As we shall see in this episode, we live at an unusual and unique time in human history. So, it is important that we consider our future since the actions we take today will affect the lives of future humans, or even, at least on the non-religious story, the very possibility of future humans at all could be at stake depending on decisions we make today. How can we begin to think about the question of human destiny? In the eighth episode of season 7, Paul and Courtney explore this very question.
In his book What we Owe the Future, the Oxford philosopher William MacAskill argues for a view called longtermism. According to longtermism, “positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.” The core moral claim in defense of longtermism is the idea that “future people should count for no less, morally, than the present generation.”
In a nutshell, longtermism makes three claims:
- Future people count.
- There are lots of future people.
- We can (now) make future people’s lives better.
Unique Moment in History
MacAskill argues that we live in an utterly unique moment in history, for two reasons:
- We live in an era that involves an extraordinary amount of change.
- We are unusually connected (for the first time in history).
- We have more opportunity than past and future humans over when and how many changes occur.
- Given our unity, small groups of people have the power to influence the whole of the future.
MacAskill’s Conclusion: there is a genuine threat of extinction or stagnation due to technological advance, biological pathogens that could wipe us out, and great powers worldwide wars. Still, he is overall optimistic: he thinks that the future probably will be good for future people, and his main hope is grounded in the fact that humans usually do good things just because they are good, and rarely do bad things because they are bad.
What Is The Future of Humanity on the Christian Story?
God exists and has a purpose for humans. And that purpose extends beyond this present age into the future age. And that fact changes the calculus. According to N.T. Wright:
- What God did for Jesus at Easter, he will do for the whole cosmos in the future.
- Christian hope is grounded in God and his intentions for the cosmos as a whole, and in our place in the cosmos.
- Our resurrected bodies will be transformed yet physical.
- William MacAskill, What We Owe the Future
- T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
 William MacAskill, What We Owe the Future (New York: Basic Books, 2022), 4.