So, as some of you might have noticed, there’s been a little bit of media attention about effective altruism / longtermism / me recently. This was all in the run up to my new book, What We Owe The Future, which is out today!
I think I’ve worked harder on this book than I’ve worked on any other single project in my life. I personally spent something like three and a half times as much work on it as Doing Good Better, and I got enormous help from my team, who contributed more work in total than I did. At different times, that team included (in alphabetical order): Frankie Andersen-Wood, Leopold Aschenbrenner, Stephen Clare, Max Daniel, Eirin Evjen, John Halstead, Laura Pomarius, Luisa Rodriguez, and Aron Vallinder. Many more people helped immensely, such as Joao Fabiano with fact checking and the bibliography, Taylor Jones with graphic design, AJ Jacobs with storytelling, Joe Carlsmith with strategy and style, and Fin Moorhouse and Ketan Ramakrishnan with writing around launch. I also benefited from the in-depth advice of dozens of academic consultants and advisors, and dozens more expert reviewers. I want to give a particular thank-you and shout out to Abie Rohrig, who joined after the book was written, to run the publicity campaign. I’m immensely grateful to everyone who contributed; the book would have been a total turd without them.
The book is not perfect — reading the audiobook made vivid to me how many things I’d already like to change — but I’m overall happy with how it turned out. The primary aim is to introduce the idea of longtermism to a broader audience, but I think there are hopefully some things that’ll be of interest to engaged EAs, too: there are deep dives on moral contingency, value lock-in, civilisation collapse and recovery, stagnation, population ethics and the value of the future. It also tries to bring a historical perspective to bear on these issues more often than is usual in the standard discussions.
The book is about longtermism (in its “weak” form) — the idea that we should be doing much more to protect the interests of future generations. (Alt: that protecting the interests of future generations should be a key moral priority of our time.). Some of you have worried (very reasonably!) that we should simplify messages to “holy shit, x-risk!”. I respond to that worry here: I think the line of argument is a good one, but I don't see promoting concern for future generations as inconsistent with also talking about how grave the catastrophic risks we face in the next few decades are.
In the comments, please AMA - questions don’t just have to be about the book, can be about EA, philosophy, fire raves, or whatever you like! (At worst, I’ll choose to not reply.) Things are pretty busy at the moment, but I’ll carve out a couple of hours next week to respond to as many questions as I can.
If you want to buy the book, here’s the link I recommend: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-we-owe-the-future-william-macaskill/1140658116. (I’m using different links in different media because bookseller diversity helps with bestseller lists.)