A friend and I recently discussed the following question: “What motivates you to work on improving the long-term future?” 

For them, thinking about existential threats and s-risks are generally most motivating. Imagine a future in which humanity doesn’t reach its potential. An existential threat destroys civilization. Or, worse, uncountable numbers of people/animals/digital people live in extreme torture.

For me, thinking about utopia and peak experiences are generally most motivating. Imagine a future in which humanity thrives, an intergalactic civilization emerges, and people/animals/digital people experience levels of joy and fulfillment that are beyond comprehension.

I don’t think there’s a “better” way to generate motivation. But it’s interesting to think about the kinds of ideas that fill longtermists with motivation, inspiration, and drive.

A question to you: What are your favorite resources (e.g., readings, videos, podcasts) for generating (or reinforcing) motivation to work on improving the long-term future? 

These could be resources that initially got you interested in longtermism. But I’m even more interested in the kinds of things that keep you fired up– things you return to when you want a motivation/energy/inspiration boost. 

Here are some of mine:

  1. Letter from Utopia by Nick Bostrom
  2. Why I Find Longtermism Hard, and What Keeps Me Motivated by Michelle Hutchinson
  3. How to Work Hard by Paul Graham (also not explicitly focused on longtermism, though many of the themes around ambition and taking bets are especially relevant for longtermists. Also I find the analysis of Newton quite poetic.)
  4. The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant (video by CCP Grey; adapted from a paper by Nick Bostrom. Even though it’s not explicitly about longtermism, I think many of the themes are relevant/motivating for longtermists.)
  5. The Precipice by Toby Ord (in particular, the subsection “Quality” in Chapter 8: “Our Potential.”)

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There are some good longtermist entries from the Creative Writing contest! Try out "Reset Button" or "All the people you could come to love".

Personally, I find it motivating to imagine a successful civilization in the future looking back to our time and feeling grateful that the EA movement managed to work on some crucial step that helped civilization go much better. (Alongside all the other bets which will fail to work out, and probably seem silly from centuries hence.) They might feel about us the same way we today feel about philosophers like Mozi & Bentham who were far ahead of their time, or the entrepreneurs and scientists who started the Industrial Revolution, or all the soldiers and workers who sacrificed to stop the totalitarian threats of WW2. I tried to capture that feeling with my contest submission, "The Toba Supervolcanic Eruption".