The Illusion of You Pt.2: Treating Your Future Selves like a Community
Striking the balance between living in the moment and planning for the future is credibly challenging. At the exact same time, you have to make reservations for the future whilst also understanding that the future you are planning for may never be realised. We can’t predict what will happen. We can only estimate based on what has happened so far. And this makes planning for the future both a reasonable thing to do, as well as crazy one.
Other animals don’t have the same temporal understanding of the world that we do. In that sense, other animals don’t have future selves. They only have the version of them which they are right now, in this moment. They can’t fathom an idea of the future.
We’re entirely different though. We have an unlimited number of future selves. Whereas our past selves are cemented, the future ‘you’ is limitless in its way. There’s the future you 20 years down the road, but there’s also the future you in 5 years time, or 3 hours time, or even in 20 seconds time. There’s also the future you in 20 years that could be entirely different based on your decision to drink a coffee now or not.
The quantity of future you’s is an incomprehensible number. Yet, we have to find a reasonable plan that will service the majority of them well, even if none of them ever happen.
When I try to think of these future versions of myself, I try not to think of them as me. After all, they aren’t me. The only me that exists is the one in this very moment, and so any future version of me is different to who I am now (More on this here.)
As such, instead of thinking of all versions as ‘me’, I like to think of these future iterations as a community of people. Each future version of you is a member of this community, and it is up to us, in this moment to act in a way that will best service this community, as well as providing the best possible outcome for us right now.
This might sound sort of impossible, but it is something you do every day already, assuming you live in a society. Every single day we all do things which benefit us right now, but also do the most good for the community we find ourselves in. We go to work everyday in order to earn a living but doing this also provides a needed service to society in order to keep the economy afloat etc. All of our decisions affect the community we find ourselves in, and this is also true for the community which made up of our future selves.
What does this mean right now? Well it means that every decision you make not only affects you immediately, but it also affects any number of future versions that you could become. And this means that a balance must be struck. You can make every decision to benefit your present self alone if you wish. But you will have a great time at now the cost of your future self. Spending all of your money now, and spending all your time having fun and drinking and partying is fine, once you understand that you are short-changing the future of you.
On the other hand, doing everything for the future you – not living in the moment in order to save for the future – is short-changing the present you. Just as living entirely for the present breeds misfortune in the future, living entirely for the future breeds misery in the present. This is especially more concerning when you consider that the present is guaranteed whereas the future is not, and so you could be preventing yourself from living right now in anticipation of a future that may never arrive. There’s a tragic streak to the person who obsesses over money and pensions and savings, because there is no guarantee that we make it to an age where a pension becomes useful.
No version of you really exists, but at the same time, all versions of you are dependent on one another. So we have to act accordingly. We are not just living for ourselves, we are also living for the future versions that we might become, and every decision you make right now does play a role in the future version of who you are.
We have a responsibility to find the balance, and live in a way that benefits both us right now, and the people we will eventually become.
Just some thoughts.