Like good science fiction, thought experiments can offer insights about the world of today. They can be fun, distressing, confronting and they can provide an opportunity for self-reflection.
Suppose you knew that, though you yourself would live your life to its natural end, the earth and all its inhabitants would be destroyed thirty days after your death. Or imagine that humanity is rendered infertile, so that the most recent generation would be the last.
To what extent would you remain committed to your current projects and plans? Would scientists still search for a cure for cancer? Would couples still want children? Which skills would be in the highest demand – oncologists or taxi drivers, rabbis or sex workers, troubadours or drug dealers?
Samuel Scheffler is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. The lecture, based on the Berkeley Tanner Lectures, was recorded 18 June 2015 at LSE