Humans are not good at the taking the long term view. Our ability to do so does vary significantly with circumstances though, depending on our perception of stability. When we collectively feel that tomorrow will be similar to today, and that we have our basic needs covered, then we are free to think about longer term concerns and the bigger picture.
In contrast, when we exist under circumstances of little forward visibility, and where we are not confident about our access to basic necessities, then the luxury of the long term disappears, and we are pitched into a state of short term crisis management.
Economics describes this parameter as a change in our discount rate. When the discount rate rises, it means that the future is discounted increasingly steeply in comparison to the present, so that today has far more value than next week, and almost infinitely more value than the far future. This has been the natural state for humanity throughout much of its existence. Continue reading “A Future Discounted”