IOS Longtermism Platform Member Spotlight: Jack Davies on how 'longtermism' can help formulate change on a global scale

Jack Davies is a Research Assistant and external PhD candidate working within Utrecht University’s Centre for Global Challenges. His research sits at the intersection of sustainability transitions, conflict and investment, a nexus which he explores within the Deep Transitions flagship project.

What does 'longtermism' mean to you?

"For me, engaging with longtermism is a matter of necessity. We live in a time of both enduring and novel challenges, both environmentally and socially: climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, inequality, poverty, racism and sexism, scarcities and inequities in food, water, energy and shelter. Addressing these issues is not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be quick.

I believe that to understand and eventually solve these challenges we need to think in the long-term perspective: to see the historical processes through which the world we live in was built and to begin to imagine and pursue pathways towards a better future.

We’re talking about redesigning the very structure of global civilization – the systems upon which we depend. To do this we need to get comfortable thinking in terms of decades, not years, which is a huge challenge considering that many of our most powerful institutions and sectors are built around short-term incentives – for example governments, who think in terms of election cycles, or investors, who usually consider costs and benefits in terms of 5-year timeframes.

Implementing this concept will not be easy, but it will be necessary. We have to embed long term perspectives into our policies and laws (for example through guaranteeing the rights of future generations), in our innovation and development systems, in our practices as consumers, and in our cultures. Introducing this concept into academia and public discourse, democratizing it, debating it, testing it and refining it are all important steps towards bringing this goal."

Stay tuned for more spotlights on the core members of the Longtermism & Institutional Change platform and how this idea shapes their perspectives and research endeavours.