Are you willing to bet your life on a prosperous future?
How confident are you in the prospect of a wonderful future?
Let’s suppose a mage, a demon, or some mystical being with incredible power visits you. They ask this of you:
“Are you willing to give up the rest of your lifespan to live but a mere 3 days, 5 centuries in the future? “
Would you accept the offer?
I'm quite the young man and found this gambit worth some thought.
I often forget how much of what has become the norm, is relatively new. A vast part of our social progress happened in the last 2 centuries or so: Smartphones, smart TVs, computers, electricity, cars, airplanes, you name it. Don't even get me started on the life expectancy gains we've seen in the last few decades.
Babbage and his desire to see the future.
While I could have named this wager something else, like the Optimist’s Wager, the idea for this gambit came to me as I read James Gleick's book, The Information. Therein he makes note of the fact that Charles Babbage, the visionary that he was, would soon come to the realization that the complex machine he had hoped to build would never see the light of day.
Babbage wasn't an ordinary man, to say the least. People around him knew he was skilled at various technically demanding fields, but couldn't quite attribute to him a particular craft. Some would view him as a mathematician, which he was but even that was an understatement. Others attributed to him the trade of locksmith. Babbage at his core was a tinkerer, a man who toyed with ideas and things not merely to see how they worked, but to draw inspiration from them. This sort of man in his own eyes as well as the rest of the world was not suited for the world that was back then. He was born in the wrong period.
It is said that in a time nearing the end of his life, he hoped to give it all up just to see what the world would be like 5 centuries in the future.
Is the future worth your life now?
Many of us, especially those who read this newsletter are without a doubt the sort of people Babbage was. Incredibly intelligent forward-thinking individuals whose greater purpose in life is the creation of the future.
But who is to say that this future is a great one let alone that it exists. There are various challenges we currently face that are shaping to be truly existential threats. Global warming for one proves itself capable of making what may be left of human existence hell on earth.
The recent pandemic has shown that humanity sucks at social engineering but that it is largely successful at creating technological solutions to the problems at hand. Sadly that in itself is often not enough on its own.
So what do you think? Is the future bright or is it dystopia? Would you be willing to bet the entirety of your life now, to witness the world 5 centuries down the lane? Would you be willing to take on this wager? If yes, why? For what it’s worth, the decision isn’t made easier given the uncertainty of the future.
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Thanks for reading and till next time.