William MacAskill and What We Owe The Future

Posted By: Melissa Peterson Association News ,

What We Owe The Future

In his new book, Oxford Philosopher William MacAskill makes the case for “longtermism”, the view that positively influencing the long-run future is a key moral priority of our time.

From this perspective, it’s not enough to reverse climate change or avert the next pandemic. We must ensure that civilization would rebound if it collapsed; counter the end of moral progress; and prepare for a planet where the smartest beings are digital, not human.

According to William MacAskill, “we are the ancients: we live at the very beginning of history, in the most distant past. What we do now will affect untold numbers of future people. We need to act wisely”.


The fate of the world is in our hands

The fate of the world is in our hands. Humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more – or it could end tomorrow. Astonishing numbers of people could lead lives of great happiness or unimaginable suffering, or never live at all, depending on what we choose to do today.

“Previous social movements, such as civil rights and women’s suffrage, have often sought to give greater recognition and influence to disempowered members of society. I see longtermism as an extension of these ideals” – William MacAskill

If we make wise choices today, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty.

Why you should read this book
  • Discover your place in human history by joining William MacAskill in taking seriously just how much is at stake when we look to humanity’s future and find out why this coming century might be the most important time, in all of human history, for shaping the whole of humanity’s future.
  • Learn about what you can do to make a difference by finding out about what challenges we face in our lifetime that could be pivotal for humanity’s long-run trajectory.
  • Take action by joining a fast growing community of people who are ensuring that we act responsibly and carefully to steer that trajectory in a better direction.


“Positive moral change is not inevitable. It’s the result of long, hard work by generations of thinkers and activists” – William MacAskill

People love it

“This book will change your sense of how grand the sweep of human history could be, where you fit into it, and how much you could do to change it for the better.” – Ezra Klein

“An optimistic look at the future that moved me to tears.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“This is a book of great daring, clarity, insight and imagination. To be simultaneously so realistic and so optimistic, and always so damned readable...” – Stephen Fry

“This mind-bending, eon-hurtling, visionary, masterful book raises questions that are among the most crucial we face as a species.” – Larissa MacFarquhar 

“...a profoundly new perspective on human civilization and our place in it.” – Lydia Cacho

“What We Owe The Future brilliantly shows us the biggest picture of all and persuasively reminds us of the vast impact we can all have.” – Tim Urban 

About William MacAskill

William MacAskill is an Associate Professor in Philosophy and Research Fellow at the Global Priorities Institute, at the University of Oxford. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest associate professor of philosophy in the world.

A Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur, he is the Director of the Forethought Foundation for Global Priorities Research, and also co-founded the nonprofits Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and Y Combinator–backed 80,000 Hours, which together have moved over $200 million to effective charities.

He lives in Oxford, England