The Time Of Your Life

People say they wouldn’t want to live in the past because there was less stuff then and no anaesthetic. I’m not so sure.

Pretty obviously if you went back to the Middle Ages with a modern sensibility you would find a lot of things not to like. But who is to say how you would feel if you had a medieval sensibility? So here’s two thought experiments:

You go back to 1019 and you invite people to join you in the future. They ask what to expect. You say: “It’s really great. We stare at pieces of glass all day. Everybody argues about everything. And there is no God.” How many takers do you think you would get?

Now, imagine visitors from 2219 showing up in 2019 and inviting us to join them in the future. We ask what to expect. They say: “It’s really great. We live as brains in vats, fed on hormones and psychedelics that keep us incredibly happy for ever.” Would you go?

Which is to say only that what appears as progress to you may look different to people accustomed to other times. Probably you wouldn’t choose to live in 2219 with your brain in a vat; and probably people in 1019 would be similarly hesitant about living as we do.

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