What We Owe the Future

What We Owe the Future

by William MacAskill
What We Owe the Future

What We Owe the Future

by William MacAskill


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In this instant New York Times bestseller, a renowned philosopher puts forth the case for longtermism 

The fate of the world – and the future – is in our hands. Now with a new foreword, What We Owe the Future argues for longtermism: that positively influencing the distant future is our time’s key moral priority. It’s not enough to reverse climate change or avert a pandemic. We must ensure that civilization would rebound if it collapsed; counter the end of moral progress; and prepare for a planet where the smartest beings are digital. 

If we make wise choices now, our grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty. 

“To take these ideas seriously is a truly radical endeavor — one with the power to change the world and even your life.”—Ezra Klein, New York Times 

“An intellectually thrilling exploration of moral philosophy and human history in the hands of a very skilled thinker and clear writer.”—Kevin J. Delaney, The Charter 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541604032
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 09/12/2023
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 177,865
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

William MacAskill is an associate professor in philosophy and senior research fellow at the Global Priorities Institute, University of Oxford. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest associate professor of philosophy in the world. He has focused his research on moral uncertainty, effective altruism, and future generations. He also cofounded the nonprofits Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and Y Combinator–backed 80,000 Hours, which together have moved over $300 million to effective charities. He is the author of Doing Good Better and lives in Oxford, England.

Table of Contents

Part I The Long View

Introduction 3

Chapter 1 The Case for Longtermism 9

Chapter 2 You Can Shape the Course of History 29

Part II Trajectory Changes

Chapter 3 Moral Change 47

Chapter 4 Value Lock-In 75

Part III Safeguarding Civilisation

Chapter 5 Extinction 105

Chapter 6 Collapse 121

Chapter 7 Stagnation 143

Part IV Assessing the End of the World

Chapter 8 Is It Good to Make Happy People? 167

Chapter 9 Will the Future Be Good or Bad? 191

Part V Taking Action

Chapter 10 What to Do 223

Acknowledgements 247


1 Further Resources 253

2 Terminology 253

3 The SPC Framework 254

4 Objections to Longtermism 257

Figure Credits and Data Sources 263

Notes 265

Index 317

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