What We Owe The Future

As business leaders, we often get stuck in the operational issues of the short term. Once a year, when we go into the strategy review process, we may look five or even ten years into the future. Most of us, however, never apply perspectives beyond that. Something that I believe hinders us in building Better Business and a better future.

Maybe that’s why I’m so fascinated by the book What We Owe The Future by William McAskill. He is a young Scottish philosopher and author and an Associate Professor in Philosophy and Research Fellow at the Global Priorities Institute, University of Oxford. And in short, his book is a guide for making the future go better.

As of today, humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. And, as Will states, ”Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more – or it could end tomorrow. Staggering numbers of people will lead lives of flourishing or misery or never live at all, depending on what we do today.”

As we navigate the complexities of the modern world, it becomes increasingly apparent that our actions today have far-reaching consequences for the generations yet to come.

Each decision we make, every policy we implement, and all the resources we consume have the potential to shape the future in profound ways. In recognizing this, it is crucial that we acknowledge future generations and embrace the concept of responsible stewardship.

Here, let’s shortly explore a few thoughts on what we might owe to those who will inherit the world after us and the importance of acting with foresight and long-term thinking. I would even go as far as to claim that it is our moral responsibility to do so.

Preserving and Regenerating the Environment

One of the most pressing obligations we have to future generations is preserving – and regenerating – the environment.

Our current patterns of resource extraction, pollution, and deforestation are depleting the Earth’s natural resources and threatening the delicate balance of ecosystems. It doesn’t take much thinking to understand that we are indeed the custodians of this planet and that we need to ensure that we leave behind a habitable and thriving planet and society for coming generations.

This involves transitioning to sustainable (and regenerative) practices, investing in renewable energy sources, and actively combating climate change. If we do this right, we can ensure a healthy and sustainable future on this planet for generations to come.

Social Justice and Equality

In addition preserving the environment, we also need to open our eyes to social justice and equality issues. By fostering a society that values inclusivity, diversity, and equal opportunities, we can create a foundation for a better future.

This means working towards eradicating systemic injustices, such as poverty, discrimination, and inequality, which can have long-lasting effects on the well-being and prospects of future generations.

By striving for a more just and equitable world, we can ensure that our descendants inherit a society that upholds fundamental human rights and treats all individuals with dignity and respect.

Education and Knowledge Transfer

Passing on knowledge and investing in education is another crucial aspect of what we owe to future generations. Through quality education, we can actually equip coming generations with the tools to address the challenges they will face.

Encouraging scientific research, technological advancements, and critical thinking skills can empower them to develop innovative solutions and navigate the complexities of an ever-changing world.

Supporting educational institutions, promoting lifelong learning, and fostering a culture of curiosity and intellectual growth will help us ensure that knowledge continues flourishing and can be made accessible to all.

Why do we owe anything to the future?

You and I are not isolated individuals living in the present but part of an interconnected web of humanity stretching across time.

The choices we make today reverberate through the generations, shaping the world that our children, grandchildren, and beyond will inherit.

It is even our moral duty to act as responsible stewards, recognizing the debt we owe to future generations. As William Askill states, ”Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more – or it could end tomorrow. Staggering numbers of people will lead lives of flourishing or misery or never live at all, depending on what we do today.”

By preserving the environment, striving for social justice and equality, and investing in education, we can start to fulfill our obligations and ensure a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

Let us embrace this responsibility with humility, wisdom, and a deep sense of purpose.

You can learn far more about this in William McAskill’s book. I personally hope that you download it on Kindle or iBook already today! More information about the book here >> 

About the author

Elisabet Lagerstedt

Elisabet Lagerstedt

Elisabet Lagerstedt is the founder and director of Future Navigators. As a trusted advisor, consultant, and Executive Coach, she helps business leaders navigate beyond business as usual to build Better Business and co-create a better future - through insight, strategy, innovation, and transformation. Elisabet is also the author of Better Business, Better Future (2022) and Navigera in i Framtiden (2018).