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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Appiah Predicts "The Future"

What will future generations condemn us for?
Once, pretty much everywhere, beating your wife and children was regarded as a father's duty, homosexuality was a hanging offense, and waterboarding was approved… Looking back at such horrors, it is easy to ask: What were people thinking? Yet, the chances are that our own descendants will ask the same question, with the same incomprehension, about some of our practices today. Is there a way to guess which ones?

Kwame Appiah predicts that our descendants will feel about our own callous crowded prisons, our nightmarish factory farms, our isolated and neglected elders, and our reckless destruction of the biosphere on which we depend for survival as we feel now about the slavery, torture, and dehumanized homosexuals of those from whom we are ourselves descended.

Curiously enough, many people of the left already feel about our prisons, factory farms, neglected elders, and poisoning of our environment the way Appiah claims people of "The Future" will feel, meanwhile many people of the right still feel about extreme human exploitation, righteous torture, and vicious homosexuals exactly the way we have now presumably relegated to "The Past."

It will come as no surprise that I personally hope Appiah's predictions will come true, the sooner the better. But much more to the point, this is because I likely share many of the ethical assumptions and aspirations that are actually driving his "predictions."

That is why I must say I still disapprove of his derangement of what should be normative deliberation about the present-world in the present, in the presence of the diversity of peers with whom we presently share it into a futurological discourse making "predictions" to be debated as if they were competing hypothetical would-be factual accounts.

The appeal of his ethical universe scarcely recommends his own futurological retreat from it, and I find his indulgence in such futurology quite as pernicious as I do the, to me, more ethically obnoxious mainstream futurology of neoliberal corporate advertising hyperbole and military think-tank position papers or the profoundly delusive superlative futurology of techno-utopian Robot Cultists to which I devote much more disapproving attention here on Amor Mundi.

1 comment:

Summerspeaker said...

I largely agree with you here. Appealing to the hypothetical views of nonexistent folks for support strikes me as strange and unnecessary. The narrative of ever-increasing decency has a measure historical basis but could reverse at any moment even under the most optimistic interpretation.