The New StatesmanThe New Statesman

Longtermism poses a real threat to humanity

By Émile P Torres

03 Aug 2023 · 8 min read

informed Summary

  1. Longtermism ask us to imagine a future spanning millions, billions, even trillions of years, where humanity colonizes space and life continues long after the earth becomes inhabitable.

I used to be a longtermist. That doesn’t mean what you think it does: longtermism is not the same as long-term thinking. We need more long-term thinking in the world, given that human-caused climate change is predicted to persist for another 10,000 years or so. If new generations arise every 25 years on average, this means that climate change will negatively impact 400 future generations. To put this in perspective, that’s almost twice as many generations as have existed since the dawn of civilisation several millennia ago.

Should we care about these future generations? Of course we should – their suffering counts just as much as ours. The fact that they don’t yet exist doesn’t mean that their lives don’t matter, or matter less than the lives of present-day people. This is why we need long-term thinking – a broadening of our perspective on the world to include not just the eight billion people alive right now but these future victims of climate change, whose lives will be thrown into chaos due to our actions.

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