Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

This article objects to two arguments that William MacAskill gives in What We Owe the Future in support of optimism about the prospects of longtermism, that is, the prospects of positively influencing the longterm future. First, it grants that he is right that, whereas humans sometimes benefit others as an end, they rarely harm them as an end, but argues that this bias towards positive motivation is counteracted by the fact that it is practically easier to harm than to benefit. For this greater easiness makes it likely both that accidental effects will be harmful rather than beneficial and that the means or side-effects of the actions people perform with the aim of benefiting themselves and those close to them will tend to be harmful to others. Secondly, while our article agrees with him that values could lock-in, it contends that the value of longtermism is unlikely to lock in as long as human beings have not been morally enhanced but remain partial in favor of themselves and those near and dear.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



William Macaskill, easiness of harming, longtermism, moral enhancement, value lock‐in