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November 26, 2017

11:21 PM

The fear of the future has become an undeniable reality

Francisco Miraval

The fear of the future is a topic you can now find in several unexpected places, from national business magazines (Forbes) to statements by well-known business leaders (Elon Musk) to conversations among friends around a table and holding coffee mugs. Yet, to talk about the fear of the future and to understand it are very different things.

First, we are not talking about the “traditional” fear of the future, that is, the fear that the future will not bring what we want due to some unexpected and probably irreversible situations, such as unemployment, an accident, or a disease.

That “traditional” fear of the future is the fear that something could happen and, if we are unprepared for that sudden change, we will experience hard times and our expectations about the future will never materialize.  

But there is now a “new” fear of the future. We are afraid not that this could happen or that could happen in the future. In fact, we are not afraid of unfulfilled expectations or of uncertainties. We are afraid of the future as such.

In the past, we played the “What could happen if” we don’t have money, or resources, or health. Now, we fear the future even if we are healthy and we have access to money and resources. The future we fear is not our future or the future of our family. It is a global, existential fear about the future of humankind and of the planet.

Fear paralyzes us. It leads us to either run away from danger or to run into danger. Yet, fear never provides solutions. In spite of that, every day we do many things because of our fears and based on our fears, even if we don’t acknowledge our own fears.

For example, if we leave the phone at home, we go and get it because we are afraid something could happen to us or something bad could happen to other and we will not know it if we don’t have the phone next to us. In fact, our society is based on fear. That’s why we install alarms and security cameras, and that’s why we spend more money on weapons than on education and health combined.

We can say we cultivate fear. Yet, the fear of the future is different from fearing a terrorist attack or an earthquake or hurricane. The fear of the future is realizing you are already obsolete and there are no possibilities for you to be part of an alluring, yet terrifying future.

So, we become paralyzed and we resort to either perpetuating the present or repeating the past is the best way to avoid facing the future. Yet, closing your eyes to reality doesn’t make that reality go away.

What could we do, or should we do, to overcome our existential fear of the imminent transhuman future? Perhaps we should or could fervently embrace the hopelessness of being human, too human (with our gratitude to both Nietzsche and Miguel De La Torre). 

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