Just a product of their time

One of my biggest fears is that, in 200 years, people will look back on my actions and thoughts today and smile knowingly; ‘He was progressive because he cared about poverty, equality, wild animals and the possibility of digital sentience, but he didn’t care about atoms. Oh well, I guess he was just a product of his time, so we’ll be fair to him there.’

When we look back on people 200 years ago who accepted human slavery, we sometimes grant them leeway because they lived in a world where slavery was so normal. But what difference is there between someone who was pro-slavery 200 years ago, and someone who is pro-animal exploitation today, in the eyes of someone 200 years from now?

When we think about whether an action is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we shouldn’t think about it in terms of what people accept today, but in terms of what people would accept in 200, 1,000 or 1 million years. Or even better, what is actually the best choice for the well-being of sentient minds.

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