You are on page 1of 33

Professor Allen Tough

Futurist, Scientist, Author

A Message From Future Generations


by Allen Tough, Ph.D., University of Toronto
email tough @ ieti.org
I have no idea why future generations chose me as their messenger on that sunny Friday morning in Kyoto,
as I wandered in the lovely gardens beside the conference center, surrounded by colorful autumn hills.
Maybe they had noticed my deep commitment to future generations in my papers and in my book, Crucial
Questions About the Future. Maybe they knew how strongly that commitment was influencing my teaching
at the University of Toronto. Maybe they were pleased that I had helped organize the world's largest
conference on future generations, now about to begin in the magnificent conference center beside me.
Or maybe they simply took pity on me as I sought inspiration in the lovely Kyoto gardens. I was still
unsure what I would say later that morning during my speech to the 800 people gathered for the conference.
As I wandered among the ponds and shrubs, I noticed a booklet fluttering down from the sky. When it came
close enough, I reached up to grasp it, eager to see what it said. It turned out to be a message from future
generations. This was my lucky morning! The first page of the booklet contained a message for me to read
aloud at that morning's session:
Cordial greetings, from future generations, to everyone who is attending The First Global Future
Generations Kyoto Forum. We are the people of the future -- your children's generation, and many
generations even further into the future. Even though we live in a century that is very different from yours,
we too are people, vigorously engaged in a wide variety of activities and projects, just as you are. Just like
you, we work, play, talk, eat, laugh, hope, cry, sing, learn, worship, think, and wonder. We are very pleased
that you care so deeply about the well-being of future generations. That is what we want most from you:
your caring for us, your concern for our well-being, your willingness to take our needs as seriously as you
take your own needs. From many decades in the future, we send you our gratitude, our admiration, and our
love.
The rest of the booklet provided a longer message addressed to all human beings from future generations.
That entire message is now available on the World Wide Web: in fact, that is what you are now reading.
The story that I have just told you is largely accurate. I really did read a message from future generations to
the 800 people gathered in Kyoto on November 25, 1994. I will leave it to you to decide for yourself
whether that message came from the sky or from my imagination. It really does not matter much: the
important thing is the message itself. Treat it as a real message, or treat it as the sort of message that future
generations would send to us if they could. Either way, the important thing is for us to understand and care
about the fundamental needs of all the people who will come after us in the ever-flowing river of human
history. Thoughtfully reading this book is one powerful way to get into their shoes and grasp their
perspective. Then too, as we look back at our own era through their eyes, we gain a fresh view of our own
values, choices, and impact.
After reading the message, I realized that it does not reveal any secrets about our future. The speakers do
not want to harm us or lower our motivation by telling us exactly what is going to happen in the future.
Indeed, I cannot find anything in the message that makes it clear exactly when the speakers are alive nor in
what year they wrote the message. My conclusion is that the most appropriate way to understand the
message is that it comes to us from representatives of future generations. The speakers apparently represent
the people who will be born during the next 40 years or so. Presumably some of them will still be alive 120
years from now.
This entire book called A MESSAGE FROM FUTURE GENERATIONS is copyright 1995 by Allen
Tough. All rights reserved. It may be downloaded for your own personal reading, but may not be
reproduced for anyone else without written permission from Allen Tough.

A Message From Future Generations


CONTENTS
1. CARING ABOUT US
Who are we?
Caring about us with your heart, mind, soul, and hands
Mutual respect and caring
2. OUR CORE VALUE
How much responsibility to future generations?
Meaning and purpose
A Foundation for moral and ethical choices
Our place within your religions
3. A COSMOS FILLED WITH LIFE
The physical universe
Intelligent life
Galactic projects
Humanity's place in the universe
An enlarged core value
4. FOUR UNIVERSAL GOALS SHARED BY EVERY CIVILIZATION
The four universal guideposts
How well are you doing?
Our reflections
5. SEVEN KEY PRIORITIES FOR FOCUSING YOUR EFFORTS
A long-term perspective
Future-relevant research and teaching
Weapons and warfare
Planet and population
Day-to-day functioning
Significant knowledge
Learning, caring, and meaningfulness
Reflections on the seven priorities
6. WHAT EACH OF YOU CAN DO
How to learn more about us
How to feel hopeful and empowered
How to experience deep bonding with us
Your pledge to us
Gaining deep meaning and happiness from your efforts
Chapter 1: CARING ABOUT US
Cordial greetings from future generations! This message of love and hope comes to you from the people of
the future. It can open your eyes and heart to our perspective, ideas, feelings, gratitude, advice, needs, and
requests.
Thanks very much for caring about us enough to put yourself in our shoes for the next few minutes. We are
pleased and grateful that you are willing to listen to our voice. We realize that you are surrounded by many
other worthy voices and demands, all clamoring to be heard.
In our eyes, you and the other people of your generation have an extraordinary amount of power. Your
decisions and actions influence the well-being of all of us who live after you do. You deeply affect our
institutions, roads, genetic pool, population size, environment, wilderness areas, energy sources,
knowledge, and climate.
We feel particularly powerless and vulnerable because, before this book was published, we did not have
any way of speaking to you. Our voice is usually not heard at all in your era because we have not yet been

