Robin Hanson has a post asking what stories of wonder and horror we will be telling our grandchildren, and what stories will be passed along between generations.
After a record two feet of snow this weekend, my area (DC) has another 5-9 inches coming tomorrow. My street hasn’t been plowed, and likely won’t be until next week. So this might seem one of those “stories to tell your grandkids.” Except, well, we have water, power, heat, tv, internet, plenty of food, and no more than the usual work to do. Not exactly a disaster story for the ages.
The thrust is that we live in a time of abundance, and our lack of spectacular overarching narratives is a price we will pay for living in this time. It is true, there will probably be no one talking to their descendants about “the Great Recession”…and stories of growth do not seem to elicit the types of responses that we have to something like the Great Depression…to us. High levels of growth and innovation is all we know.
But what about future humans? Even though they will have basic needs taken care of by technology, they will most likely be wandering nomads, building new lives throughout space — always on the brink of some disaster or other anomaly (much like hunter-gatherer societies of the past).
In this environment, many meta-narratives will arise. People will be interested in different accounts of what will be great acts — there will still be forms of scarcity, like holding office, or your own 15 minutes of fame. People will enjoy cross-analyzing these narratives, finding inconsistencies, building new constructions of the truth. Tribal legends will be born, and passed on.
Our descendants will be living in a new golden age of niches and stories!