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The number of people alive today pales in comparison to the number who could exist in the future. It may therefore be extremely important to ensure that human civilization flourishes far into the future.
There are many ways we might work to ensure a positive future for humanity. Here are just a few.
- Reducing extinction risks: We could reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change by putting in place laws and regulations to cut carbon emissions. We could reduce the risks from new technologies by investing in research to ensure their safety. Alternatively, we could work to improve global cooperation so that we are better able to deal with unforeseen risks that might arise.
- Changing the values of a civilization: Values tend to be stable in societies, so attempts to shift values, whilst difficult, could have long-lasting effects.
- “Speeding up” development: Boosting technological innovation or scientific progress could have a lasting “speed up” effect on the entire future, making all future benefits happen slightly earlier than they otherwise would have. Curing a disease just a few years earlier could save millions of lives, for example.
- Ripple effects of our ordinary actions: Improvements in health not only benefit individuals directly but allow them to be more economically successful, meaning that society and other individuals have to invest less in supporting them.
Read more about the "long-run future" and how to think about humanity by Jess Whittlestone at effectivealtruism.org.