Of all the people whose well-being we should care about, only a small fraction are alive today. The rest are members of future generations who are yet to exist. Whether they’ll be born into a world that is flourishing or disintegrating – and indeed, whether they will ever be born at all – is in large part up to us. As such, the welfare of future generations should be our number one moral concern.
This conclusion holds true regardless of whether your moral framework is based on common sense, consequences, rules of ethical conduct, cooperating with others, virtuousness, keeping options open – or just a sense of wonder about the universe we find ourselves in.
That’s the view of Dr Toby Ord, a philosophy Fellow at the University of Oxford and co-founder of the effective altruism community.
In this conversation from 2017, Toby makes the case that aiming for a positive long-term future is likely the best way to improve the world.Full transcript, related links, and summary of this interview
This episode first broadcast on the regular 80,000 Hours Podcast feed on September 6, 2017. Some related episodes include:
• #10 – Dr Nick Beckstead on how to spend billions of dollars preventing human extinction
• #45 – Prof Tyler Cowen's stubborn attachments to maximising economic growth, making civilization more stable & respecting human rights
• #68 – Will MacAskill on the paralysis argument, whether we're at the hinge of history, & his new priorities
• #72 – Toby Ord on the precipice and humanity's potential futures
• #73 – Phil Trammell on patient philanthropy and waiting to do good
• #86 – Hilary Greaves on Pascal's mugging, strong longtermism, and whether existing can be good for us
Series produced by Keiran Harris.