There have been great advances in the human condition due to science: recollect the horrors of childbirth, surgical operations, even of having a tooth out, a hundred years ago. If the human race is not extinguished there may be cures of cancer, senility, and other evils, so that happiness may outweigh unhappiness in the case of more and more individuals. Perhaps our far superior descendants of a million years hence (if they exist) will be possessed of a felicity unimaginable to us.
J. J. C. Smart, Ethics, Persuasion, and Truth, London, 1984, p. 141
[E]ven if average future periods were only about equally as good as the current period, the whole of the future would be about a trillion times more important, in itself, than everything that has happened in the last 100 years.
Nick Beckstead, On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future, doctoral dissertation, University of Rutgers, New Brunswick, 2013, p. 67
We live during the hinge of history. Given the scientific and technological discoveries of the last two centuries, the world has never changed as fast. We shall soon have even greater powers to transform, not only our surroundings, but ourselves and our successors. If we act wisely in the next few centuries, humanity will survive its most dangerous and decisive period. Our descendants could, if necessary, go elsewhere, spreading through this galaxy.
Derek Parfit, On What Matters, vol. 2, Oxford, 2011, p. 616
If the time horizon is extremely short, the benefits of continued higher growth will be choked off and will tend to be small in nature. Even if we hold a deep concern for the distant future, perhaps there is no distant future to care about. To present this point in its starkest form, imagine that the world were set to end tomorrow. There would be little point in maximizing the growth rate, and arguably we should just throw a party and consume what we can. Even if we could boost growth in the interim hours, the payoff would be small and not very durable. The case for growth maximization therefore is stronger the longer the time horizon we consider.
Tyler Cowen, ‘Caring about the Distant Future: Why it Matters and What it Means’, University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 74, no. 1 (Winter, 2007), p. 28
[W]e foresee the history of life divided in three main phases. In the long preparatory phase it was the helpless creature of its environment, and natural selection gradually ground it into human shape. In the second—our own short transitional phase—it reaches out at the immediate environment, shaking, shaping and grinding to suit the form, the requirements, the wishes, and the whims of man. And in the long third phase, it will reach down into the secret places of the great universe of its own nature, and by aid of its ever growing intelligence and cooperation, shape itself into an increasingly sublime creation[.]
Hermann Joseph Muller, Out of the Night: A Biologist’s View of the Future, New York, 1935, p. 125