Persuading people to worry about the long term is harder than you think

Not all of us feel that we owe a great deal to distant generations.

Not all of us feel that we owe a great deal to distant generations. PHOTO: AFP
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(FINANCIAL TIMES) - If I scatter broken glass on the ground and someone else walks over it and cuts their feet, does it matter "when" they cut their feet? That's the thought experiment at the start of the philosopher William MacAskill's forthcoming book, What We Owe The Future.

Mr MacAskill's argument is that harm is harm, whether my littering causes cut feet later today, next week or in 10,000 years. He believes that we should consider harm to future people as equal in severity to that inflicted upon the living. And because the potential number of future people is far greater than those who are currently alive, this should change how we think about problems and risks in the present day.

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