born. You do not hear our voices on your radios and you do not see our faces on your television screens. We
cannot speak during your policy making and planning, we cannot lobby your law-makers, we cannot carry
placards in front of your legislative and parliament buildings, and we cannot vote in your elections. That is
why we are so glad that you are willing to pay attention to our neglected voice.
We feel a deep bond with you, and feel much love and admiration toward you. Thank you for listening to
us.
In your era and in the decades that follow, humanity falls far short of perfection. It is nonetheless worthy of
our respect, affection, compassion, and nurturance. Although you and we are fully aware of the widespread
misery, ignorance, selfishness, aggression, and greed in the world, we need not condemn human civilization
nor write it off as hopeless. A positive future is possible if enough people care about future generations,
understand current problems and options, and make appropriate and courageous choices.
Who are we?
We are future generations--everyone who will be born at some time or other after you read this message.
On the day you read this, we have not yet been conceived or born. We are not yet alive. But we definitely
will be alive during the period that you call "the future," a few years or decades after you read our message.
We are sending our message to you backwards through time, from the future to you.
We are real. "Future generations" is not just some abstract concept in some philosopher's imagination. At
any given time in the future, real people will actually exist and be leading busy lives on earth and perhaps
elsewhere in the galaxy, not just in someone's imagination. We are flesh and blood, minds and hearts, just
as you are. Perhaps as you read this, you say to yourself, "But future generations are not real; they have not
even been conceived or born yet!" It is true that we do not exist as people at the moment you read this, but
we will be real someday. We will be just as real as you are. Just as real as you were exactly one year before
your birth, even though no one alive on that day knew very much about you and your characteristics. Just
as real as the people in your family tree were at one time. Just as real as the people in your history books
used to be. We are not like unicorns, the ancient Greek gods and goddesses, characters in a movie or novel,
or other fantasies that have never existed in the real world and never will.
Yes, it is true that we live several years later in human history than you do. Yes, many things about human
culture and the planet have changed over those years. But if you met us face-to-face, you would still
recognize us immediately as human. You might smile with amusement at our clothing and our hair-styles
and how we speak. But you would feel a kinship with us. You would say to yourself, "Well, I suppose I
would have looked and sounded just as weird to people who lived a few decades before I did. So of course
these people of future generations look and sound a little strange to me. Still, they are people." You would
see that we do just the same sorts of things that people have always done: talk, smile, laugh, gesture, frown,
cry, love, wonder, work, build, invent, walk, sing, dance, hug, kiss, learn, teach, reflect, help, explore, play.
Just as you do, we have our favorite places, fascinating conversations, meaningful rituals, significant
institutions, and creative arts. Our emotions are basically the same as yours; we experience pain,
frustration, fear, doubt, love, joy, sadness, excitement. Although we were born long after you were, our core
of humanness is very similar to your human core. So you can probably feel a deep kinship with us "people
of the future," just as you can feel a kinship with the people alive in your own era despite your inevitable
differences.
Caring about us with your heart, mind, soul, and hands
Thank you for caring about us. You care about us enough to be reading this message right now. You think
about us occasionally. Along with many other things in your life, we share a place in your hopes and
dreams. For all of this we are grateful. What we want most from you is your caring. The other things we
need from you will then follow naturally and easily.
We hope that you, and the other people who are alive at the time you read this, will care about us future
generations with your heart, mind, soul, and hands.

Why would you care about us with your heart? Because of our kinship. Because we are your children, and
the children of your children. Because you feel a deep emotional bond with us sometimes when you hear
happy triumphant music. Or when you hear music written 200 years ago and think ahead to the people who
will still listen to music 200 years in the future. Or when you feel a strong love for children, and realize that
children are the tangible symbol of future generations.
Why would you care about us in your mind? Because you have a responsibility to care about the well-being
of people in the distant future just as much as you have a responsibility to care about the well-being of
people throughout the world who are alive at the moment that you read this. We are just as real and
important, just as deserving, just as worthy of your caring as your own generation is. If you feel a moral
obligation to care about anyone beyond your own family and community, then you must feel just as obliged
to care about us. If you believe in fairness and justice, then you must treat the needs of future generations as
equal in importance to those of your own generation. We do not ask you to put our needs ahead of your
own, but we do vigorously ask you to give us equal opportunity. We ask you to make choices that give all
future generations just as good an opportunity as you had when you were born.
Why would you care about us in that deepest part of yourself, that part that is sometimes called your
spiritual side, your central meaning, your core values, your philosophy of life, or your soul? Because of our
spiritual kinship; you and we are profoundly connected. Because sometimes when you see an infant,
experience wilderness, or feel moved by music, you realize how deeply you feel this bond. Because being
part of the ongoing flourishing of human culture over the millennia is such an important value. Because
you will be happier if you care about us than if you do not. Because your caring about us can enhance your
sense of meaning and purpose, and even provide joy and vibrancy in your life. Because your efforts on
behalf of future generations can give you a transcendent purpose, commitment, and devotion; then your life
in the universe has a point to it. Because you know that we will appreciate your books, paintings, music,
parks, museums, and other gifts that you leave us. Because if you knew that humanity would disappear a
few decades after you read this, probably you would feel the zest and meaning ebb from your life, and your
life would feel impoverished and pointless. Because you are part of us and we are part of you; there really
are no chasms or boundaries between you and us; all of us are part of the continuing flow of human history.
In addition to caring for us with your heart, mind, and soul, we hope that you will also use your hands.
Although caring is what we want most from you, we also want your caring to lead on to particular actions,
projects, and choices. We will spell out some of these later in the message.
Mutual respect and caring
Even though you care about those of us who will be alive long after you are, you may also find that at times
you feel non-caring and perhaps even act in ways that harm us. This sort of internal struggle and
contradictory behaviour is natural. We, too, are sometimes preoccupied, busy, harried, thoughtless, or
simply wrapped up in the here and now, so we certainly understand when you forget about our needs.
All we ask of you is to shift your thoughts and actions a little more toward taking our needs as seriously as
you take your own. You must pay attention to humanity's immediate needs, of course, but a sensible
balanced effort would also pay attention to humanity's long-term needs. Neglecting either of these two time
horizons is unfair and inappropriate.
How much should you sacrifice, donate, and act for the sake of generations yet unborn? Overall, you need
not bequeath more to the next generation or two than you yourselves inherited (though it would be a fine
gift to us if you could manage to do so). What you must adopt as your absolutely inviolable principle,
though, is that you not leave us less. Please play fair with us and give us opportunities and resources that
are approximately equal to yours. We do not ask for more than equality, but we do ask you to change
yourselves enough to reach the "equal opportunity" point. Failing to give us the same level of opportunity
that your society had in your youth would be grossly unfair and greedy.

Many voices clamor for your attention. You hear pleas for attention and caring and perhaps special
treatment from women, children, men, various ethnic and racial and cultural groups, people with various
health problems and disabilities, people of a particular sexual orientation, various religions, members of
various organizations, business people, consumers, politicians, taxpayers, home owners, renters, the
wealthy, the middle class, the employed poor, the unemployed poor, the homeless, the North, the South,
and the newly industrialized countries. You should, of course, listen carefully and respectfully to these
diverse voices. But it is also important to think about what the voices of similar groups of people might say
a few decades later. If the planet becomes bleak and barren, if armed conflict or lawlessness becomes out of
control worldwide, or if the global economy collapses into chaos, then all of these groups will suffer
terribly. All of these groups will then complain bitterly that people failed to listen to the voices of future
generations--to the message in this book. On the other hand, if people in all of these groups work together
to build a better world, then all of you will thrive more than if each group separately strives for its own
well-being, without regard to the well-being of the other groups.
We admire and thank you for taking our needs seriously. We treasure our past and our predecessors as well
as our future. We respect and love you. We hope that you will care about us and will treat us with respect. It
is also true that we occasionally feel frustrated and angry with you for taking enormous risks that could
severely damage our prospects, and for sometimes treating us in thoughtless, selfish, uncaring ways. At a
deeper level, though, we feel a strong kinship bond with you, because all of us participate in the same
never-ending procession of generations that stretches over the centuries. And all of us share a love for our
home--that vibrant planet called Earth with its richly diverse geography and life.
Chapter 2: OUR CORE VALUE
For us who live in your future, our core value is the well-being of future generations as well as our own
generation. Our caring about humanity's continued flourishing unifies us. It gives us a deep sense of
meaning and purpose in the universe and in our own lives. And this core value provides an important
foundation for our ethical and moral choices.
For us, nothing is more important than the continuous procession of new generations. Our core value is
humanity's ongoing flourishing. We treasure the continuous stream of human activities and
accomplishments stretching from the distant past through the present moment into the far future.
No other value, goal, or priority is more important to us than the continued flourishing of humanity--the
ongoing flow of people, events, culture, and changes that make up the total human mosaic. We treasure and
value this as much as anything else in the universe (past, present, or future). We would not want the
universe to lose or sacrifice this for the sake of anything else. The continuing unfolding of human history
and culture in reasonably positive directions is our core value, our fundamental priority. We hope that it will
be yours, too. We hope that you will use it as the foundation for your meaning in life and your ethics.
Imagine that you are a superbly wise and intelligent being with extraordinary capacities. Imagine that you
are contemplating the entire universe with its countless stars, planets, asteroids, life forms, and
civilizations. You are also contemplating the future of all of this, a future that will stretch over many eons.
From this vast perspective of space and time, you ask yourself, "What is most important of all?" Surely the
continuation of human society and culture over the centuries would be part of your answer (along with the
continued flourishing of other diverse life and civilizations throughout the universe, of course). In the entire
universe, surely nothing is more important than the development and flourishing of good, wise, intelligent,
insightful, compassionate, advanced life. Humanity, despite its faults and errors, is one instance of such life.
Its continued existence and maximum flourishing is our core value. What else could possibly be more
important?
Our core value certainly does not downplay the importance of human civilization at the time you are
reading this. Even though we are writing this in your future, even though we are the people whom you call
"future generations," we do not hold any period of human history as less important than our own. Just the
opposite--we treasure the entire sweep of human activity over many centuries. We care about the
continuous unfolding of the human drama through countless scenes that stretch from the remote past

through the present and into the distant future. We care deeply about future generations, but we do not
denigrate and shortchange our own present moment nor your present moment. The well-being, knowledge,
compassion, and quality of life of the people who are alive at the moment you read this are just as
important as those of people alive at some moment in the future--but not more important.
All of us are walking through history in the same continuous procession of human generations. In this sense
we are all members of the same community and we achieve a kind of immortality by being part of this
never-ending procession. Because we are all one, what you want and what we want are not all that
different: egoism and altruism converge.
We hope that you will care as deeply about the wonderful array of life-forms on the planet earth as you do
about future generations of human beings. These various plants, trees, animals, birds, and fish should be
valued for their own sake, regardless of whether they are useful to you or not. It is appropriate to love and
respect and revere nature, wilderness, natural processes, wild species, and natural beauty. You and we are
an integral part of life on earth. Humanity is not separate from the planet and biosphere, nor somehow
above it all. It is important to live harmoniously with whales, dolphins, birds, fish, apes, elephants, and
other animals.
How much responsibility to future generations?
You may be asking just how much responsibility you should have to the next few generations that will
follow yours. Should you aim to give them opportunities and advantages that far exceed your own? Is it
legitimate to bequeath them a society and a planet that provide them with much less that your generations
inherited? Or is some middle road the most appropriate?
For us, the key concept is equal opportunity for all generations. Each future generation should have
resources and opportunities that are approximately equal to those of the previous generation. We hope that
you will adopt this same viewpoint.
In some ways, you will inevitably leave future generations worse off than you are. You are using up certain
irreplaceable resources, leaving certain toxic and radioactive wastes for them to cope with, and bequeathing
to them some problems and debts that are worse than your own.
To counterbalance these, you must also leave future generations better off in certain other ways, such as
fresh values and solutions, flourishing institutions, enhanced knowledge and technology, more efficient
agriculture, better ways of making global and regional decisions, reduced prejudice and discrimination, and
sharp limits to military activities and armed violence. Just to select a few more examples from the
multitude of possibilities, you could aim for a world in which solar power and sustainable organic farming
are widespread, population growth has ceased, food and opportunity are much more equally distributed,
war is considered absolutely unacceptable regardless of the provocation (except in truly necessary selfdefense), and virtually no nuclear or biological or chemical weapons remain in existence.
The net inheritance of the next generation or two, taking into account all the positive and negative things
that you leave for them, must be at least equal to what your generation inherited from your forebears. You
must play fair with us, not shortchange us. You must give us equal opportunity.
Conceptually, "equal opportunity for future generations" is a reasonably precise concept. Although it is not
easy to apply this concept with exquisite precision, it is easy to apply it as an approximate guideline. It is
easy to identify historical periods that violated this concept. Looking back at various eras in human history,
we can generally agree that the legacies of certain eras of exploration and innovation were highly positive,
whereas other eras of warfare and repression left the next generation much worse off than their forebears.
Certain things that you do in your era can greatly affect the next few generations for better or worse. We
hope that you will emphasize getting safely through the next few decades without hurting humanity's
chances for the decades beyond that. You should avoid major depletions and debts that will unduly harm
the opportunities of the next few generations. Compare your behavior in your personal life: if you do not

