Is long-termism the worst kind of short-termism?

The ‘make a difference’ imperative, so dear to much of human history, perhaps seeded by writing and cults of immortality, feels like it is reaching a terminal phase (at least for our species). Having covered the planet in our carbon waste we now want to use the same urge to clean it up. But as we look for better commandments to constrain our bad habits might we not consider that the starting point is inherently toxic? Maybe turn the ‘make a difference’ hubris on its head. Appreciating difference, being difference, but not ‘making’ it like it is some recipe for chocolate cake or mixing up a batch of tastier climate. Celebrating difference as our constant companion in a creative universe that allows novelty is an invitation to improvisation and invention and the ‘flow’ of meaning in the here and now. Something that becomes much easier if we are able to understand and put to use a diversity of anticipatory systems and processes. That’s Futures Literacy. It includes long-termism, if only because we are obliged to cope with the oppressive legacies hefted at us by yesterday’s visions of grandeur and immortality, instantiated by gigatons of concrete and lakes of almost indestructible radioactive debris. But it also opens up the possibility of being liberated from the strategic and deterministic, dualisms of leaders and followers. To stop trying to pre-empt or short-cut the accumulation of wisdom and trust. To live fully in the differences of the now. Confident that such learning is inherent to sensing and sense-making and that the only legacy worth leaving is having lived wisely.

June 2, 2021


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