Jul 28, 2009

Youth today... and the future

So I had my final lecture today (teaching university undergrads about "sociology of the family") in the summer class I was teaching, and as usual in my classes, the final lecture looks at the future. We watched a video of Kurzweil, and had a discussion about things like genetic engineering, life expectancy, aging society, the Internet and so on. At one point, however, I was shocked: vast majority of the students seemed very opposed to the idea of immortality (which is increasingly becoming a serious possibility according to some scientists).

Interestingly, theirs were not the arguments I was used to hearing in the past ("it's not natural/it's against the religion/etc."). No, this bunch was rather... very, very pessimistic. They talked about boredom ("why would you want to leave forever? you'll just keep seeing more human misery"), about how the future will be scary (citing sci-fi antiutopias - Huxley, Wells, etc.), about how we have to deal with overpopulation and scarce resources and how immortality is unsustainable, and they even considered (and roughly supported) the idea that the government should make it illegal for people to achieve immortality (!).

I haven't held enough discussions on this subject to know if this group represents an outlier, or is there some current of pessimism about the future that is surfacing about the modern youth?

Being a singularitarian optimist myself I found their pessimism unsettling. Not to want to see the wonders of the future, not to want to live one life's fully... that's what *I* find scary.

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