fix a leaky roof and keep your financial debts in line with your income, you eventually pay a high price for
not thinking enough about the future. Your thriving is based on resources, knowledge, and institutions left
for you by previous generations; it is only fair that you in turn bequeath an adequate base to future
generations.
You are faced with many needs and problems and goals, just as we are. But they must be managed within
the overriding principle that you should not mortgage or discount the future. You should not give future
generations fewer opportunities and resources than you have had. You may be tempted to solve your
problems by stealing from those of us who will live after you do, but such behavior is unfair, unacceptable,
and shortsighted. Please do not let your short-term goals jeopardize our chances of having a healthy planet
and sufficient happiness. Our flourishing is just as important as yours. A society, like an individual, must
resist the urge to live only for the moment and to consume everything in sight regardless of future
consequences.
Equal opportunity for future generations is the minimum level for which you should strive, just as it is the
minimum level for which we strive. In addition, if you could manage to do so, it would be nice if you could
make us even better off than you are. Giving us opportunities and resources superior to those of your own
generation would be a worthy goal. Although some generations before yours aimed at continuing
"progress" as their goal, a more realistic goal for your generation is simply to hold your own. You are
finding that hunger, local wars, guerilla and terrorist attacks, crime, pollution, population growth, toxic and
nuclear wastes, and environmental degradation are tougher problems than you anticipated. In many of those
struggles, you are slipping backwards rather than gaining ground. As you face what has actually happened
during the past few years, you feel less optimistic about the ideal of bequeathing to the next few
generations a better world than you yourselves inherited. Instead, it is appropriate to put much of your
effort into avoiding the worst catastrophes and into giving the next few generations an opportunity equal to
yours. An appropriate goal is to bequeath to them a civilization and a planet that are better in some ways
but unfortunately worse in other ways. Justice requires that you not make your successors worse off. But it
does not require you to make them better off.
Meaning and purpose
Commitment to humanity's ongoing flourishing (our core value) can enhance the sense of meaning and
purpose for individuals and society. Because caring about future generations is such a grand transcendent
context, it provides a larger sense of meaning and purpose than daily activities alone can provide.
For most people in most epochs, daily life provides a major portion of their meaning and purpose. Caring
about the continuous stream of humanity does not replace or reduce the meaning gained from daily life, but
instead it provides additional or enlarged meaning.
It is quite natural and appropriate for most people to gain a large amount of meaning and purpose from their
daily life. Within daily life, the sources of meaning can include relationships, work, goals, helping people,
learning, self-betterment, religious activities, spiritual experiences, the search for truth, and enjoyable
leisure-time activities.
In your era and ours, many people also gain meaning and purpose from nature and wilderness. They feel
connected with the natural world and feel fortunate to be living on such a delightful planet. They enjoy and
treasure the diversity of plant and animal life. They appreciate mountains, oceans, deserts, sunsets, and the
seasons. They farm, garden, travel, hike, camp, watch birds, feel close to pets or livestock, and admire the
intricacy and beauty of nature. They feel integrated and connected with nature, not separate and detached.
In addition to all of this, individuals and societies can gain meaning and purpose from feeling part of the
everlasting flow of human history. You can feel deeply connected to all the past, present, and future people
who are part of this flow. This deep connectedness to past and future generations can satisfy the universal
human yearning to be connected with something greater than self, something that transcends daily life. You
can treasure your part in an unfolding adventure that sweeps from the remote past through the present and
onward to a distant future. This unfolding drama encompasses all cultures spread over the entire planet.

