Atermism Essay Raw

Atermism, or the masterplan to save the world

I’m confused. But then again, that’s not surprising. The world is far too complex for there to be a clear, straight path passing through it.

I’m afraid. Not in its concrete form as fear from something specific. As far as I can see, there don’t seem to be any monsters left. But I feel something in my neck. Where my gaze does not reach. I know that if I turn around, something will lurk there, like a scene from a bad horror movie.

There’s a language in which the past is in front of you, clear to see, only hard to recognize in the distance. And the future lies behind you, unknown, vague and full of surprises. Life is a train ride where you sit opposite the travelling direction.

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

That’s a nice picture. Except I’m pretty sure we’re heading into a still unfinished tunnel right now.

I’ve made up my mind. No more sitting around for this. No longer to passively enjoy the journey. I’ll go to the driver in front, turn on the fog lights and if necessary blow up a clear, straight path through this damn mountain.

Wow, what a pathos. Sorry about that.

Of course, that was an exaggeration. I’ll probably never be a hero, either. That’s ok. In the words of Exurb1a:

Go home Tao. Don’t try to be a hero, or a sage, or a warrior. Just exist for a while and be decent. That’s heroism enough.

and then we’ll be okay

But hey, now that I have your attention, do you feel like talking a little bit about the problems of mankind?

I’ll just claim that many of you could relate to these feelings, maybe you even feel the same way. We don’t talk much directly about fear and confusion together, but given what humanity is talking about, the stories we share, and what the news is producing *cough* coronavirus *cough* (too soon?), we seem to be a very concerned species.

If I were to try to describe modern society and this feeling that’s in the air in one word, it would probably be “self-aware late-roman”.
Okay. That’s four. But we seem to be the very first species to at least suspect their own imminent demise.

Well, it seems we’re pretty sure in the middle.
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch – Museo del Prado.

The beauty is, I’ve not at any time mentioned what I’m afraid of. Depending on how your journey went so far, you have felt your worst fear behind you. You’ve projected your vision of the apocalypse onto the mountain that we’re racing toward. And if I now give this mountain a name, I will destroy the image of some. Because I think the biggest problem of humankind is: Immigration.

“What? Not climate change?” or “Finally someone who sees what I see!” Whatever your reaction was, I fooled you. Of course, this text is about climate change.

“Whew!” or “Idiot!”, I did it again. This text isn’t about climate change either. Not about GAI, automation, overpopulation, the super-rich, surveillance states, epidemics, super-bacteria, financial crashes, SHTF scenarios or aliens (duh?).

This text is only an introduction. An introduction to my train ride. I hope you can take something with you for yours, but most of all I would be happy to learn from yours. Because mine has only just begun.

Some of you have been through tunnels before. Weathered financial crises, wars, famine, rebellions. Some of you have even lived through the winter of the Cold War. And perhaps, it would be a great honor for me if that were the case, one of my readers even has memories of driving by night. Of the horrors we humans brought to light in our darkest hour. But the world war was long ago. Nuclear shelters have become museums and even the last financial crisis I did not consciously witness.

My name is Heye Groß, I am 22 years old and I am looking forward to the upcoming long and happy journey of my life. To a continuation of what was.

The fact that many of my age have doubts and objections about this sentence says a lot about our world, doesn’t it?
But I find the attitude of the experienced just as strange.
“It’ll work out. Don’t worry so much, kid. I’ve survived this far.”
Shouldn’t you be the ones to warn us like this?
“All past crises have been resolved by hard work, not optimism. By people who got out, ran ahead and dug the damn tunnel. Ready to sacrifice everything, they laid the tracks we drive on today.”

I have no answers to the question of how everything ends. I don’t know if this train is going too fast for us to still have time to lay down some rails. But we can try. And I can tell our story along the way. Like these lovely sidekicks:

© Netflix – The Witcher

© Python (Monty) Pictures

Maybe we can even have a participatory story on this site. A big shared Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, where we find out together how the view from the front seat looks like.

I don’t think the story of how we save the world exists yet. Nationalism, communism and finally capitalism have fallen (yes, of course, I read Harari), but a new narrative is still to come. I don’t pride myself on finding it, but maybe we can search together.

To lay the starting stone, I would like to present an idea. A theory, half-baked and probably not even new. But this is how every scientific process begins (at least according to WaitButWhy):

The biggest project of Tim Urban so far. Every single word is worth it.

One puts an idea out there and just hopes that it will stand up to criticism from others. So your task is clear. Try to destroy it.

Without further ado, here is the idea:

Belief in your own immortality makes you a better person.

Wow. Stop! Religion red-flag! A cult leader!
Burn him at the stakes!

Yes, yes, I know. Belief, immortality and better person in one sentence. This has never worked out well. You are right. But:

The neglect of a possible own death changes basic assumptions of moral and ethical theory and forces the rethinking of fundamental principles of our society, including democracy and inviolable human rights, as well as a questioning of personal value systems for decision making. The resulting moral theory may at first glance appear contrary to the current notion of good and evil, but, like any moral system, it will not be fully implemented by humans. The morality ultimately practiced, which arises when people assume that they are immortal, is to a large extent congruent with what is considered ideal, but not practical, according to current moral concepts related to death. Someone who is truly convinced of his own immortality, that is, who believes in it, will automatically make decisions that we today attribute only to a saint, even if his reasoning seems immoral.

somehow sounded less catchy.

But this is only a theory. A life theory!

P.s.: This article is simply there so that people later claim that I coined the term atermism. Which is exactly what I’m going to do now:

Ater-mism: A theoretical ideology that deals with the practical implications of immortality and hyper-long term thinking. Word origin: without (α), ending (τέρμᾰ), -ism

(yes, all true philosophers and people who actually know ancient Greek are now invited to turn over in their graves)

This post is also available in: Deutsch

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *