Neil Tambe

Husband, Father, Citizen, Professional.

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

The two ways I can think of to develop a feeling of care for the distant future

In his recent book titled Stubborn Attachments, Tyler Cowen argues that we should care much more than we do about the distant future (among other things). It’s so interesting and honest a book I plan to post a review later this weekend. 

But for now, a question I have been ruminating on for many months now - how do I develop care for the distant future?

All I can come up with are the following two. Can you think of any other mechanisms to develop care, or a stubborn attachment if you will, for the distant future? 

The first mechanism is love. When I think of and look at my son, my heart becomes open. I don’t want to leave him in a world with tons of problems. I want to make sacrifices for his future. (And for the future of his spouse, friends, and neighbors).

And because I know Bo will love his kids, I love and want to make sacrifices for them too. And because my grandkids will love their kids, I love them and want to make sacrifices for them, and so on.

My love for my son, translates into a love for many generations after that. A love so strong that it transcends generations is one way to develop a concern for the distant future.  

The only other way I can think of to develop care for the distant future is beauty. There are some things, I think, that are so beautiful and so pure that they are worth something priceless. These things are probably different for different people, but are things like art, truth, God, family, sport, nature, music, and freedom. But it is an understatement to call them things, because they have more gravity than that. They are ideas that transcend a moment in time, because they are intrinsically meaningful.

These intrinsically meaningful things are such special creations that perhaps we just want them to exist in the universe, even long after we’re gone. We care about the distant future because we simply want these beautiful, intrinsically meaningful creations to exist in perpetuity.

I happen to agree with Tyler that we should care much more about the distant future than we do. Which is why I think it’s important to think of the messy, tactical question of the ways we can develop that sentiment.