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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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“This book will change your sense of how grand the sweep of human history could be, where you fit into it, and how much you could do to change it for the better. It's as simple, and as ambitious, as that.”

—Ezra Klein

An Oxford philosopher makes the case for “longtermism” — that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.

The fate of the world is in our hands. Humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more — or it could end tomorrow. Astonishing numbers of people could lead lives of great happiness or unimaginable suffering, or never live at all, depending on what we choose to do today.
In What We Owe The Future, philosopher William MacAskill argues for longtermism, that idea that positively influencing the distant future is a key moral priority of our time. From this perspective, it’s not enough to reverse climate change or avert the next 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, not human.
If we make wise choices today, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541618626
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 08/16/2022
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 7,928
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

William MacAskill  is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford, and the most widely cited philosopher of his age. A TED speaker and past Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur, he also cofounded the Centre for Effective Altruism, which has raised over $1 billion for charities. He 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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