My EA journey, which I described in a previous post, sparked my interest in a few other topics besides global health & development. One of them was longtermism. Having read The Precipice, I found there interesting insights but for the most part they were left aside as I pursued more immediate and practical ways to make impact with my donations and career.
However there was one tangent which kept pulling me, just like the thread of Ariadne, to the (moral) maze of why future generations count and what can we do about it.
Of all the arguments in favour of longterm thinking and preventing extinction, the argument of intergenerational chain is one that resonated with me. We owe so much of our wellbeing, our institutions, our comforts to all the work made by past generations, who did not know or think of us but did their best to create them. The least we could do for future generations is to carry the flame so that they have a chance of having an even better life. Letting it go extinct would be a tremendous loss.
Jonas Salk, the scientist famous for developing the Polio vaccine once shared a simple yet profound statement: "Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors." There are various suggestions to the question of how we can be good ancestors, but rather than enumerating them here I would like to point to the idea of Generational Fairness which I found particularly interesting:
There are several organisations (such as FRFG, IF, Generation Squeeze) working towards political reforms to give voice and representation to future generations and change the partisan, short-term focus typical of the current political decision making. They are marking the Intergenerational Fairness Day next week on 16 November 2023. There’s a podcast that’s going to explore this. What I also liked about this initiative, is it involves young people from the global south, creating an inclusive framework for involvement. And here in the Netherlands there’s an organisation called Million Generations championing the long view.