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Are we unfit for the future?
  1. Tom L Beauchamp
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tom L Beauchamp, Department of Philosophy and Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, Healy Bldg. Rm 425, Washington, DC 20057, USA; beauchat{at}

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In Unfit for the Future, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu take up intriguing questions about whether human moral capacities should be improved to steer us in paths of improved decision making in confronting global crises. They assess the sufficiency of traditional moral practices and human nature as we confront ever more daunting moral and policy challenges. They start from the position that ‘human beings are not by nature equipped with a moral psychology that empowers them to cope with the moral problems that these new conditions of life create. Nor could the currently favoured political system of liberal democracy overcome these moral deficiencies’ (p. 1).1

The authors defend their starting point by presenting a variety of scenarios and conditions under which humans commonly fail to pursue a morally proper course of action even when aware that it is the proper course. Critical weaknesses include failed political will, biases to the near future, partiality to family and friends, insufficient sympathy, low levels of non-parochial altruism, underdeveloped conceptions of responsibility and a relatively weak sense of justice. The authors assess human nature as so morally deficient that it will be unable to successfully address impending and catastrophic problems at the global level: ‘Human beings now have at their disposal means by which they could undermine the conditions of worthwhile life on Earth forever’ through their failures to deal with the depletion of essential natural resources, overpopulation, poverty, terrorism, anthropogenic climate change, nuclear weapons and use of biological weapons (p. 1, 2, 5, 37–39, 47–49, 60–63, 66–68, 75, 76, 83, 108, 109, 123, 127, 133, 134).1

This book's most convincing and sobering arguments are in its many passages on the depth and continuously increasing character of these catastrophic problems. It is the most persuasive presentation of the threats these …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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