Kieran Setiya in the Boston Review:
What we do now affects those future people in dramatic ways: whether they will exist at all and in what numbers; what values they embrace; what sort of planet they inherit; what sorts of lives they lead. It’s as if we’re trapped on a tiny island while our actions determine the habitability of a vast continent and the life prospects of the many who may, or may not, inhabit it. What an awful responsibility.
This is the perspective of the “longtermist,” for whom the history of human life so far stands to the future of humanity as a trip to the chemist’s stands to a mission to Mars.
Oxford philosophers William MacAskill and Toby Ord, both affiliated with the university’s Future of Humanity Institute, coined the word “longtermism” five years ago. Their outlook draws on utilitarian thinking about morality.