What if you experienced every human life in history?
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Of course, it’s not particularly intuitive to choose our actions by heavily weighing the well-being of people we haven’t met, nor will ever meet. This is the value of MacAskill’s thought experiment, which forces us to put ourselves in the shoes of those future individuals whose welfare is so often disregarded in the realms of technology, environmentalism, and public health. MacAskill describes these future beings as a “disenfranchised” group in this opinion piece he penned for The New York Times, and he argues that our responsibility to them only increases as the global consequences of our actions continue to grow.
To learn more about MacAskill’s work and the philosophies of longtermism, read about the Global Priorities Institute at Oxford University and the Forethought Foundation — two organizations MacAskill cofounded to continue his research on global ethics. MacAskill’s TED talk about effective altruism and “the most important moral problems of our time” is also available here.
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