I see many people criticize existential risk reduction as naive or arrogant. “What, you think you can save the world?”
I’m not going to dispute this. Yes, it’s naive and arrogant, and that’s a good thing.
There are countless movies about saving the world. Lots of people fantasize about saving the world (or, at least, my friends and I did when we were kids, and I still do). Ask any five-year-old child, and they can tell you that saving the world is awesome. But it takes a particularly subtle and clever mind to understand that actually, trying to save the world is a silly waste of time.
But actually, the five-year old was correct all along. Saving the world is, in fact, awesome! We should do it!
The mature, adult response is that you can’t save the world, and you should be content with contributing to society in your own small way. I could make some clever argument about scope sensitivity or universalist morality or something, but I don’t need to. You already know that saving the world is awesome. Everybody knows it, they’ve just forgotten.
Climate change is the only mainstream cause that at least has a plausible case for saving the world. And indeed some climate change activists think in those terms. Even though I believe it’s unlikely that mitigating climate change can save the world, it’s still admirable to try. I would like to see more people try. Ask yourself: What could destroy the world, and how do we stop that from happening?