Students from around the world submitted creative, optimistic, thoughtful essays on the topic of long-term thinking in their chosen field (see the full essay question below). Their brilliant essays have given us at OxBright another reason, if we needed it, to feel optimistic about the potential of this generation to drive the world forward.
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Essay Question 2023
Most Outstanding Essay 2023
The Grammar School at Leeds
We are very pleased to announce that Hannah de Dombal has won the award for the Most Outstanding Essay 2023, with an essay on the subject of Philosophy. She has won a free place on the Oxford Scholastica Academy (our sister organisation) Oxford Summer School 2024, worth £6,995. Congratulations Hannah!
Her winning essay is available to read below.
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Longtermism: A Philosophy To Last A Lifetime (Or Two...)
This apocalyptic way of thinking will get us nowhere: it’s time for a change. Longtermism, according to Moorhouse (2021) ‘is the view that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time’. This philosophical idea isn’t a completely manufactured or rigid one either – it’s more of a collection of different understandings, agreeing upon the fundamental principle of looking after humanity’s future. MacAskill (2022) states, ‘if you could prevent a genocide in a thousand years, the fact that “”those people don’t exist yet”” would do nothing to justify inaction’, which encapsulates the underlying motif of this philosophy. In essence, longtermism is important simply because future people matter.
Thus, longtermism poses divisive questions of what or which is more important – future generations or our current one? Longtermists would argue that humanity has a ‘potential’ of its own, which surpasses the potential of each individual human being, and therefore there would be an ‘existential catastrophe’, should any event actually extinguish this potential. However, a clear criticism of longtermism would be its reliance upon utilitarian principles. Torres (2021), outlines this clearly when he explains that for longtermists, such as Ord, MacAskill or Hilary Greaves, a world in which 1 trillion people live a life barely worth living, ‘would be morally better’, than one in which 999 billion people live lives which are ‘extremely good’. The suggestion here from Torres being that longtermists tend to treat human beings as a means to an end, due to longtermism’s emphasis on total utilitarianism. However, whilst longtermists acknowledge that total utilitarianism very much favours longtermism, they would offer that one of Toby Ord’s accomplishments in ‘The Precipice’, is pointing out longtermism’s alignment with other ‘ethical traditions’, such as conservatism. Essentially, it’s possible for someone to endorse a whole host of ethical opinions and still support longtermism.
One of longtermism’s greatest merits is the way that it’s put into practice, and it is this element which allows it to foster such hope and optimism for the future. Longtermist thinking is responsible for the founding of various institutes such as the Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) and the Global Priorities Institute (GPI), as well as the Effective Altruism philosophical movement, with the EA movement now possessing $46 billion in dedicated funding (Torres, 2021). Famously wealthy figures such as Elon Musk, or Peter Thiel, have donated huge sums of money to longtermist institutes. Longtermism, through the work of Ord, has also crept into politics, ensuring that its core principles are being enveloped in current political policy. In recent years, Ord has been involved in a report from the Secretary General of the UN, which specifically mentioned ‘long-termism’.
Thus, it’s clear to see that longtermism has ignited an optimistic movement, which is still gathering momentum; the scope of longtermism’s impact, whether now or in the future, is irrefutably significant.
MacAskill, W. (2022) ‘What is longtermism?’, BBC Future, Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220805-what-is-longtermism-and-why-does-it-matter (Accessed: 30 September 2023).
Steele K. (2022) ‘Longtermism – why the million-year philosophy can’t be ignored’, The Conversation, Available at https://theconversation.com/longtermism-why-the-million-year-philosophy-cant-be-ignored-193538 (Accessed: 30 September 2023).
Dimant J. (2022) About four-in-ten U.S. adults believe humanity is ‘living in end times. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/12/08/about-four-in-ten-u-s-adults-believe-humanity-is-living-in-the-end-times/ (Accessed: 30 September 2023).
Turrentine J. (2018) Climate Scientists to World: We Have Only 20 Years Before There’s No Turning Back. Available At: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/climate-scientists-world-we-have-only-20-years-theres-no-turning-back (Accessed: 30 September 2023).
Moorhouse F. (2021) ‘Longtermism: An Introduction’, Effective Altruism, Available at: https://www.effectivealtruism.org/articles/longtermism (Accessed: 30 September 2023).
Belfield H. (2021) Response to Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’. Available at: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/xtKRPkoMSLTiPNXhM/response-to-phil-torres-the-case-against-longtermism (Accessed: 30 September).
Subject Category Winners
Tonbridge Grammar School
Plockton High School
Computer Science & Coding
Nord Anglia International School Dubai
Philippine Science High School
Deira International School
Seoul Global High School
Dhirubai Ambani International school
EIB Lycée Étoile
Abu Dhabi Indian School
- Most Outstanding Essay (prize: a place on our sister organisation, the Oxford Scholastica Academy’s residential Oxford summer school, worth £6,995)
- Best Essay for each subject category (prize: a place on an OxBright online course or internship, worth £995)
- Highly Commended (for the the top 20% of entries, who receive a Certificate of Achievement)