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Week 7: Trajectory Change

How can we shape the longterm future?


Last week, we investigated mitigating existential risk as one method of potentially increasing the value of the longterm future. This week, we want to focus on other ways in which we might be able to positively influence the trajectory of the future.


One way in which we might contribute to this end is through promoting positive values. For example, the Sentience Institute focuses on promoting the expansion of humanity’s circle of compassion and empathy to include all sentient beings. They see this as an important means of preventing suffering both now and in the far future. 


Other methods through which we might improve the longterm future could include promoting sustainable economic growth, creating altruistic, competent and influential institutions, researching global priorities, reducing wealth inequality, or by shaping the order in which different technologies might be developed. 


In this week, we’ll be talking about some of these different strategies and considering how tractable they might actually be. 

Goals for this week


  1. Discuss the tractability of positively shaping the longterm future

  2. Discuss different methods aside from mitigating extinction risk for increasing the value of the longterm future

Quote from the EA Forum: “The world could become so much better; The world could end or become so much worse; We could help influence which of those things happens”


Core Reading 

The Argument for Promoting Trajectory Change (95 mins.)


How tractable is changing the course of history? - Just read the introduction and summary if you’re short on time (10-80 mins.)


Methods for Trajectory Change (Spend ~90 mins.)


Most of these articles/podcasts/reports have a summary at the top, so we recommend reading through the summaries of as many of these as you can, and then choosing a few resources to read in full. 


Promoting Values


Economic Growth


Policy-Making & Improving Institutions


Differential Progress


Wealth Inequality

Exercise (5- 10mins) 

This week’s exercise is very short. We’d like you to focus on digesting the reading material, working out what you think about it, and considering the implications. To this end, spend around 5-10 minutes writing down your thoughts on the following question:


  • Do you think it’s more prudent to focus on more targeted or broader interventions for improving the longterm future?


Further Reading

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