Philosopher William MacAskill tells Chris Evans about the 'major risks' facing humanity in new book What We Owe The Future

Virgin Radio

8 Nov 2022, 11:34

Chris Evans with Will Macaskill

Scottish philosopher and ethicist William MacAskill is sharing his theories on how humanity could play out in his new book, What We Owe The Future, which is out now. While on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, MacAskill opened up about the decade of hard work that went into the tome, his predictions for the future, and what we can all do to ensure the human race lives on. 

William opened up about the length of time it took to get his theories into writing, and said much of the creation of the book was getting the facts right.

He explained to Chris: “It took me five years to write, and I had a whole team of people helping me as well. So more than 10 years of work, two years of which we're just fact checking."

Despite the subject matter, all about the potential collapse of society and civilization, the author did say there is optimism within its pages. 

He continued: “It's optimistic in the sense that even though the world sucks, and there are many, many scary challenges, I think we as individuals, we can make it better. Small groups of people can affect lasting change. If we're willing to think cleverly and think strategically about what sort of paths to impact we can have.”

When it comes to what could bring about the end of our days as we know it, William elaborated on the biggest being “all out nuclear war.”

He added: “I think there's a significant chance of that happening, even in the next few decades, maybe something like one in three.”

Even in the face of annihilation, the human race is surprising resiliant, and we do have the capacity to “adapt and overcome.”

“I look at the example of like Hiroshima and Nagasaki to illustrate something that might be a little bit more surprising, '' Will shared. “I think human beings do have this remarkable capacity for resilience, where Hiroshima had the population that it had prior to the bombing, it rebounded to that population 13 years later. 

“I actually think even in the face of an enormous catastrophe, human beings are able to adapt, overcome, and respond to such challenges, which is in spite of apocalyptic looking predictions potentially, like the little silver lining.”

When it comes to what we could be facing, William has three predictions to what could happen if we don’t act to stop them. 

He elaborated: “One is collapse and catastrophe, something that will just kill a very large fraction of the world population, if we don't guard against major risks we face like engineered man-made viruses.

“A second is stagnation, where we just stop innovating over time, because we've been unable to keep the process of research and development going. I think that’s a scary situation.

“I think we can carefully navigate the risks we face, there are some major risks from man-made viruses from pathogens, and instead we can create this kind of diverse, thriving society that's mitigated the risks, but it's still engaged in  moral debate, moral reflection, and is paying greater attention and concern for future generations that are still able to make moral progress.”

William MacAskill’s new book, What We Owe The Future, is out now. 

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or  catch up on-demand here.