Maybe Future Generations Will Be Beautiful

Cass R. Sunstein is one of the most important legal scholars of America; he is also a big fan of science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Sunstein thinks that science fiction can be a useful tool to inoculate people against it the prejudice of the status quo-Our tendency to resist something new and unknown.

“If you love science fiction, you’ll find it fun, and maybe a nice chill goes down your spine, when you think about things that weren’t dreamed up until 1990 or 2005, and what things excite you, and maybe even scare you,” says Sunstein in episode 468 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Sunstein’s new book Avoiding catastrophe establish an approach to assess unpredictable threats such as asteroids, AI, climate change, and pandemics. One of the most fictional scientific ideas in the book is that people don’t have to worry so much about the well-being of future generations, an idea that Sunstein attributes to the Nobel Prize-winning economist. Thomas Schelling.

“There are a lot of people who organize that we do things to protect future generations from what we’re going to harm them,” says Sunstein. “And Schelling says, pay attention to that, because future generations will be much richer and better than us – if history is a guide – and if we sacrifice our resources to help them, we will be redistributed by us poor to them rich, and where it is justice in this? “

In fact, investing too much time and energy to safeguard future generations could be effectively counterproductive if these measures end up stifling economic growth. “The fact that we’re as good as we are now is because previous generations have done a lot of things that make them healthier, that make them richer, that make them better in countless ways, rather than thinking,‘ We stand for innovation. it’s to protect the future, ”says Sunstein. “So you can add to Schelling’s point that the future – if the past is prologue, and people will be better than us – you can add that the future depends on our business a lot of innovative, creative, and carefree things. so much for them. “

However, realizing that future generations will probably be wiser and richer than we are, we should not be given carte blanche to take actions that even a wiser and richer civilization will find almost impossible to reverse. “We should not take Schelling’s arguments to suggest that we should devalue endangered species or immaculate areas,” says Sunstein. “The idea of ​​preserving precious things for future generations is a good idea. And if they’re richer but they don’t have wolves, coyotes and bears, they’re to that extent significantly poorer, even if they have a lot of money. ”

Listen to the full interview with Cass R. Sunstein in Episode 468 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Cass R. Sunstein on I woke up:

“The show is about someone losing both his wife and son after a car accident – you never know. Half the time the wife is alive and the son is dead, and half the time the son he is alive and his wife is dead.These are two different realities in which he lives, and he cannot understand which is true, and the viewer cannot either.And the parallels and discontinuities between the two realities are incredibly fascinating … .The idea of ​​parallel worlds is something I find intriguing.I really like the writer Robert Charles Wilson, because he does fantastic things with this. Then it’s my alley. You can have a bad show on this topic, though [Awake] it’s good off the charts. ”

Cass R. Sunstein on The world according to Star Wars:

“With the Star Wars book tour, I had no hope that anyone other than Star Wars fans — if I was lucky — would show up, but instead what I found was that the people on the tour were like brothers and sisters to me, in the sense that there was an immediate sense of trust and willingness to be real, rather than to be a member of the audience. And so they talked about something that happened in his life, like a child had gotten very sick, and as soon as the child could get out of the hospital, the father took the child to Star Wars. … In so far as life is concerned, our connections between us are an inch deep, and this is better than nothing, but on my Star Wars tour, I had the feeling that we were all, in a sense, family. “

Cass R. Sunstein on Barack Obama:

“He’s tall and thin, like that.” the most famous Vulcan, and his ears are not tiny, like the most famous Vulcan He also has a very logical mind – he is very capable of being really disciplined under pressure. I saw it under a lot of pressure, and I never saw it [act out] like Captain Kirk. But the difference is that he has a very sensitive heart, and even if he doesn’t always show it, he’s there. … I was hit by a car in 2017, and when I woke up in the hospital, one of the first people to call me was him. And while he’s a friend, you know, he has a lot of friends, and for him to call me after I was hit by a car – almost immediately after I woke up – it was extremely touching. ”

Cass R. Sunstein on the story:

“I’m particularly interested in time travel, alternative stories, parallel universes, so I thought I’d write a bit about it. … I wrote an essay on counterfeit history, which can be found in a book I published recently This is not normal, in which I end by saying that historians are actually engaged in an enterprise very similar to science fiction writers. Some historians hate that, but I say it’s so in the sense that they are – to understand what caused it – actually building counterfactual worlds. He’s a little more disciplined and not creative than the best science fiction writers, but he’s amazing, and it’s still the same thing. ”

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