Our Final Hour

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First edition (publ. Basic Books)

Our Final Hour is a 2003 book by the British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. The full title of the book is Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century—On Earth and Beyond. It was published in the United Kingdom under the title Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century?.

The premise of the book is that the Earth and human survival are in far greater danger from the potential effects of modern technology than is commonly realised, and that the 21st century may be a critical moment in history when humanity's fate is decided. Rees discusses a range of existential risks confronting humanity, and estimates that the probability of extinction before 2100 CE is around 50 percent, based on the possibility of malign or accidental release of destructive technology.

Humanity's fate and recommendations for survival[edit]

In Our Final Hour, Rees predicts that one of the two following outcomes is inevitable for humanity:

In order to avoid human extinction, Rees advocates control of scientific research worldwide, and control of open access to such research. He states that, in the 1990s, Aum Shinrikyo tried unsuccessfully to obtain an Ebola virus sample, which they could now create in their Mount Fuji lab, using ingredients and instructions from the Internet.

Rees has long been active in disarmament campaigns, and although he now sees nuclear warfare as a less probable cause of extinction, he advocates arms control as much as control of science and technology (see also World government). More concerning to him now is the possibility of major bioterrorist attacks, as evidenced by his outstanding bet (registered with the Long Bet Project) that such events will occur within the next twenty years.

Rees advocates free market-based options for space exploration and survival through colonization, and believes that the wealthy will push back the frontiers of space.


Further reading[edit]

  • Rees does not object to the probabilistic argument for human extinction offered by the Doomsday argument (as championed by John Leslie in the 1996 book The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Routledge, hardcover: ISBN 0-415-14043-9, paperback: ISBN 0-415-18447-9)), but he does not consider it to describe the practical threats and solutions that he discusses.
  • In The Singularity is Near, Raymond Kurzweil reaches the same conclusion as Rees on the probability of human extinction within the 21st century.
  • In the 2004 book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking Adult, ISBN 0-670-03337-5), Jared Diamond suggests that Sir Martin's hopes of worldwide cooperation in avoiding extinction scenarios may be in vain.
  • Ronald Wright, who quotes Martin Rees with approval in A Short History of Progress (at p. 125–6), is just as pessimistic – much more so than Jared Diamond – and argues that human history reveals a disastrous series of technological progress traps.

See also[edit]

Publication data[edit]

  • Sir Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century—On Earth and Beyond (2003), Basic Books, hardcover: ISBN 0-465-06862-6, 2004 paperback: ISBN 0-465-06863-4
  • Sir Martin Rees, Our Final Century?: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century? (2003) (UK) William Heinemann, hardcover: ISBN 0-434-00809-5, 2004 Arrow paperback: ISBN 0-09-943686-8

External links[edit]