Elon Musk’s favorite philosophy: the perils of longtermism
A Conversation with Émile Torres
If you’ve been out and about in the world lately, you’ve probably seen William Macaskill’s book What We Owe the Future and heard lots of chatter about the ideology of longtermism (which Elon Musk says is a “pretty good match” for his own philosophy). So this week I invited the number one critic of longtermism, Émile Torres, onto the podcast!
Émile is a PhD candidate at Leibniz University Hannover and the author of the forthcoming book Human Extinction: A history of the Science and Ethics of Annihilation. In the episode, we discussed their research into Elon Musk’s favorite philosophy and all associated questions, like: why do longtermists want to colonize space and create trillions of digital people? What’s the link between effective altruism, transhumanism, utilitarianism and longtermism? Do longtermists’ obsession with future people resemble the anti-abortion campaigners? And how is all this related to eugenics?
As always, you can listen to it here or subscribe here (Spotify) or here (Apple Podcasts). If you like us, please rate, review and share the Anti-Dystopians to help us get new listeners. If you want to support the production of the show, you can visit here.
Further reading from the episode:
Articles by Émile:
Against Longtermism (Aeon)
The Dangerous Ideas of “Longtermism” and “Existential Risk” (Current Affairs)
More on longtermism:
More on existential risk studies and Nick Bostrom (Aeon)
The New Moral Mathematics (Boston Review)
On Stanford’s Paul Popenoe, the marriage counseling industry and eugenics (The New Yorker)
What I’ve been reading
Interesting Online Events
Monday, November 7 (online): No Tech for Tyrants’s launch "Surveillance Tech Perpetuates Police Abuse of Power." A new report unveiling how police use surveillance technology to abuse their power in the UK and globally.
Tuesday, November 8 (online): Biohacking Utopia with Émile Torres and Syed Mustafa Ali. This Cambridge seminar series seeks to co-examine the radical possibilities of technological intervention upon the politics and processes of embodiment, as well as more troublesome issues linked to biohacking (e.g., eugenics, necropolitics, and inequal distribution of tech).
Monday, December 5 (online): Mythology and the Colonisation of Space. I’ll be asking Mary-Jane Rubinstein about her new book Astrotopia: The Dangerous Religion of the Corporate Space Race for The Philosopher’s digital dialogues series!