Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Short-term Thinking for Long-term Actions

The better our technology, the more visible our actions, the more important it is to think about what we plan to do before doing it. Unfortunately, as we gain the ability to do more faster, we seem compelled but some internal self-destruct paranoia to think less. Whatever one's political perspective, we should all be able to agree that if our actions will have an impact over some period of time, then we should think through the implications of those actions for that period of time.

  • If we plan an action with the intention of giving ourselves, say, three decades of control over some territory's resources, then we should think through how that control will actually be realized for those three decades.
  • If the plan is for a nuclear strike, which will leave behind radiation poisoning some region for, say 50,000 years, then we should take the time to ask if we really want to sacrifice that territory for that long.

In other words, be clear on the distinction between a debate over whether or not a plan is justified and the process of thinking through a clear answer to the often overlooked question:

What makes you think your plan will actually work for the
whole time period over which you want it to work?

If you cannot think it through satisfactorily for the whole period over which your action will have an impact, then you do not know the outcome of your action and to undertake it would be irresponsible, perhaps suicidal.

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