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The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking

by Roman Krznaric Author

When Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1953, he refused to patent it, forgoing profit so that more lives could be saved. This generosity was motivated by his belief that humans should be "good ancestors" to future generations. Fast forward to the 21st century, and philosopher Roman Krznaric sees just the opposite: Our short term, exploitative mindsets have “colonized the future” with a grow-at-all-costs obsession. Businesses eschew civic responsibility for immediate gains, politicians throw their support behind whatever will win them the next election, and we all struggle to focus our attention beyond the next alert from our smartphones. The result? An inexcusable chasm between the haves and have-nots—and mounting existential threats—have brought our species to the precipice of disaster. If Salk were still alive, he would be mortified.

But there is hope, if we can enact within ourselves one crucial change: Trade shortsightedness for long-term thinking. In The Good Ancestor, Krznaric reveals six practical ways we can retrain our brains to think of the long view, including Deep-Time Humility (recognizing our lives as a cosmic eyeblink) and Cathedral Thinking (starting projects that will take more than one lifetime to complete). His aim is to inspire more “time rebels” like Greta Thunberg—to shift our allegiance from this generation to all humanity—in short, to save our planet and our future.

(This book may contain a sharpie mark on the top or bottom edge and may show mild signs of shelfwear.)