Uncertainty & Future Planning Are Inversely Proportional

“There’s a paradox that strikes me whenever I visit Ely Cathedral, an amazing building just a few miles away from where we are sitting. It was built by masons as a structure that wasn’t to be finished in their lifetime, but which still inspires us 800 years later. We can’t think long term like they did. I think the reason is that those masons thought their grandchildren would live similar lives to them. Now, however, the pace of technological change means we don’t know enough about the preferences of people half a century in the future to be able to make confident plans. Although our horizons in space and time have hugely expanded, our capacity to do reliable long-term planning is less than it was in medieval times…

…One reason why I wish them luck is that human enhancement is going to be strongly regulated on Earth. But if there are these guys in a hostile environment on Mars, they would have every incentive to adapt themselves to that environment and they’d be away from the regulators. So if there is to be a post-human species, then it could evolve fastest from the progeny of these bold pioneers.

-Richard Webb interviews Martin Rees, “Martin Rees interview: Elon Musk could spawn the first post-humans.” New Scientist. March 9, 2022.

I found these two paragraphs interesting as a piece. We are so unsure about technical change that we cannot even sure that our progeny will be anything like us, much less living similar lives. This uncertainty makes it a challenge to think long term. This should be some kind of law: as uncertainty increases, our view of our time horizon decreases.