A long human future is not an impossible goal. It may, however, be something that has to be earned by being smarter, wiser, kinder, more careful—and luckier—than we’ve ever had to be before. The first rule of defying the odds is to never deny the odds.
Early though we may be in the future running through our heads, we are always and already running out of time. Like our remote ancestors, and like all who come after, we see in the distance a singularity, a boundary of the reference class, a monolith marking the end of the world as we know it. We are about to discover the truth of how special we are.
William Poundstone, The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation That Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know about Life and the Universe, New York, 2019, p. 262
what hangs in the balance is at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 human lives (though the true number is probably larger). If we represent all the happiness experienced during one entire such life with a single teardrop of joy, then the happiness of these souls could fill and refill the Earth’s oceans every second, and keep doing so for a hundred billion billion millennia. It is really important that we make sure these truly are tears of joy.
Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Oxford, 2014, p. 103
The remedies for all our diseases will be discovered long after we are dead; and the world will be made a fit place to live in, after the death of most of those by whose exertions it will have been made so. It is to be hoped that those who live in those days will look back with sympathy to their known and unknown benefactors.
John Stuart Mill, ‘Diary’, April 15, 1854, in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Toronto, 1988, vol. 27, p. 668
A few extra people now means some extra people in each generation through the future. There does not appear to be a stabilizing mechanism in human demography that, after some change, returns the population to what it would have been had the change not occurred.
John Broome, ‘Should We Value Population?’, The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 13, no. 4 (December, 2005), pp. 402-403
My students often ask me if I think their parents did wrong to pay the $44,000 per year that it costs to send them to Princeton. I respond that paying that much for a place at an elite university is not justified unless it is seen as an investment in the future that will benefit not only one’s child, but others as well. An outstanding education provides students with the skills, qualifications, and understanding to do more for the world than would otherwise be the case. It is good for the world as a whole if there are more people with these qualities. Even if going to Princeton does no more than open doors to jobs with higher salaries, that, too, is a benefit that can be spread to others, as long as after graduating you remain firm in the resolve to contribute a percentage of that salary to organizations working for the poor, and spread this idea among your highly paid colleagues. The danger, of course, is that your colleagues will instead persuade you that you can’t possibly drive anything less expensive than a BMW and that you absolutely must live in an impressively large apartment in one of the most expensive parts of town.
Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty, London, 2009, pp. 138-139