4 min read

Monthly Update - December 2022

WFW? is not just my ramblings on interesting questions - we have a mission to create a better future world. Every month I share a summary of how the articles that month have developed our detailed vision of an ideal future world, our strategy for achieving it, and our research agenda for progressing it.

I'll now be taking a break over Christmas, so I'll be back with some thought-provoking  articles and exciting announcements in the New Year. Happy Holidays!

Articles this month

Reflections on... Utopia for Realists - 11 min read
Eutopia Pre-mortem - 10 min read
Reflections on... Why I Am Not a Buddhist - 9 min read
Utopia Now - 9 min read
Reflections on... Why Buddhism Is True - 9 min read
What Are We Solving For? - 11 min read
Reflections on... How to be Perfect - 11 min read

This month we drew primarily from three areas: moral philosophy, to understand whether we should we be good and how we best go about that; Buddhism, to learn what the ancient religion can teach us today and add to our shared values and practices; and utopianism, to see why the practice of envisioning a brighter future has fallen out of favour and how we might turn that sentiment around.


Above all, Aristotle taught us that fulfilment is an end to itself and requires no further justification for why we pursue it. A survey has shown people have a preference for visions that emphasise “freedom” rather than “pleasure”, which fits well with our focus on fulfilment over pleasure, along with our core values.

We confirmed that “who we are and what we do matters", that being 'good' is a fundamental part of an ideal future. We use pragmatic ethics to say what is 'good' - taking the best from virtue ethics, consequentialism, and deontology, which aligns with our core value of Cosmopolitanism, the commitment to learning from all perspectives and ideas in order the reach the 'ideal' vision of the future. Fitting with our value of equality, we say that people with greater wealth and power have likewise greater ethical obligations. This concept of Moral Exhaustion builds our theory of mental bandwidth - with more bandwidth people will make better, more ethical choices.

Mindfulness meditation will be a common activity given its role in converting mental bandwidth into fulfilment, both in the practice and in everyday life. We identified that Buddhist 'enlightenment' or Nirvana seems a step too far for us to take as an aspirational ideal, but that the step before, Jhana, is an accessible and attractive aspiration. It provides almost all of the fulfilment benefits of Nirvana while leaving space for loving attachment to other people and other fundamentally 'human' elements of existence.


We ought to avoid human extinction if we are to achieve our ideal future vision, which will take further research to assess. This view helps us frame our pursuit of fulfilment - that it shouldn't be at the expense of survival or health.

We should teach Pragmatic Ethics to AI engineers and other people with power to overcome any bias for strict utilitarianism, in part to avoid 'ends justify the means' logic. Individually we ought to be good, in part because super intelligent AGI (or aliens) may treat us how we treat 'less intelligent' life forms. We should also be aware of the hedonic treadmill phenomenon and evolutionary psychology that drives us to things that aren't in our best interest.

Mindfulness meditation is an effective individual strategy for building greater fulfilment and resiliency, in part as an appreciation of 'not-self' can help us detach from feelings that don't serve us. Mindfulness teachers ought to bring personal values to the practice they teach, not merely the activity.

Painting an ideal view of the future will help inspire action to achieving it. We can overcome the negative sentiment towards utopianism by: popularising and normalising the term eutopia to replace utopia, and defining eutopia as a direction rather than an end state. By rebuilding the field and discourse of utopianism, we will refine our eutopian vision, and develop the global cohesion necessary to get there. It helps to make this journey to eutopia more tangible, meaning we could paint a vision of the 'possible eutopia of today' - what if we followed our vision as best possible with the resources available today? - and see what questions and tradeoffs it throws up. We should also make the strategy compelling, with clear milestones to achieve, to help make the eventual vision feel less dull, homogenous, and alien.

I will run a pre-mortem exercise for WFW? periodically, maybe every six months, as part of my commitment to maintaining a principle of 'assessing risks' in everything we do. I will also think further how we can build resiliency within the community in anticipation of attacks and subversion from groups with power and resources who disagree with our core values.

Research Agenda

How do we persuade those with power in the present to choose to relinquish it to enable our eutopian vision? This is arguably the most important question we have raised and one I will spend much more time exploring.

How should we handle conflicts between communities that have different core values, for example between our community and groups around the world that hold what we have justified to be problematic beliefs?

Where is the optimal point between the ethic of autonomy and ethic of community?
Does the fulfilment of future people matter? How much do we value their fulfilment with respect to our own? (Population Ethics)
How much do we value animal suffering/fulfilment? (Animal Welfare)
Do digital people and artificial intelligence have moral status?
Could AI determine to treat us equally to how we treat less 'intelligent' life forms?

What are the major existential risks, how likely are they, and over what time frame?
Can we increase our confidence in our AI development timeline forecasts?
How close we are to energy abundance, and how does this interplay with our AI tech frontier?

What are the best forms of mindfulness meditation, and can we find further evidence to support its benefits?

Please share your thoughts if you have any feedback on this article, or leave a comment below.