The hinge of history is a hypothetical time in human history in which humanity has disproportionate influence over the long-term future. The hinge of history hypothesis is the view that we are currently living at the hinge of history (MacAskill 2019; MacAskill 2021). The hypothesis has been explicitly endorsed by a number of key figures in the effective altruism community, including Derek Parfit (Parfit 1986: 351; Parfit 2011: 616), Toby Ord (Ord 2020) and Holden Karnofsky (Karnofsky 2021), and is arguably implicit in the writings of other prominent authors, such as Eliezer Yudkowsky and Nick Bostrom.
Whether the hinge of history hypothesis is true may determine how the present generation ought to prioritize between causes or choose between giving and investing, and may have other important implications.
Fisher, Richard (2020) Are we living at the “hinge of history”?, BBC Future, September 23.
Karnofsky, Holden (2021) Roadmap for the ‘most important century’ series, Cold Takes, June 30.
Kelsey Piper (2019) Is this the most important century in human history?, Vox, September 26.
MacAskill, William (2019) Are we living at the most influential time in history?, Effective Altruism Forum, September 3.
MacAskill, William (2021) ‘Are we living at the hinge of history?’, in Jeff McMahan et al. (eds.) Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
Ord, Toby (2020) The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Parfit, Derek (1984) Reasons and Persons, Oxford: Clarendon press.
Parfit, Derek (2011) On What Matters, vol. 2, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Trammell, Philip (2020) Philanthropy timing and the Hinge of History, Effective Altruism Global, February 11.
Wiblin, Robert & Keiran Harris (2020) Will MacAskill on the moral case against ever leaving the house, whether now is the hinge of history, and the culture of effective altruism, 80,000 Hours, January 24.