Long reflection

TagLast edit: 18 May 2021 16:45 UTC by Pablo

The long reflection is a hypothesized period of time during which humanity works out how best to realize its long-term potential.

Some effective altruists, including Toby Ord and William MacAskill, have argued that, if humanity succeeds in eliminating existential risk or reducing it to acceptable levels, it should not immediately embark on an ambitious and potentially irreversible project (such as space colonization) of arranging the universe’s resources in accordance to its values, but ought instead to spend considerable time— “centuries (or more)” (Ord 2020), “perhaps tens of thousands of years” (Greaves et al. 2019), “thousands or millions of years” (Dai 2019), “[p]erhaps… a million years” (MacAskill, in Perry 2018)—figuring out what is in fact of value. The long reflection may thus be seen as an intermediate stage in a rational long-term human developmental trajectory, following an initial stage of existential security when existential risk is drastically reduced and followed by a final stage when humanity’s potential is fully realized (Ord 2020).


Aird, Michael (2020) Collection of sources that are highly relevant to the idea of the Long Reflection, Effective Altruism Forum, June 20.
Many additional resources on this topic.

Dai, Wei (2019) The argument from philosophical difficulty, LessWrong, February 9.

Greaves, Hilary et al. (2019) A research agenda for the Global Priorities Institute, Oxford.

Ord, Toby (2020) The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Perry, Lucas (2018) AI alignment podcast: moral uncertainty and the path to AI alignment with William MacAskill, AI Alignment podcast, September 17.
Interview with William MacAskill about moral uncertainty and other topics.

Wiblin, Robert & Keiran Harris (2018) Our descendants will probably see us as moral monsters. what should we do about that?, 80,000 Hours, January 19.
Interview with William MacAskill about the long reflection and other topics.

Related entries

dystopia | existential risk | existential security | institutions for future generations | long-term future | longtermism | moral uncertainty | normative ethics | value lock-in

Quotes about the long reflection

MichaelA5 Mar 2020 7:48 UTC
52 points
12 comments13 min readEA link

Cru­cial ques­tions for longtermists

MichaelA29 Jul 2020 9:39 UTC
76 points
16 comments19 min readEA link

Cause pri­ori­ti­za­tion for down­side-fo­cused value systems

Lukas_Gloor31 Jan 2018 14:47 UTC
61 points
9 comments47 min readEA link

New book: Mo­ral Uncer­tainty by MacAskill, Ord & Bykvist

frankieaw10 Sep 2020 16:22 UTC
85 points
2 comments1 min readEA link

Re­sponse to Phil Tor­res’ ‘The Case Against Longter­mism’

HaydnBelfield8 Mar 2021 18:09 UTC
84 points
67 comments5 min readEA link