difficult to relate with our future selves, and even more, with our future
society. But why is that so? A recent published by Slate presents an
interesting predicament in our ability to think about the future, deep inside
our brains. Scans have shown that when individuals think about their future
selves, their brain scans light up similarly to when they think about a
may explain a lot — why it’s difficult to invest at a young age, to maintain a
healthy lifestyle, and to get out of that relationship you know is probably not
going to last, but is fun, for now.
Studies show that the more your brain treats your future
self like a stranger, the less self-control you exhibit today, and the less
likely you are to make pro-social choices, choices that will probably help the
world in the long run. – Jane
McGonigal, Ph.D., Slate
same article presented a study done by the Institute for the Future, which
found that 53% of the Americans surveyed said they “rarely or never think about
something that might happen 30 years from today.”
phenomena called the “future gap, is especially apparent when you look at the
policies we are enacting in government today. Senators and Congresspeople who
are constantly up for re-election aren’t in a system that encourages long-term
investment. Thus, public education funding, federal spending on education
grants and child care get slashed. Taxes are cut and minimum wage jobs — which
are held by many young people — remain at embarrassingly low rates.
advocate for the future takes a sense of oneself. It also requires a certain
conviction in one’s own character and beliefs and faith in future generations.
The truth is, time slows for no one.d
Andrew was a child, he lived with his mother, father and younger brother in a
one-bedroom home where the family struggled to put food on the table. When
famine struck their village, the four borrowed just enough money to make the
long journey to Allegheny, Pennsylvania, where Andrew began working at 13 years
old. Life as an impoverished immigrant family was challenging. Andrew’s father
died seven years later, leaving him as the sole breadwinner of the family.
formal schooling was not an option, Andrew often spent his free time at the
local public library where he developed a hunger for literature and music. He
eventually learned a bookkeeping at night school, while working during the day.
course, this Andrew is Andrew Carnegie, the man who would become the wealthiest
man of his time. “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the
Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor
wealth receives the slightest consideration,” Carnegie would later say.
would go on to found an endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie
Library, Carnegie-Mellon University, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement
of Teaching. At his direction, the Carnegie Corporation of New York would
dedicate 125 million dollars to public libraries, education, concert halls and
has it that at one time in his youth, Carnegie fell in love and proposed marriage.
But the girl’s mother dissuaded her from accepting, embarrassed that her
daughter would wed a working boy of poverty. Of course, there was no way for
her to know what the future would hold. But it does present an interesting look
into society’s view of young people.
to judgement about a person’s future prospects, both as individuals, and as a
society. As a country, we fail the future with inaction on major legislation
and investment in programs that benefit younger generations.
there is a way to overcome the “future gap” phenomena. According Jane
McGonical, it’s about taking the time to learn about concrete possibilities for
time to take a moment to reflect, what are our fundamental values as a society?
What do we imagine the world to be? Does that reflect in the investments we are
making today? As one Buddhist saying goes, “If you’d like to know the future,
look at the present.” Rather than waiting for destiny or a strange series of
events, we must realize that the future is in our hands today.