Being alive at a particularly exciting and critical point in human history, as you are, can enhance the
meaning that you gain from this great adventure. Additional enhancement can come from the deep
emotions--hopes, fears, exhilaration, joy, grief, anger--that you may experience as you contemplate the
panorama of potential futures for your society, ranging from extinction to utopia.
In all periods of history, some people and societies gain additional meaning and purpose from their efforts
to contribute to the continuing flow of history. Not content merely to be swept along as spectators, they
actively participate in building a positive future for one community, one group, one region, or all of
humanity. They feel a strong commitment to this as a core value. They align themselves with the ideas,
movements, causes, and forces that are especially likely to lead to a reasonably positive human future. They
oppose destructive, harmful, evil forces. Emphasizing cooperation, goodwill, and harmony, they are
considerate of future generations as well as the people with whom they interact day by day. They care
deeply about the long-term future of their community and culture. Their caring and commitment provide
them with a heroic and challenging mission of transcendent significance. A goal so worthy that it provides a
sense of cosmic purpose. A project so sweeping in its grandeur that it pervades and enlivens all aspects of
life.
Few other challenges are as important and exhilarating! And few other goals and activities, even if they
focus directly on your own happiness and well-being, can produce such a deep feeling of connectedness
and joy.
A Foundation for moral and ethical choices
Your deep caring about the next two or three generations can provide an excellent foundation for your
moral and ethical choices. Whenever individuals, families, organizations, and governments face such
choices, they can be guided largely by what is best for the continued flourishing of human culture and
civilization. This core value can serve as the heart of a global ethic as well as personal moral choices. This
can lead in turn to actual behavior that is beneficial to all of us who will be alive in your future.
We hope you will develop ethical and moral principles, norms, and laws based on what is most beneficial
for the continued flourishing of human civilization over the next few decades and beyond. And we hope
you will take these principles very seriously in all debates, decisions, and public controversies -- including
nuclear and biological weapons, terrorism, war, crime, taxation, government debt, population size, birth
control, environment, euthanasia, thoughtful suicide, and research to prolong the life span.
If humanity's continued thriving is your core value, then the needs of future generations become part of
your own self-interest rather than something separate or opposing. You are guided by their needs because
you care about them, not just because of some abstract moral principle. Your "greed and selfishness"
become transformed into altruism because what you want most of all is to be part of a society that is
thriving now and that will continue to thrive. You are eager to build a world that will still be in good shape
for your children and their children. The common distinction between selfish and altruistic desires
disappears when your core value is humanity's continued flourishing.
Our place within your religions
Your new and emerging religions, as well as your long-established religions, give you many benefits. The
religious landscape will change dramatically in the years to come, of course, but the quest for religious and
spiritual meaning will continue into the distant future. If you learn to incorporate the core value of caring
about future generations into your spiritual quest, humankind will benefit greatly.
Each religion can encourage people to serve humanity, the planet, and the universe. Each religion can
celebrate those who provide service to future generations through their contributions to the continuing
improvement of human culture, knowledge, altruism, and environment. Each religion can inspire and
support people in their efforts to build a positive long-term future for humanity.

Attention to the voices and needs of future generations, along with support for each person who wants to
work on their behalf, could become a significant part of all religions. Religious services could incorporate
music, poetry, readings, sermons, art, worship, and prayer that focus on the ongoing stream of humanity's
accomplishments. These accomplishments include compassion, altruism, insights, ideas, art, social
inventions, technology, and productivity. And it is also appropriate, of course, to revere or worship the
incredibly vast, wonderful, awe-inspiring universe in which we live. All of this, along with the potential for
further creativity in the years to come, could be celebrated in worship, hymns, dance, and inner reflection.
Chapter 3: A COSMOS FILLED WITH LIFE
The Galactic Code prohibits any sort of interference in the natural development of any society in the
galaxy. This prohibition also applies to us, the people who are alive long after your era, when we are
sending a message back to you. Because we live in your future, we are capable of telling you many details
about your future. But we are not allowed to do so, because these details might interfere with the natural
development of human society.
The physical universe
We are allowed, however, to sketch for you some broad-brush features of your future. Already some of you
see yourselves as explorers of the physical universe--via science, imagination, speculation, disciplined
thinking, robot spacecraft, staffed spacecraft, and eventually space settlements on the moon and on
asteroids or Mars. We can confirm that this is, in fact, the inspiring future that lies ahead for you.
Exploration and space settlement will continue at a good pace during the twenty-first century. These are
grand and worthy projects, and provide a context much larger than our daily lives. Your pioneering space
missions within the solar system and your telescopic examination of data from beyond the solar system will
yield rich insights into your immediate space neighborhood and the rest of the universe.
As a result of these contributions, our collective self-image has become different from yours. We see
ourselves as part of the wider universe, not merely as inhabitants on one particular planet. Of course we
feel particularly bonded with our own local cluster of stars--the Milky Way galaxy--but we also feel part of
the wider universe with its astounding number of galaxies separated by unimaginable distances.
This enhanced self-image leads, in turn, to our seeing humanity as united and cohesive rather than marked
by political, cultural, and physical differences. As a result, conflict and warfare and weapons seem bizarre
and obscene to us. Humanity-wide cooperation and harmony seem to us to be much better values.
The vastness, age, grandeur, and mysteries of our physical universe inspire deep emotions and provide
significant meaning. We experience wonder, delight, puzzlement, awe, and even reverence because we live
in a such a grand, fascinating, and mysterious universe. The evolution of the universe began millions of
centuries ago and stretches millions of centuries into the future. The number of galaxies is mind-boggling,
as are the distances between them. The universe contains over a billion galaxies, each one containing
billions of stars. All in all, there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of earth's
beaches. Then, too, the physical universe contains many fascinating events and phenomena, such as
supernova explosions, quasars, pulsars, and black holes.
Being alive in such an old and vast cosmos provides a very significant context for our sense of meaning.
We hope that you can understand this. Would you not feel different about the universe and your place in it
if absolutely nothing existed beyond our solar system? Or if the cosmos were destined to end 80 years after
you read these words?
Intelligent life
You can see, then, why we applaud your efforts to explore the solar system and the rest of the physical
universe. These efforts lead to better and better answers to some very important questions, and these
answers lead to an enhanced perspective on humanity's place in the cosmos.

