Tuesday, October 25, 2022

More Against Longtermism

From Ben Chugg, another fellow Carnegie Mellon PhD student (separated by ~30 years), What we don't owe the future: Longtermism is a fantasy. He makes a different argument than I made in Losing My Religions. Excerpt:

Imagine someone from the year 1000 trying to influence the present. Our circumstances would be beyond imagination, our problems unrecognizable, our desires mysterious. Even someone from 1900 would scarcely recognize today’s world. The Great War had yet to begin; there was no internet; Henry Ford had yet to manufacture his first car; women did not have the right to vote in Canada, the United States, or the UK; Einstein had yet to overturn Newtonian physics, and the atomic bomb had to be invented. Any sort of targeted intervention to influence the future would require someone to foresee such developments, as each plays a role in determining what problems we face today. Such foresight is unobtainable at a scale of 100 years — longtermism is concerned with scales quite literally thousands of times greater.

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