The Washington Post
Fixing today and tomorrow
There are many things to say both for and against what has come to be known as “longtermism,” but Christine Emba’s Sept. 6 op-ed, “The trouble with ‘ longtermism,’ ” countered this philosophy’s occasional fanaticism with glib reductiveness. Moreover, she tarred with the same brush the spirit of the entire effective altruism (EA) movement — the giveaway at the start is that EA is derided for being “obsessed with ‘doing good better.’ ”
No one would argue that a newspaper column is an optimal forum for a philosophical analysis of how we should weigh the concerns of future generations against those who now populate Earth, but responsible journalism ought to avoid caricature of an important thought exercise and the billions of dollars in philanthropy that disparate branches of EA can take credit for. It is inaccurate to argue, as Ms. Emba did, that to think in the long term about the staggering number of people who will succeed us on the planet (and beyond) is mutually exclusive with paying attention to people alive right now.
Longtermists are in daily conversation with neartermists. It’s a red herring to argue that “abandoning what would most help people on Earth today isn’t exactly ethically sound.”
Theodore Leinwand, Washington