Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Musings on Today and Tomorrow

How important is it to worry about tomorrow's world?  What are we really trying to accomplish?  Are we trying to preserve the planet as it exists for us?  Have we decided that preserving an environment that pleases us, a way of life that is comfortable and satisfying for us, should continue for eternity?  Since we have developed methods to actually affect how the future planet may evolve, we seem to have declared that the existence we know today is the existence to be preserved forever.

This "preservation complex" seems to be a natural one.  After all, who doesn't want to maintain the planet as a place of comfort for "those who come after us."

Though we seem to be morally committed to creating a "better world" for those who follow us, can the "happiness" of the world we exist in truly predict the "happiness" of the future world?  Larger evolutionary and ecological factors may evoke a different response and the happiness of succeeding generations may differ from our concepts of happiness today.  Future beings will evolve in one form or another irrespective of our attempts at conservation.  Though global warming, for example, may be an unwanted circumstance for extant homo sapiens, it may devolve into the initiation of another way of life  -a way of life quite alien to what exists today.  Maybe a happier life.  Our global warming problem my become their nurturing environment!

The philosopher Derek Parfit has expressed his concern about our "bias toward the future."  He conjectures that the time of human presence on this planet is just be a beginning, with a future that is significantly longer than its past.  We fret, he says, about the probability of future pain without remembering the pain of the distant past.  The pain of the past, he believes, was probably outweighed by the happiness of the past - and so, in all likelihood,  will the pain of the future.

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