Even more important than your study of the physical universe is your striving to understand other life in the
universe. This life ranges from the earliest stages of simple life-forms through to civilizations that are
advanced far beyond humanity's level. Your thinking and writing and conferences about life in the universe
have already yielded excellent insights, though you have generally failed to realize just how diverse and
deeply alien this life will feel to you. These differences are quite natural since they originated in bodies,
physical environments, and social environments that were vastly different from our own origins. You have
not yet really grasped just how deep the differences are between your culture, emotions, relationships,
thought patterns, norms, overarching purposes, governance, and social organization and theirs. In general,
though, the most thoughtful scientists and science fiction writers of your period have made excellent
progress in moving toward an understanding of the diverse intelligent life that exists throughout the
universe.
We find that our efforts to interact successfully with other civilizations in the galaxy are bringing out the
best in us. You will be glad to know that our eagerness for successful interaction is encouraging us to be
curious and open-minded rather than xenophobic, cooperative rather than hostile or competitive. We feel
adequate rather than inferior or defensive. We now regard ourselves as citizens of the universe and
members of the galactic family of civilizations. We have been stimulated to think about the range of
potential futures available to us, how our interaction with other civilizations may fit into those futures, and
the ultimate destination of human civilization. As we try to view ourselves through the "eyes" of distant
beings, we gain a fresh perspective on our society's values, goals, priorities, and foibles. We began to
wonder, for instance, why our society was placing such emphasis on differences among people when
(compared to any other species in the galaxy) people are all quite similar, and should feel deeply connected
with one another. We realized that intelligent beings from elsewhere would wonder why we were devoting
insufficient effort and resources toward key priorities, such as ensuring our long-term survival and
flourishing, and correcting our worst foibles and errors (warfare, population growth, and environmental
degradation).
Let us reassure you that virtually every civilization in our galaxy follows the Galactic Code that we
mentioned earlier. They avoid hindering, harming, or interfering in the natural development of any other
society. The only exception to this rule occurs when another civilization poses a definite and immediate
threat because it is clearly about to break the Galactic Code, perhaps through a powerful attack or through
spreading a plague.
You already realize that some species on earth are 300,000,000 years older than humanity. It will not be too
difficult, then, for you to grasp the fact that some intelligent species in the galaxy originated long before
humanity did. Because they are far older than humanity, they also have developed technological,
communication, travel, biological, social, and mental capacities far beyond those of humans.
Galactic projects
Your efforts to detect a message from other civilizations in your galaxy are leading you in the right
direction. Eventually you will be successful, of course, and will finally have some concrete data about the
fascinating variety of intelligent beings and cultures in our galaxy.
Also in your future will be an opportunity to tap into one of the Galactic Knowledge Reservoirs. This body
of knowledge has been accumulating in our galaxy for more than a million years now, through
contributions by several diverse civilizations and species. You can learn about their history, philosophy,
beliefs, sources of meaning and purpose, and views on the ultimate nature and destination of cosmic
evolution. The Galactic Knowledge Reservoirs are scattered strategically throughout the galaxy, and
constantly communicate among themselves to update all data. After you have succeeded in locating the
Reservoir closest to you, you can contribute your own story of humanity's history and perspectives.
Eventually, too, will come an opportunity to play a role in at least one joint galactic project in art, science,
philosophy, or philanthropy. Such projects will require cooperative efforts by two or more civilizations
across interstellar distances. Although these joint galactic projects will not occur in your lifetime, they may
nonetheless inspire you now simply because you know that for us--the people you call "future

generations"--such projects will be possible. Humanity will be able to join with other civilizations to solve
the fundamental mysteries of the universe, for instance, and to help fledgling civilizations develop and
flourish. Various means will be used to foster harmonious advanced life throughout the galaxy. Such life
will be characterized by knowledge, harmony, understanding, compassion, intelligence, wisdom, love, joy,
cooperation, altruism, insight, and competence. Humanity's ultimate purpose is to be a happy and
successful part of the grand cosmic process of physical evolution, cultural development, knowledge
accumulation, and ever deepening wisdom and spirituality.
Someday, of course, one of the most important cosmic projects of all will be a cooperative effort to avoid
the end of all life in the universe. Otherwise, an unimaginably long time from now, the physical universe
will change so much that it will no longer be able to support life. Long before that time, some cosmic
projects will focus on how to alter one portion of the physical universe to enable life to continue there.
Other cosmic projects will focus on the possibility of changing life itself so that it can adapt to the slowly
changing universe. It seems likely that one way or another we will be able to maintain the best of our
intelligence and knowledge.
Humanity's place in the universe
All of this provides us with a fresh image of who we are as a species. We are not alone. Abundantly diverse
species and civilizations have arisen throughout our local cluster of stars: we are one of these. Our place in
the galaxy and in the universe is defined by our membership in this family of Milky Way civilizations. We
are one of the species that has developed a civilization marked by curiosity, disciplined inquiry, and a sense
of meaning and purpose. We feel part of the cosmic family; we feel a kinship bond with others.
Without thinking much about this matter, it is easy to slip into viewing humanity as the only civilization in
the universe. It is easy to forget that we are part of a galactic family of civilizations, most of them much
older than we are. Human civilization is unique, just as each person and snowflake is unique, but we are
one of billions of intelligent species in the universe, just as each unique person and snowflake is one of
billions. Our self-image is inaccurate when we fail to see ourselves as part of universal life. We are part of
intelligent life and evolving culture throughout the cosmos. Our human history is part of cosmic history. We
are children of the cosmos, not just children of the earth.
An enlarged core value
We spoke earlier about our core value, which we described as the continued flourishing of human
civilization over the next few generations. This core value makes a significant contribution to our sense of
meaning and purpose.
In fact, though, our core value is somewhat larger than we have stated previously. We had to complete our
discussion of life in the universe before we could tell you about this enlarged core value.
Our enlarged core value is the ongoing existence and flourishing of humanity and of all the other
civilizations and intelligent species in the universe, particularly in our own galaxy. We do not consider the
well being of those other civilizations as more important than our own well being over the centuries, but we
do consider it almost as important. After all, we are part of this cosmic family of intelligent beings; it is
only natural that we would want this family to flourish throughout our galaxy and even beyond.
When we speak of a "core value" we mean that nothing in the entire universe is of greater value,
importance, or significance than intelligent species and advanced civilizations--including our own, of
course. Widespread diverse life is the most valuable thing in the universe. This core value is treasured by
many future generations of human beings, not just one generation or one century. And this core value is
also treasured by most of the advanced extraterrestrials in our galaxy.
If you worship God, Yahweh, Allah, Brahma, or some other deity, there is no conflict with valuing
advanced life as the most important thing in the universe. On the contrary, you can embrace and treasure
diverse life throughout the universe as further evidence of God's infinite greatness. It makes sense for the

