Generally, many people in society see short-sightedness as immature -- e.g. a politican that only thinks about the good stuff they'll do once elected, only to forget about it a few years later. Policy that sounds immediately able to do good, but is just a "band aid solution", like putting a bucket under a leak, without solving more longer term systemic problems. Exploiting some resource/opportunity/moment to bring prosperity for a few years while causing lasting damage for decades. People often talk a good talk about long-termism being wise -- e.g. planting trees in whose shade we won't be able to sit, even if they don't act on it. On a personal level (not just societal), too much short-term thinking is treated as childish, having a lack of conscientiousness, lack of delayed gratification, lack of foresight, planning etc. After all, someone who only thinks a few months ahead in terms of their budget or someone whose plans are day-to-day, paycheck to paycheck is not generally admired as a good role model.

Yet ironically, in the other direction, thinking too long term is often mocked too (e.g. thinking not just about one's current generation, but the next generation and then the next all the way to people you might not meet, talk of what will happen beyond one's lifetime, discussions of the implications of future tech to help people or change the world radically, is seen as sci-fi, utopianism, associated once more with childishness). If you think too much about 100 years into the future, and make plans for that, instead of 10 years, people will often say that's foolish, just like people would say that the person who makes plans for 1 year only, instead of 10 years is also foolish.

Has anyone else noticed this and thought about this? I doubt I'm the only one who has noticed and been struck by the fact that both perspectives, in opposite directions, are critiqued (has anyone written/discussed about this in a substantial way?). 

Does this show some kind of "middle ground" view of "medium-term as normal" in terms of the average person's mode of thinking. And if so, how would one pinpoint what is a "reasonable" middle ground? Or maybe I'm overthinking it. Maybe the people critiquing both long term and short term thinking aren't the same set of people. Maybe it's just a matter of "people will find criticisms either way" and "you can't satisfy everyone". Or perhaps there is really some sweet spot pragmatically when it comes to planning or acting that is reflected in the critique of straying too far in both extremes. Like the serenity prayer about having the wisdom to know what can or cannot be changed  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

Perhaps critiques of long-termism consider that we're at too early a stage to be able to change things, and critiques of short-termism consider that we're overlooking what we can change in the future and there is wisdom in finding the balance?

What do you think?

 

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 8:32 AM

If neartermism is within 30 years maybe
And longtermism is greater than 100,000,000,000,000,000 years,
What is the middle position? 50,000,000,000,000,015 years?
^this may not be the correct way to frame it, but also Will talks about how most positions lead to one of the extremes and it's hard to find a middle place during their more recent 80k ep https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/will-macaskill-what-we-owe-the-future/