Andrew Leigh

Andrew Leigh is a Member of the Australian House of Representatives, and author of several books, including Randomistas: How Radical Researchers Are Changing Our World and (with Joshua Gans) Innovation + Equality: How to Create a Future That Is More “Star Trek” Than “Terminator” (MIT Press).

  • What's the Worst That Could Happen?

    What's the Worst That Could Happen?

    Existential Risk and Extreme Politics

    Andrew Leigh

    Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse.

    Did you know that you're more likely to die from a catastrophe than in a car crash? The odds that a typical US resident will die from a catastrophic event—for example, nuclear war, bioterrorism, or out-of-control artificial intelligence—have been estimated at 1 in 6. That's fifteen times more likely than a fatal car crash and thirty-one times more likely than being murdered. In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Andrew Leigh looks at catastrophic risks and how to mitigate them, arguing provocatively that the rise of populist politics makes catastrophe more likely.

    Leigh explains that pervasive short-term thinking leaves us unprepared for long-term risks. Politicians sweat the small stuff—granular policy details of legislation and regulation—but rarely devote much attention to reducing long-term risks. Populist movements thrive on short-termism because they focus on their followers' immediate grievances. Leigh argues that we should be long-termers: broaden our thinking and give big threats the attention and resources they need.

    Leigh outlines the biggest existential risks facing humanity and suggests remedies for them. He discusses pandemics, considering the possibility that the next virus will be more deadly than COVID-19; warns that unchecked climate change could render large swaths of the earth uninhabitable; describes the metamorphosis of the arms race from a fight into a chaotic brawl; and examines the dangers of runaway superintelligence. Moreover, Leigh points out, populism (and its crony, totalitarianism) not only exacerbates other dangers but is also a risk factor in itself, undermining the institutions of democracy as we watch.

    • Hardcover $27.95
  • Innovation + Equality

    Innovation + Equality

    How to Create a Future That Is More Star Trek Than Terminator

    Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh

    How to get more innovation and more equality.

    Is economic inequality the price we pay for innovation? The amazing technological advances of the last two decades—in such areas as artificial intelligence, genetics, and materials—have benefited society collectively and rewarded innovators handsomely: we get cool smartphones and technology moguls become billionaires. This contributes to a growing wealth gap; in the United States; the wealth controlled by the top 0.1 percent of households equals that of the bottom ninety percent. Is this the inevitable cost of an innovation-driven economy? Economist Joshua Gans and policy maker Andrew Leigh make the case that pursuing innovation does not mean giving up on equality—precisely the opposite. In this book, they outline ways that society can become both more entrepreneurial and more egalitarian.

    All innovation entails uncertainty; there's no way to predict which new technologies will catch on. Therefore, Gans and Leigh argue, rather than betting on the future of particular professions, we should consider policies that embrace uncertainty and protect people from unfavorable outcomes. To this end, they suggest policies that promote both innovation and equality. If we encourage innovation in the right way, our future can look more like the cheerful techno-utopia of Star Trek than the dark techno-dystopia of The Terminator.

    • Hardcover $24.95
    • Paperback $19.95