Why study future emulations? Some readers of drafts of this book have told me they don’t care much about future worlds where they don’t personally expect to live, unless those worlds contain their children, grandchildren, or especially engaging fictional characters. And I must admit that the scenario I present here may not be especially well suited for dramatic or inspirational stories. But I will note that applying similar standards would declare most of history to also be uninteresting. Yet many of those who express low interest in the future also show great interest in many nooks and crannies of history. Today, we take far more eff ort to study the past than the future, even though we can’t change the past. people often excuse this by saying that we know far more about the past than the future. Yet modest eff orts often give substantial insights into the future, and we would know more about the future if we tried harder to study it. Also, relative to the future, our study of the past has hit diminishing returns; most of the easiest insights about the past have already been found. If policy matters, then the future matters, because policies only affect the future. And unless we are very pessimistic or self-centered time-wise, the distant future matters the most, as with continued growth we expect the vast majority of people to live there. Furthermore, for most intellectuals most of the benefits that result from their policy discussions will happen with long delays; the path from an intellectual having a new policy idea, to publishing an article on it, to someone else reading that article, to that someone gaining policy influence, to them finally finding a chance to try that idea, to the tried policy having consequences, can take decades. If enormous changes will happen over the next decades, policy analyses that ignore such changes may be irrelevant or badly misdirected. It is thus important to try to foresee big upcoming changes, and their likely consequences.
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