Priorities in an era of drastic change
My priorities have shifted dramatically over the last few years, as I contemplate a world that is more unstable and less reliable than the world we have today.
My transition to this type of worldview has really affected the choices that I make today.
Instead of assuming that our civilization will continue uninterrupted, and that I will be able to enjoy a stable career in an "endless growth" economy, I think about what it means to live at a time where the Earth's carrying capacity has been breached by several orders of magnitude, where the climate is drastically changing, where countries are more war like than ever before, and where species are dying off in a great extinction event -- the sixth in Earth's history.
Here are some things I think about when I make my priorities:
Aligning myself with a chaotic future. Assuming the future will be less stable than the relative stability we enjoy today in rich countries, what are the skills and resources I should be identifying and cultivating in order to manage and survive at a time when things will be very different?
This informs career choices, but also personal decisions. What difference does it make to have a fancy job title today, if in 20 years my industry will be destroyed? I try and think through what it means to live in a chaotic future, and how I will be able to provide personal and professional value to others at that time.
Personal long term choices. Assuming less stability in the future, what are the choices I should be making today that will affect me in the long term? Things like home ownership and building a family are already normally serious decisions. How will those decisions be affected by a world of growing climate disasters, or political instability?
Deferred enjoyment. Life is already very short. Are there things I am putting off on doing because I already have a "plan" about the way the world should work -- a "plan" that may never happen? Are there places I want to visit, or experiences I want to enjoy, that I am putting off because I think I'll be able to do those things later?
Now is the time to really think about these things. We may look back in 20 years and realize how precious this time period was, and how much of it we wasted on worrying about unnecessary things.