On What we Owe the Future, Part 3

by Eric Schliesser on December 5, 2022

To illustrate the claims in this book, I rely on three primary metaphors throughout….The second is of history as molten glass. At present, society is still malleable and can be blown into many shapes. But at some point, the glass might cool, set, and become much harder to change. The resulting shape could be beautiful or deformed, or the glass could shatter altogether, depending on what happens while the glass is still hot. William MacAskill (2022) What We Owe The Future, p. 6

This is the third post on MacAskill’s book. (The first one is here which also lists some qualities about the book that I admire; the second one is here.)

A key strain of MacAskill’s argument rests on three contentious claims: (i) that currently society is relatively plastic; (ii) that the future values of society can be shaped; (iii) that in history there is a  dynamic of “early plasticity, later rigidity” (p. 43). Such rigidity is also called “lock-in” by MacAskill, and he is especially interested in (iv) “value lock-in.”

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