The best books to understand the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and futurologist. My work at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, St. Antony’s College, and the World Economic Forum (as a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Complex Risks) focuses on transdisciplinarity, with an emphasis on the interplay between philosophy, neuroscience, strategic culture, applied history, technology, and global security. I am particularly interested in the exponential growth of disruptive technologies, and how they have the potential to both foster and hinder the progress of human civilization. My mission is rooted in finding transdisciplinary solutions to identify, predict and manage frontier risks, both here on earth and in Outer Space.


I wrote...

The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations

By Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan,

Book cover of The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations

What is my book about?

My book seeks to improve understanding of the West and the Arab-Islamic world, their exchanges and shared heritage, as well as the role of the Arab-Islamic world in the rise of the West. The book examines the cultural transmission of ideas and institutions in a number of key areas, including science, medicine, astronomy, philosophy, humanism, law, finance, commerce, as well as the Arab-Islamic world's overall impact on the Reformation and the Renaissance. In doing so, it showcases how encounters between East and West served to advance our collective knowledge. More broadly, the book offers a timely discussion of this shared history for contemporary trans-cultural relations, with the aim of fostering positive relations, today and in the future.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did I love this book?

Despite having been published 70 years ago, this eloquent book still has enduring appeal as it provides an intellectually stimulating way of approaching big ideas.

It teaches us how to think both deeply and pragmatically about the monumental challenges facing humanity. In his unique way, Berlin, a Fellow of All Souls College in Oxford and one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century, gives us prescient philosophical insights into human behaviour.

By Isaiah Berlin, Henry Hardy (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hedgehog and the Fox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, describes the central thesis of Isaiah Berlin's masterly essay on Leo Tolstoy and the philosophy of history, the subject of the epilogue to War and Peace. Although there have been many interpretations of the adage, Berlin uses it to mark a fundamental distinction between human beings who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Applied to Tolstoy, the saying illuminates a paradox that helps explain…


Book cover of The Age of AI: And Our Human Future

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did I love this book?

This book is a timely primer on the promise and peril of artificial intelligence (AI) authored by an unlikely coalition of insightful thinkers: a 100-year-old diplomat, a former Google chief executive, and an M.I.T. professor.

They present an interesting overview of the range of AI technologies and their likely impact on many spheres of life, from medicine and the military to health care and urban development.

The result is an accessible, thought-provoking book that asks important questions about the role of machine learning in changing human society, for good and ill.

By Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Age of AI as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three of the world’s most accomplished and deep thinkers come together to explore Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the way it is transforming human society—and what this technology means for us all.

An AI learned to win chess by making moves human grand masters had never conceived. Another AI discovered a new antibiotic by analyzing molecular properties human scientists did not understand. Now, AI-powered jets are defeating experienced human pilots in simulated dogfights. AI is coming online in searching, streaming, medicine, education, and many other fields and, in so doing, transforming how humans are experiencing reality.

In The Age of AI,…


Book cover of Has Man a Future?

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did I love this book?

On a basic level, this is a book about nuclear weapons and why humanity ought to eschew them. But it is also much more than that.

Published on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this masterpiece examines three foreseeable scenarios for the human race: the end of human life, a decline to barbarism after a disastrous decrease of the world’s population, and a unification of the world under a single government.

Russell describes how “pride, arrogance and fear of loss of face have obscured the power of judgment.” This is sadly no less true today, as the emotionality of human beings continues to strongly influence international relations.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Has Man a Future? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First Printing


Book cover of The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did I love this book?

This is a fascinating book that explores the risks to humanity’s future, from well-documented threats such as climate change and weapons of mass destruction to less understood dangers emanating from disruptive technologies and man-made pandemics.

Ord, an Oxford philosopher, does an impressive job at explaining complex scientific issues in terms easily digestible for a broader audience. The book also develops important moral frameworks for tackling a wide range of existential risks.

By Toby Ord,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Precipice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This urgent and eye-opening book makes the case that protecting humanity's future is the central challenge of our time.

If all goes well, human history is just beginning. Our species could survive for billions of years - enough time to end disease, poverty, and injustice, and to flourish in ways unimaginable today. But this vast future is at risk. With the advent of nuclear weapons, humanity entered a new age, where we face existential catastrophes - those from which we could never come back. Since then, these dangers have only multiplied, from climate change to engineered pathogens and artificial intelligence.…


Book cover of On the Future: Prospects for Humanity

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did I love this book?

The highly respected Cambridge scientist and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees provides a fascinating and highly accessible read on how we can harness science and technology for the betterment – and ultimately preservation – of humanity.

The book is a refreshingly optimistic take on how advances in, for example, robotics and biotechnology, can protect us against the greatest threats facing humanity. This is a must-read book which pushes the boundaries of scientific knowledge while building bridges to many other academic disciplines.

By Martin Rees,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked On the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity and science from world-renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees

Humanity has reached a critical moment. Our world is unsettled and rapidly changing, and we face existential risks over the next century. Various outcomes-good and bad-are possible. Yet our approach to the future is characterized by short-term thinking, polarizing debates, alarmist rhetoric, and pessimism. In this short, exhilarating book, renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees argues that humanity's prospects depend on our taking a very different approach to planning for tomorrow.

The future of humanity is bound to the…


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Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

Book cover of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

John Kenneth White Author Of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Reading was a childhood passion of mine. My mother was a librarian and got me interested in reading early in life. When John F. Kennedy was running for president and after his assassination, I became intensely interested in politics. In addition to reading history and political biographies, I consumed newspapers and television news. It is this background that I have drawn upon over the decades that has added value to my research.

John's book list on who we are, how we’ve changed, and what gives us hope

What is my book about?

It didn’t begin with Donald Trump. When the Republican Party lost five straight presidential elections during the 1930s and 1940s, three things happened: (1) Republicans came to believe that presidential elections are rigged; (2) Conspiracy theories arose and were believed; and (3) The presidency was elevated to cult-like status.

Long before Trump, each of these phenomena grew in importance. The John Birch Society and McCarthyism became powerful forces; Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first “personal president” to rise above the party; and the development of what Harry Truman called “the big lie,” where outrageous falsehoods came to be believed. Trump…

Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

What is this book about?

It didn't begin with Donald Trump. The unraveling of the Grand Old Party has been decades in the making. Since the time of FDR, the Republican Party has been home to conspiracy thinking, including a belief that lost elections were rigged. And when Republicans later won the White House, the party elevated their presidents to heroic status-a predisposition that eventually posed a threat to democracy. Building on his esteemed 2016 book, What Happened to the Republican Party?, John Kenneth White proposes to explain why this happened-not just the election of Trump but the authoritarian shift in the party as a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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