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September 28, 2022 39 min

Most societies commemorate and revere distant ancestors, with portraits, statues, streets, buildings, and holidays. We are fascinated with the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in England and the earliest origins of our species in the savannas of Africa. 

Our interest in humankind’s deep past has created a collective blind spot about the prospects of our distant descendants thousand years into the future. For most of us, the deep future is a fantasy world, something you read about in science fiction novels. 

But a growing number of thinkers are pushing back against the attitude that the future is a hypothetical we can discount in the favour of the here and now. Instead, they argue it's high time we start thinking seriously about the idea that humanity may only be in its infancy. That as a species we could potentially be around for thousands of years, with trillions of fellow humans to be born, each with vast potential to shape our future evolution, possibly even beyond Earth. 

In sum, humankind urgently needs a thousand year plan or it risks losing millennia of human progress to the existential risks that stalk our all too dangerous present. 

William MacAskill is a leading global thinker on how humanity could and should think about a common future for itself and the planet. He is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford and co-founder of Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and 80,000 Hours, all philosophically inspired projects which together have raised hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousand of life years to support charities working to preserve human kind's potential for the millenia to come. He is the author of the international bestseller, Doing Good Better and What We Owe The Future.


"The future could be very big, indeed, at least if we don't cause humanity's untimely demise in the next few centuries. We could have a very large future ahead of us. And that means that if there is anything that would impact the well-being of, not just the present generation, but all generations to come, that would be of enormous moral importance." 

The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.  

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Producer: Marissa Ramnanan 

Editor: Adam Karch


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