magnificent and all-powerful creator and ruler of the universe to create and nourish a diversity of life
throughout the universe. Why would God choose to leave a vast universe empty and sterile except for one
planet called Earth? Instead, a universe filled with diverse, intelligent, compassionate, altruistic, loving,
flourishing life may well be God's own core value. What else could God consider more valuable in the
universe?
This enlarged core value -- the flourishing of future human generations and other intelligent species
throughout the cosmos -- also provides us with an enlarged sense of meaning and purpose. We find it
inspiring, uplifting, noble, exhilarating, and exciting to be part of such a magnificent far-flung family of
civilizations. We find our sense of meaning and purpose stronger and keener than if we think only of our
own human civilization. Both as a society and as individuals, our meaning and purpose are enhanced by
viewing ourselves as one significant manifestation of a cosmos-wide phenomenon: conscious, aware,
intelligent, inquiring, altruistic life.
Viewed from the time perspective of 150,000,000 centuries, the universe has clearly been evolving. This
cosmic evolution will presumably continue for at least that many centuries into the future. Particular
individuals, species, stars, and civilizations fade and disappear, but the physical universe will continue for
an unimaginable length of time, as will the evolution of intelligent life. This eternal unfolding provides
significant meaning and purpose for many people in our era. Indeed, the continuing evolution of higher
forms of being and civilizations (and whatever comes after civilizations, as they evolve even further)
provides a core meaning and ultimate purpose in the universe itself. What else could possibly be more
important? Humanity's ultimate purpose, then, is to be a happy, successful, advanced, flourishing, everevolving part of the grand cosmic process of physical and cultural evolution.
Within this perspective of ever-evolving life throughout the cosmos, we can easily see the importance of
our own civilization continuing to flourish and evolve far into the future, along with the many other
civilizations in our own galaxy and beyond. This perspective can motivate people to care deeply about the
long-term future of human culture and to work hard to enhance our prospects. Both as individuals and as a
society, we can see how important it is for our civilization to survive and flourish for thousands of years
into the future. This perspective can inspire each of us to put our best efforts into building a positive longterm future for humanity.
The changes in perspective that we are describing add up to an extraordinary shift in human consciousness.
This new perspective has the potential to be the next major evolutionary step in the psychological and
spiritual side of human life.
People in your era sometimes ask, "Where in this vast universe can I find a source of meaning for my own
life and for the existence of humankind with all its flaws? How can I gain a stronger personal sense of
meaning and purpose in life?" Feeling part of the cosmic family of intelligent species and their diverse
civilizations can provide an excellent answer to both questions. Putting one's best efforts into contributing
to the long-term flourishing of human civilization and other civilizations provides an even stronger answer.
As we will discuss more thoroughly at the end of this message, there is no adventure that is more
exhilarating. There is no challenge that provides a greater sense of meaning and purpose for one's life.
Chapter 4: FOUR UNIVERSAL GOALS SHARED BY EVERY CIVILIZATION
Because the civilizations in our galaxy are so diverse, they naturally pursue a wide variety of visions and
goals and projects. Underlying this diversity, however, is a set of four universal goals shared by virtually all
civilizations.
We hope that you will find these four goals very helpful. They provide a broad long-term vision toward
which your society can aim. That broad vision can, in turn, lead you to re-think your concrete priorities and
projects in order to focus your efforts and resources more appropriately. In addition, the four universal
goals provide a basis for assessing your civilization's current status--its strengths and accomplishments
along with its weaknesses and failures. In short, they can be used to give you a report card showing your
current status.

As you look at the four goals, you will probably agree that these four guideposts are universal in the sense
that they are applicable to virtually all civilizations in our galaxy--and presumably the rest of the universe,
too. Although the set of four goals applies to a wide range of civilizations and cultures, there are a few that
have evolved in such a unique direction that these goals do not fit very well. In general, though, you can see
that these goals are useful for almost every civilization in our galaxy.
The four universal guideposts
1. Effective day-to-day functioning. How effectively is this civilization managing its day-to-day affairs?
Over the very short term, perhaps just a few days, how well are things going compared to how well they
could go if this society was achieving its full potential? At the top of the scale are civilizations whose shortterm day-to-day functioning is effective, intelligent, cooperative, peaceful, and harmonious. At the other
end of the scale are civilizations whose day-to-day functioning is ineffective, dysfunctional, paralyzed,
destructive, or violent. Their efforts and resources are squandered on trivial benefits or bitter wrangling, not
on the goals shared by most members of the society.
2. Bright prospects for the long-term future. From the long-term perspective, is this civilization evolving in
a positive direction, barely holding its own, gradually deteriorating, or heading for a catastrophe? Are the
present actions of the civilization moving it in a direction that is generally positive and appropriate, or
generally harmful and negative? Has it identified and counteracted all future catastrophes that might
eliminate its culture or cause it to regress enormously? In short, are its prospects for the long-term future
bright or bleak?
3. Profound knowledge of the world. How accurate, profound, and advanced is this civilization's storehouse
of knowledge? Its storehouse includes its accumulated insight, understanding, and wisdom regarding its
own species and culture, its total environment, cosmic evolution, intelligent life in the universe, and all
other aspects of the universe. A successful storehouse includes profound accurate knowledge about the
most fundamental big-picture questions of all, about any transcendent and spiritual dimensions that actually
exist, about any religious and psychic phenomena that actually exist, and about any other genuine sources
of awe, reverence, meaning, and purpose. Virtually all effective ways of gaining accurate knowledge and
deep wisdom are accepted.
How well does this civilization protect its storehouse of knowledge from the worst imaginable
catastrophes? Even if that civilization dies out, the remains of its culture and knowledge might eventually
be discovered by a few survivors or by some other intelligent species that develops later on that planet. Or
it might be discovered by some other civilization through spacecraft or automated probes. They might then
preserve this knowledge in their equivalent of museums and archives--and add it to the galactic storehouse
of knowledge.
4. Mutually beneficial interaction with other civilizations in the galaxy. How extensive and advanced is this
civilization's interaction with other civilizations in the galaxy? At one end of the scale would be a
civilization that has no interest in other life in the universe; they perceive themselves as isolated and alone.
Somewhere in the middle of the scale would be a society that feels connected to life in the universe, and
gains some of their meaning and purpose from this collective self-image and from their vigorous efforts to
make contact, even though these efforts have not yet been successful. At the top of the scale would be
societies that have become full-fledged interactive members of the galactic community, interacting with
other civilizations in a manner that is peaceful and cooperative, even altruistic, rather than quarrelsome and
pugnacious. Interaction could range all the way from simply exchanging information (by radio, laser, or
probes, for instance) right up to mutual assistance, joint projects, tourism, and trade.
How well are you doing?
At any stage in its history, humanity can use these four universal goals or guideposts to assess its current
level--its strengths and accomplishments along with its weaknesses and failures.

