Not long after my daughter was born in early 2013, I had a sobering thought about the life that lay ahead for her. With health and luck, she will live long enough to see the dawn of the 22nd Century.
She may be frail or tired. But as the fireworks go off, she’ll hopefully be contemplating what comes next. By then medicine may have extended the average lifespan, and at 86, perhaps she’ll only be on the cusp of retirement.
How often do we contemplate the impact of our decisions as they ripple into the decades and centuries ahead?As a journalist, I often encounter and deploy the date 2100. It’s a milestone year frequently cited in climate change news reports, stories about future technologies and science fiction. But it’s so far ahead, clouded with so many possibilities, that the route we will take to get there is difficult to see. I rarely consider that, like my daughter, millions of people alive today will be there as 2100 arrives, inheriting the century my generation will leave behind.
All the decisions we make, for better and worse, will be theirs to live with. And these descendants will have their own families: hundreds of millions of people not yet born, most of whom you or I will never meet.