Should longtermists recommend hastening extinction rather than delaying it?

I'm cross-posting this from the Effective Altruism Forum. It's the latest version of my critique of longtermism that uses Lara Buchak's risk-weighted expected utility theory.

Here's the abstract: Longtermism is the view that the most urgent global priorities, and those to which we should devote the largest portion of our current resources, are those that focus on ensuring a long future for humanity, and perhaps sentient or intelligent life more generally, and improving the quality of those lives in that long future. The central argument for this conclusion is that, given a fixed amount of a resource that we are able to devote to global priorities, the longtermist’s favoured interventions have greater expected goodness than each of the other available interventions, including those that focus on the health and well-being of the current population. In this paper, I argue that, even granting the longtermist's axiology and their consequentialist ethics, we are not morally required to choose whatever option maximises expected utility, and may not be permitted to do so. Instead, if their axiology and consequentialism is correct, we should choose using a decision theory that is sensitive to risk, and allows us to give greater weight to worse-case outcomes than expected utility theory. And such decision theories do not recommend longtermist interventions. Indeed, sometimes, they recommend hastening human extinction. Many, though not all, will take this as a reductio of the longtermist's axiology or consequentialist ethics. I remain agnostic on the conclusion we should draw. 

A kitten playing the long game


  1. The notion of longtermists recommending the hastening of extinction rather than delaying it is a highly controversial and morally complex perspective. While the aim of longtermism is typically centered around securing positive outcomes for the distant future, advocating for the acceleration of extinction seems counterintuitive to common ethical principles.

    The crux of longtermist thinking is often rooted in maximizing well-being and preventing existential risks. Recommending the hastening of extinction might involve grappling with the potential belief that the current trajectory of human existence could lead to worse outcomes in the long run. However, the ethical implications of intentionally speeding up extinction, with all its attendant suffering and consequences, raise serious concerns.

    Longtermists typically focus on efforts to mitigate existential risks, promote sustainable practices, and advance technological solutions that contribute positively to humanity's future. The idea of actively hastening extinction may undermine these efforts and provoke ethical backlash. Striking a balance between addressing long-term risks and ensuring ethical considerations remains a challenging aspect of the broader discourse on longtermism. Ultimately, the debate around whether to hasten or delay extinction underscores the intricate ethical dilemmas embedded in discussions about humanity's long-term future. Most students are drawn to these types of articles and information, but they are unable to prepare for their exams, If you have been struggling with your exams and want assistance, students can do my online class - online class help and get higher grades on their examinations by providing them with the best available resources, including quality academic services.

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