Why might the future be good?

When talking about the future, I often encounter two (quite different) stories describing why the future might be good:

  1. Decisions will be made by people whose lives are morally valuable and who want the best for themselves. They will bargain amongst each other and create a world that is good to live in. Because my values are roughly aligned with their aggregate preferences, I expect them to create a rich and valuable world (by my lights as well as theirs).
  2. Some people in the future will have altruistic values broadly similar to my own, and will use their influence to create a rich and valuable world (by my lights as well as theirs).

Which of these pictures we take more seriously has implications for what we should do today. I often have object level disagreements which seem to boil down to disagreement about which of these pictures is more important, but rarely do I see serious discussion of that question. (When there is discussion, it seems to turn into a contest of political ideologies rather than facts.) Read the rest of this entry »