Thank you Celtic and Josh for your interest in the topic. Doing a lot of good is better than doing only a little. But this fact must not make us forget that doing a little is better than doing nothing, as you pointed out. But I’d like to add: this fact must not make us forget that doing a lot of good is better than doing only a little! I agree that the consequences of our actions cannot be predicted. This is something I think about quite often.
Another must-read in my opinion: Why the long-term future of humanity matters more than anything else, and what we should do about it
This is from an organization linked to effective altruism and focused on career choices: 80,000 hours.
– Why is the long-term future of humanity such a big deal, and perhaps the most important issue for us to be thinking about?
– Five arguments that future generations matter
– How bad would it be if humanity went extinct or civilisation collapsed?
– Why do people start saying such strange things when this topic comes up?
– Are there any other reasons to prioritise thinking about the long-term future of humanity?
– What is this school of thought called?
– How did past generations think about the long term future? Did they share this view?
– What are the views of other cultures, including hunter gatherers?
– Philosophical objection 1: The person-affecting view. What is it, and why doesn’t it work?
– Philosophical objection 2: Discount rates on the future, should we use them?
– Philosophical objection 3: Will the future actually be good?
– What about the welfare of farmed and wild animals?
– What if you’re not yet convinced or sure how good the future will be, or whether it matters?
– Doesn’t all this just mean that we should do the usual things like improving people’s education, health and governance?
– Can we do a lot more about this collectively than individually? Why it can make sense to show up to political protests.
– Who has had a huge impact on history? Scientific visionaries, nuclear weapons and the Cuban missile crisis.
– Can you actually change the course of history (if you’re not president)?
– Broader and more reliable ways to improve the long term future of humanity. Are these more or less effective?
– Is it possible to create extremely large upsides rather than just prevent big downsides?
– Aren’t there plenty of people already working on these problems?
– How likely are the threats of human extinction? If they are really unlikely, does that defeat concern for the long-term?
– Exactly which risks are the most likely to take human civilisation off track?
– Should we colonise space to be safer?
– We could have a good future but also might destroy ourselves. Is the glass half full or half empty?