Now that we have spent most of this book gaining a better idea of what a future em world might look like, we can start to ask: is this a good or a bad scenario? Would we want to encourage or discourage having this world replace our world? What small changes might make this world better? Many people just don’t care much about the non-immediate future, making their evaluation of the em era very simple; it is a big zero to them no matter how it plays out. Others care mainly about the very distant future, so the em era mainly matters to them via how it might influence the ages that follow. But alas that topic is beyond the scope of this book. So let us consider now how we might evaluate the em era itself, if we cared about it. Our evaluation of the em era depends, of course, on the criteria we use. One simple option is to use the usual intuitive criteria that most people seem to use when they verbally evaluate a distant future. A recent study of people evaluating different possible futures for 2050 found that their main consideration or concern was how warm and moral future people would be ( Bain et al. 2013 ). That is, most people surveyed cared little about the future of population, pleasure, wealth, poverty, freedom, suicide, terrorism, crime, poverty, homelessness, disease, skills, laziness, or progress in science and technology. They cared a bit more about future self-discipline, humility, respect for tradition, equality, meaning in life, and protection of the environment. But mostly people cared about future benevolence: how honest, sincere, warm, caring, and friendly future people would be. This pattern of responses makes sense if people tend to think about the far future abstractly, and if abstract modes of thinking function in part to help us make good social impressions about our views on morality (Liberman and Trope 2008; Hanson 2009; Torelli and Kaikati 2009). By emphasizing whether future folks follow standard social norms, we show our respect for those norms.
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