Tarde venientibus ossa—“for the latecomers, bones.”
We are early to the civilizational dinner, there are still many who have yet to arrive. To the latecomers, we owe more than our scraps.
Caring for posterity is a robust ethical good—we should desire it no matter our moral code. Complete extinction, or a vast future full of suffering, are real possibilities. But they are not foregone conclusions, we can also imagine a long and flourishing future where the riches of our civilization are preserved and enhanced. We’re privileged: we have the time, energy, and resources to ensure that we don’t lose it all. We’re early.
It can be difficult to think of the latecomer because he doesn’t exist yet: he is merely a placeholder for a future human being. And many of the issues that threaten this latecomer are themselves theoretical, such as unaligned artificial intelligence. There are those who would fault long-term thinking for being preoccupied with such abstractions.
But the torture or destruction of the human race is far worse than being critiqued as overly speculative.
The Latecomer therefore leans into theoretical conversations and does not apologize for being concerned with existential risks like unaligned AI, engineered pathogens, or nuclear holocaust. We believe these are extremely important conversations, even if we never know exactly how close we came to catastrophe. We are also interested in the big picture investigations underlying these topics: the double-edged nature of technology, the relevance of economic growth, or how our intuitions about the future are shaped. And despite our prior convictions, The Latecomer also wants to hear from those who believe that long-term thinking is misguided—publishing thoughtful criticism is essential to our mission.
When dealing with such uncertain and abstract topics we value rigorous and well-reasoned argumentation. Because the questions we ask now serve as catalysts and causes of various futures, we should be careful not to foreclose unconventional lines of thought merely because they seem strange. It is precisely the strange arguments that keep humanity’s trajectory open and undetermined.
Therefore, The Latecomer is interested in two things:
- Providing a platform for high-level, original writing on the long-term future. Although not an academic journal, The Latecomer wants to push the intellectual envelope. This means that the writing will often be geared toward an audience familiar with long-term thinking. Although the topics may be challenging, we strive for clear and accessible writing.
- Keeping the discourse around the long-term future of humanity weird. The margins of the discourse are where productive insights emerge, and many of the fundamental axioms are still up for debate. The Latecomer is committed to viewpoint diversity by looking for quality contributions from inside and outside the longtermist community.
Ideally, one should walk away from The Latecomer feeling intellectually challenged and vaguely chafed—there is much to agree and disagree with. While we wait for the latecomers, we have a lot of work to do. Welcome.