What has posterity done for us?
The famous question, “What has posterity ever done for me?” must be taken seriously. —Kenneth Boulding
My friend, the irrepressible David Brin, riffs on the theme of year-end giving with his recent call to non-billionaires to also act philanthropically, and to be intentional about it. It’s a lovely affirmation of the fundamental needs of citizens in a free society to resist abdicating our social responsibilities to erstwhile purveyors of the public good and to preserve polycentrism of association, self-governance, and beneficence. David gets there by a mix of grateful and fiscally responsible patriotism (he confesses he has long sent a little contribution above his tax bill to help pay down the public debt); an affirmation of the division of labor (charities coordinate “proxy power” allowing some of us to work full time on behalf of social causes); and a call to eschew cynicism in favor of hope ( David’s hope is primarily of the Baconian rather than the Augustinian sort, but this is a conversation for another time).
Interestingly, David flips Boulding’s question (What has posterity ever done for me?) on its head and asks us to consider instead why posterity would want to keep us around. David covers the bases here pretty well, jumping over our generation’s famous dinner party question (If you could have dinner with anyone from history… ?), to the possibility that future generations would want to keep us around as sims, to the concern a handful may have as to whether or not future generations will actually want to wake them up from their cryogenic sleep.