnerable.

Existential risk from artificial general intelligence

Species that have a very restricted range, that exist only in one spot in the world, those tend to be extremely vulnerable. Think about money and you become more selfish and reluctant to get involved with others. Many of these glitches in rationality have serious consequences. This was a stupid decision even though it worked out well. She reacted to the threat before she recognized it. These proclivities keep us from seeing the enormous role luck plays in both success and failure, and messes with our notions of cause and effect. Does this mean that criticism works better than praise? No, probably not.

Both Guterl and Kahneman are ultimately optimistic, albeit with significant caveats. The good news is that our optimistic bias helps us persevere.


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We should concentrate on situations where the stakes are high. Guterl sees optimism as our only choice, and reminds us that the same creative and rational thinking that made the world a mess will be essential for setting it right. Yes, synthetic biology can make evil bugs, but it can also create bacteria that produce fuel, clean up dirty water, and develop cheaper and safer drugs. To continue beating the odds will take every good idea.

Reward Yourself

The good ideas we need are out there, but System 1 stops most of them from even entering our conscious awareness, because System 1 likes what it already knows. It essentially short-circuits our thinking. Of course, we can circumvent System 1. For example: cut multitasking to a bare minimum. Spend more time staring into space. Walk, bike, or hike without headphones, so you can hear yourself think. Disallow news crawls during presidential debates.

Cut way back on homework so students have time to actually reflect, and create assignments that demand every ounce of creativity. Ban timed tests. Though it is controversial, he nails it at the end when he makes reference to the optimal population levels as developed by Gretchen Daily and Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University. If this is the path, let us hope we move down it slowly and by choice, rather than quickly, by imposition. Oct 08, Sunset rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , technology , survival , science-journalism. Interesting and easy to read, Guterl describes six areas of potential catastrophe: super viruses, extinction, climate change, ecosystems, synthetic biology, and machines.

So with impending doom just a sneeze away, or several degrees warmer, or malware knocking out the electrical grid, or collapse of food crops due to narrow genetic base, drought, or, etc. Aug 13, Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle rated it really liked it Shelves: climate-science-peak-oil-collapse.

Three and a half Pretty good- short, entertaining, informative. The stuff about technology and robotics wasn't terribly interesting to me- nor some of the stuff about the scariness of genetically altering or manufacturing disease. I simply don't think our society is going to maintain it's level of affluence long enough for those to be really concerning. I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing about peak resources as well.

Human Extinction

That's a major issue as far as I'm concerned- and impacts all the r Three and a half Pretty good- short, entertaining, informative. That's a major issue as far as I'm concerned- and impacts all the rest of the topics in his book pretty seriously. The stuff about climate change was great. Current, well informed, scary, and a great read.


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Also the part about disease, and anti vaccine nutballs. Anyway, good- not perfect- Also- really short! Mar 26, Lynn Demarest rated it really liked it. A well-written rundown of the various threats to human survival, but, sadly, little on "how we can stop it. Maybe it will be a genetically engineered virus, tweaked to be as fatal as it is infectious. Or perhaps global warming will get us. This seems to be his own biggest fear. Maybe, just maybe, the think A well-written rundown of the various threats to human survival, but, sadly, little on "how we can stop it.

Maybe, just maybe, the thinking machines we make will take over, a la, I Robot. Guterl is not a technophobe, but he's written a book that is likely to create a few. Aug 27, Brooks Rocco rated it really liked it. Fred Guterl's wrote a fascinating glimpse into the worst-case scenerios most likely to affect humanity's progress in the most catastrophic ways possible.

It's engaging and thought-provoking, and provided many 'look up' moments.


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Written in a cool, casual style, it gives a nice overview of six areas of potential destruction, and has led me into doing my own research further. While not an absolutely authoritative index of each individual, Guterl does a great job of keeping it simple, allowing the b Fred Guterl's wrote a fascinating glimpse into the worst-case scenerios most likely to affect humanity's progress in the most catastrophic ways possible.

While not an absolutely authoritative index of each individual, Guterl does a great job of keeping it simple, allowing the book to be used as a springboard into diving into the topics further. Highly recommended to anyone who might catch themselves being a little TOO optimistic. Jun 06, Nadav Savio rated it liked it. In fact, he devotes each chapter to a different way the human species might totally screw ourselves over.

It's convincing and terrifying.

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And he does it clearly and, to be fair, without relative to the subject matter sensationalizing things. Where the book fell short for me is the cursory way he addresses the second part of the title, the "how we can stop it" part. I'm not sure what I was hoping for, but Still, well worth reading, for a clear-eyed catalog of things actually worth worrying about. Jul 07, Lori rated it really liked it. I thought this book was very informative about how people may very well engineer their own destruction.

However, there is a frustration factor to this book -- the fact that people are unwilling to change their behaviors even if it will save their lives or the lives of future generations, but who cares about them? It's depressing to know that at least one of the things outlined in this book will happen, some more probable than others. Sep 04, Emily Czarnecki rated it liked it. I decided to read this book after watching an interview with the author on The Daily Show. I thought the book sounded intriguing. But these ideas were not new.

But that is just my opinion. Jun 24, Hayden Trenholm rated it really liked it Shelves: non-fiction , science. A nice introduction to the end of the world. Well written science journalism that states its objectives clearly -- these are not firm predictions but worst case scenarios. Climate change, Viruses, both biological and computational, AI -- anyone of them could be the end of us. Not necessarily a fun read but a good idea machine for SF writers.

Sep 15, Margaret Diehl rated it really liked it. The book goes over a lot of what you may already know, if you read articles about diseases, robotics, computer viruses, etc. I bought it for the climate change chapter and it didn't tell me much I didn't know but as one source for information about all the ways our society can perish, I highly recommend it. Only for depressives and people in search of a world-saving career. Nov 05, Kaj Sotala rated it liked it. Read parts of this, skipping over the chapters on climate change.

Quite thought-provoking, with vivid descriptions of possible disaster scenarios. Doesn't quite live up to its title, though: it says a lot about how we might cause our own extinction or at least vast numbers of deaths , but not very much about how we could actually stop it. Dec 02, Richard rated it really liked it. Very good read about the possible annihlation of the Human Race. Nothing that I haven't heard or read before. We'll be stupid enough to end our race, I'm afraid



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