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Session 03 - Part 2

What could the future hold?

“We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. ... What about that seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”

—Oren Lyons (1980)

Required materials


This week we’ll explore a different approach to finding high-impact interventions – ‘longtermism’ – which attempts to find interventions that beneficially influence the long-run course of humanity. In particular, we should pay attention to both (i) ways in which we can ensure the existence of future value (e.g., happiness, equality) and (ii) ways in which we can prevent the existence of future disvalue (e.g., suffering, injustice).

It’s also worth considering to what extent longtermist priorities – such as existential risk reduction and improving epistemic institutions – are also valuable even when only considering the impact on present generations.


Hinge of history


To what extent can we predict the future? How?


What might future look like?

  1. Top forecasts at - (browse 3 to 5 results on what you find important and surprising. These are average predictions of how several important trends will unfold over the coming years. We’re not sure how accurate they’ll be, but we think it gives a glimpse into the future.

  2. Longtermism and animal advocacy (4mins)



  1. Exercise for 'What could the future hold? And why care? (Part 1 only)- (15mins)

More to explore

Further reading on longtermism

  1. The Precipice, Appendix B - Population Ethics and Existential Risk (10 mins)

  2. Representing future generations - Political institutions generally operate on 2-to-4-year timescales which aren’t long enough to address global issues (as the issue of climate change has shown). This talk analyzes sources of political short-termism and describes institutional reforms to align government incentives with the interests of all generations. (Video - 30 mins.)

  3. What We Owe the Future **(Video - 40 mins at 2x speed)

  4. Climate Change and Intergenerational Justice - UNICEF - How should we balance the rights of those alive today with the rights of future generations? (10 mins.)

  5. What We Owe the Future (draft) by Will MacAskill - Introduction and Chapter 1 (35 mins.)

  6. The Precipice - Introduction and Chapter 1 (~40 mins.)

    1. In the Audible audiobook, this would be Chapters 1 and 2

  7. Policymaking for Posterity - (60 mins.)

  8. Orienting towards the long-term future (Video - 25 mins.)

  9. The Case for Strong Longtermism - Global Priorities Institute **(1hr. 20 mins.)

  10. Response to Recent Criticisms of Longtermism - EA Forum (45 mins.)

  11. Towards a Weaker Longtermism - EA Forum (and some of the comments on the post)

  12. Possible misconceptions about (strong) longtermism - EA Forum (30 mins.)

  13. Areas of Interest – Future Fund (10 mins.)


Global governance and international peace

  1. Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins on 8 years of combating WMD terrorism - an interview with Bonnie Jenkins, Ambassador at the U.S. Department of State under the Obama administration, where she worked for eight years as Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation. (Podcast - 1 hour 40 mins.)

  2. Why effective altruists should care about global governance - Because global catastrophic risks transcend national borders, we need new global solutions that our current systems of global governance struggle to deliver. (Video - 20 mins.)

  3. Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap (Book)

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