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Imprint: Oneworld Publications

Subject: Philosophy

What We Owe The Future

A Million-Year View

William MacAskill

‘A monumental event. William MacAskill is one of the most important philosophers alive today, and this is his magnum opus.’ Rutger Bregman, author of Humankind

‘A book of great daring, clarity, insight and imagination. To be simultaneously so realistic and so optimistic, and always so damned readable… well that is a miracle for which he should be greatly applauded.’ Stephen Fry

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.

In What We Owe The Future, philosopher William MacAskill argues for longtermism, the idea that positively influencing the distant 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.

If we put humanity’s course to right, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty.

  • Publication date: August 16, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861544820
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: September 1, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861542505
  • RRP: £20.00
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: September 1, 2022
  • ISBN: 9780861542512
  • RRP: £10.99
  • Pages: 320

Reviews

‘This book is a monumental event. William MacAskill is one of the most important philosophers alive today, and this is his magnum opus.’

Rutger Bregman, author of Humankind

No living philosopher has had a greater impact upon my ethics than Will MacAskill. And much of the good I now do is the direct result of his influence. In What We Owe The Future, MacAskill has transformed my thinking once again, by patiently dismantling the lazy intuitions that rendered me morally blind to the interests of future generations. This is an altogether thrilling and necessary book.’

Sam Harris

‘I was captivated by MacAskill’s rolling out of the possibilities of a longtermist approach to the now. It is vital to do as he does, to take ethics out of the safety of lecture-hall thought experiments, paradoxes and what-ifs and into the turbulent real world, where the dynamic winds of history blow and where is massing on the horizon that monstrous, swelling tsunami that we call the future. This is a book of great daring, clarity, insight and imagination. To be simultaneously so realistic and so optimistic, and always so damned readable… well that is a miracle for which he should be greatly applauded.’

Stephen Fry

‘Many books promise a new “big idea”, but few deliver one as brilliant as MacAskill’s in What We Owe The Future. A fascinating, profound read.’

Julia Galef

‘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

What We Owe The Future makes the case for thinking seriously about the very long term. It gives a profoundly new perspective on human civilization and our place in it.’

Lydia Cacho

An optimistic look at the future that moved me to tears

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

‘There are moments when we can change outcomes easily, but if we don’t bend those curves right then, we can lock in enormous longterm damage. This fascinating book makes us think relentlessly and usefully about such pivot points; few prods could be more important.’

Bill McKibben

‘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. It’s as simple, and as ambitious, as that.’

Ezra Klein

‘The decisions we make this century are like no other; either we go extinct by our own hand, or we lay the path to the stars. What We Owe The Future is our guidebook to navigating this critical moment.’

Liv Boeree

‘A brilliant book that makes clear both how much is at stake when it comes to the long term, and the incredible opportunities we have to shape it. It has changed how I think about my time on earth.’

Max Roser

‘Should we care about people who don’t yet exist – the billions who will live in the future? Or is it better to help people living now? This mind-bending, eon-hurtling, visionary, masterful book raises questions that are among the most crucial we face as a species. MacAskill makes a moral case for the future that is urgent, clear, and utterly convincing.’

Larissa Macfarquhar, author of Drowning

William MacAskill

William MacAskill is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University. His academic work spans a breadth of fields within normative philosophy, including practical ethics, population ethics, social choice theory and decision theory. At age 28, he became the youngest tenured professor of philosophy in the world. MacAskill is the cofounder of Giving What We Can, 80,000 Hours, the Centre for Effective Altruism and the Oxford University-based Global Priorities Institute. He’s recognised as a World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper and a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur.

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