Intellectual understanding isn't the only component that determines how salient a problem, opportunity, or decision to take action is in people's minds. This holds especially true for abstract ideas with vast implications for the (far) future like longtermism and existential risks.

I think this video is a great example of how visual storytelling can help wonders in this regard! As long as it's an addition to (as opposed to substitution for) intellectual understanding, I think stuff like this is super valuable.

Video description: Change is coming. Humanity is entering a turbulent new era, unprecedented in both Earth and Human history. To survive the coming centuries and fulfill our potential as a species, we will have to overcome the biggest challenges we have ever faced, from extreme climate change, to rogue A.I., to the inevitable death of the sun itself. The headlines make our chances look bleak. But when you look at our history and our tenacity, it's clear that humanity is uniquely empowered to rise to the challenges we face. If we succeed, our potential is cosmic in scale. Incredible prosperity is within our reach. Being optimistic is not only justified, it's a powerful weapon in the fight for a higher future.




Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 2:17 PM

I've been a fan of melodysheep since discovering his Symphony of Science series about 12 years ago.

Some thoughts as I watch:

- Toby Ord's The Precipice and his 16 percent estimate of existential catastrophe (in the next century) is cited directly

- The first part of the script seems heavily-inspired by Will MacAskill's What We Owe the Future
- In particular there is a strong focus on non-extinction, non-existentially catastrophic civilization collapse, just like in WWOTF

- 12:40 "But extinction in the long-term is nothing to fear. No species survives forever. Time will shape us into something new. The noble way to go extinct will be to evolve naturally to a higher species." -- This is kind of ambiguous. I'm not clear what message melodysheep is trying to get across, but it's also vague enough that I don't I have a specific critique of it.

- 14:12 "But the best way to secure our long-term survival is to take the leap that no other lifeform has ever taken, to become a multi-planetary species." "Once a self-sustaining civilization is established on another planet, the chances of our extinction will plummet." -- No argument is made for either of these points in the video, and due to me thinking that colonizing another planet as a strategy to reduce existential risk is quite overrated in general, I'm disappointed about that.

- As usual, melodysheep's music and visuals are stunning, and I can't help but feel that the weakest part of the video is the script.

- Melodysheep's top Patreon tier is $100 per video, and includes a one-on-one hangout with him (John Boswell). Given his videos get millions of views and are on important future-oriented topics, this seems like a cost-effective way to get in touch and potentially positively influence the direction of his videos.

- I skimmed his list of $10+ Patreon supporters and didn't see any names I recognized, so I think it it may be worthwhile for some EAs/longtermists who can provide useful feedback on his scripts to become supporters or otherwise get in touch in order to do that. I'm not sure how open to feedback he is, but it seems worth trying. Anyone potentially interested?

I'll also add that I didn't like the subtitle of the video: "A case for optimism".

A lot of popular takes on futurism topics seem to me to focus on being optimistic or pessimistic, but whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about something doesn't seem like the sort of thing one should argue for. It seems a little like writing the bottom line first.

Rather, people should attempt to figure out what the actual probabilities of different futures are and how we are able to influence the future to make certain futures more or less probable. From there it's just a semantic question whether having a certain credence in a certain kind of future makes one an optimistic or a pessimist.

If one sets out to argue for being an optimist or pessimist, that seems like it would just introduce a bias into one's thinking, where once one identifies as e.g. an optimist, they'll have trouble updating their beliefs about the probability that the future will be good or bad to various degrees. Paul Graham says Keep Your Identity Small, which seems very relevant.

Agreed. In a pinned comment of his he elaborates on why he went for the optimistic tone: 

honestly, when I began this project, I was preparing to make a doomer-style "final warning" video for humanity. but over the last two years of research and editing, my mindset has flipped. it will take a truly apocalyptic event to stop us, and we are more than capable of avoiding those scenarios and eventually reaching transcendent futures. pessimism is everywhere, and to some degree it is understandable. but the case for being optimistic is strong... and being optimistic puts us on the right footing for the upcoming centuries. what say the people??

It seems melodysheep went for a more passive "it's plausible the future will be amazing, so let's hope for that" framing over a more active "both a great, terrible or nonexistent are possible, so let's do what we can to avoid the latter two" framing. A bit of a shame, since it's this call to action where the impact is to be found.

Kurzgesagt script + Melody Sheep music and visuals = great video about the long term future. Someone should get a colab between the two going