How will we disgust our descendants?
How will we disgust our descendants?
Imagine that you are lucky enough (or unlucky – depending on your perspective) to live another hundred years. The year is now 2123 and you are at your current age plus one hundred. You are surrounded by your family and friends, or maybe some reporters, perhaps even some non-human beings (whatever feels right, this part is up to you). They are curious to learn about your first-hand experience of living a century earlier. As the conversation progresses, you grow more and more uncomfortable. Most of the questions start with something like “How did you…?”, as one might expect. However, as you rummage in your memory and do your best to provide a faithful account of life in 2023, you see something much worse than bewilderment on your listeners’ faces. Everyone is gracious and adequately respectful but you quickly realise that the follow-up questions are veiled versions of a half-accusing, half-disgusted “How could you…?”.
Is the above highly probable? It likely is not. Is it plausible? That is debatable and depends on several factors, but it is not my goal to provide the answer. The point is that this imaginary situation is a useful tool for seeing the present from a different angle. Think about how our current ways could disgust our distant ancestors. You can surely name a few things that seem evident and are probably already present in public discourse around the world. So we need to try harder: is there something about our contemporary way of life that is common now but could be perceived as highly controversial in the future – something that virtually no one, including you, tries to question or even thinks of questioning? This is a far more difficult query but we can assume that our distant ancestors were also oblivious to how we would perceive some of their ways.
You could rightly argue that morality is notorious for being difficult to define with scientific criteria. Perhaps the idea of an objective morality does not ring as bad as “moral relativism”, but it is almost equally disputable. So how do we decide what is wrong and right? And who are we to judge? For the needs of this project, we evaded the murky waters of such considerations and asked ourselves a far simpler and rather straightforward question: How might we disgust our descendants? And in particular: Which of those future triggers of disgust are we largely oblivious to?
Does it all matter? It does, for a number of reasons. First, this sort of reflection could improve your grasp of the future by encouraging you to question your assumptions, imagine alternatives, surf the wave of uncertainty, and by making you more futures literate. More importantly: the sooner we, humans, realise our contemporary barbarisms, the sooner we can move towards a better, more mature humanity. If these reasons are still not good enough for you, then how about a chance to join the ranks of the enlightened, who are ahead of their times? Read on!
4CF The Futures Literacy Company
It would be short-sighted to assume that we, as humanity, have reached such a level of maturity that our descendants will not find some aspects of our – apparently civilised – everyday life repulsive and sad. So we asked 60 futurists from around the world:
“What will we disgust our descendants with?”
Many of the submitted ideas are already present in public discourse and confirm areas in which we need to change. But we were especially interested in novel barbarisms that humanity is still largely oblivious to.
That’s why this infographic shows the futurists’ answers grouped into 93 contemporary barbarisms ranked in a public vote according to how eye-opening they are.
We hope the report inspires discussion and opens new paths for research, provides ideas for scientific publications and, hopefully, encourages action in the present for the betterment of our future.
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