This report card can also highlight the areas in which your civilization is making progress, and those in
which it is declining. It is not particularly useful to ask whether the totality of your culture is demonstrating
progress or not, seeking a simple yes or no answer for the whole, without differentiating the four goals. And
even within some of the goals, you may see progress in some aspects and deterioration in others. The
concept of progress makes much more sense within the four universal goals than it does as a single measure
applied to the whole range of achievements and declines.
Here is the method that we have evolved for assessing how well our civilization is progressing on each of
the universal goals. We are sending it backwards through time to you as a gift to use if you wish, but we
realize you may prefer to adopt some method of your own.
For assessing each universal goal, we use a scale from 1 to 10. A "1" is the worst possible position that
anyone can imagine for human civilization. Such a rating would mean that we had completely failed to
achieve this goal, or even make any progress.
At the other end of the scale for each goal, a "10" is the best possible position that anyone can imagine.
Such a rating would mean that humanity had achieved its maximum potential for success at this goal, given
the length of its history. A "10" is the best that we could have achieved if we had made this a central goal
for our society some time ago, and if we had then focused our efforts and resources on achieving it. In
short, have we achieved this goal at the maximum level that could reasonably be expected of us at this
stage in our development? Now, with the two ends of the 10-point scale defined, it can be used to assess
humanity at any stage in its development. In particular, you might be interested in thoughtfully rating how
well your own society has achieved each of the four goals at your present stage of history. In a moment, to
stimulate your thinking, we will tell your our ratings for your era, but before you read these you might want
to pause here to rate each of the four goals yourself.
Here is your report card -- a summary of our assessments of your era--before we proceed to a more detailed
discussion of each one.
Effective day-to-day functioning: score of 6 (average), but effectiveness has recently been deteriorating.
Bright prospects for the long-term future: score of 3 (very poor). Your awareness has recently been
improving, but the problems and dangers are outstripping your actions!
Profound knowledge of the world: score of 8 (very good).
Mutually beneficial interaction with other civilizations in the galaxy: 4 (poor), but your efforts have
recently been improving.
So there, in a nutshell, are our four assessments of how well you are doing. Now, in hopes that it will be
useful for you, here is our detailed assessment of each goal in turn.
1. Effective day-to-day functioning. Your score is 6 (average). Your effectiveness in managing your day-today affairs is a mixture of positive and negative.
On the positive side, much of your short-term functioning is good spirited and intelligent and effective, and
you are making excellent progress in several spheres of life on earth. Some good examples are
communications, travel, information/learning technology, applied social sciences, practical knowledge of
human health, creation of hiking trails and national parks, tolerance of diverse cultures and life styles, and
intolerance of cruelty and war. Life for a large number of people is reasonably good: society is organized
sufficiently well to enable them to pursue their major goals and projects. Many people demonstrate
compassion, helpfulness, and altruism, at least within their local group. Many regions are characterized by
peaceful cooperation and effective governance.
At the same time, in other spheres and regions, your day-to-day functioning is dysfunctional, petty,
quarrelsome, and violent, with harmful outcomes. You have the capacity to do much better.
Within the short-term day-to-day perspective, your worst follies and weaknesses are violence, warfare, civil
unrest and repression, terrorism, serious crimes, occasional or local breakdown of law and order, outmoded
governance, environmental degradation, deep-seated selfishness, unwillingness to cooperate and work

together harmoniously in order to solve current problems, inadequate food and water for many people, and
widespread self-destructive use of drugs (including alcohol and nicotine as well as cocaine, crack, and
heroin). Life for a large number of people is miserable or trivially shallow. We feel sad about your poignant
failure to improve your handling of day-to-day affairs. Your performance is only barely satisfactory--far
from achieving your excellent capacity for successful functioning.
The most worrisome aspect of your day-to-day functioning is its deterioration over time. You should feel
pleased and proud about the aspects that have been improving, and simultaneously upset that your day-today functioning has been declining overall. Things have become increasingly difficult, disorderly, and
ineffective, and are in serious danger of deteriorating much further. Obviously, for the sake of your own
children as well as everyone else alive in the future, it is important to reverse this trend as soon as possible.
It is natural for the day-to-day effectiveness of civilizations to rise and fall over grand sweeps of time, so do
not feel disheartened by your recent downhill slide. If enough people feel strongly committed to reversing
that slide, for the sake of future generations, there is no insurmountable obstacle to succeeding.
Perhaps our views on your performance in handling your day-to-day affairs seem rather pessimistic to you.
And of course you get a depressing picture of your short-term functioning from your newspapers and news
broadcasts. Let us cheer you up a little by pointing out that the effective functioning of your daily life
around the world generally overshadows the ineffective, except in a few badly governed or war-torn
regions. That is why we rate you as "6" rather than "2" or "3." You have the capacity of achieving a "10" if
you make the effort. So there is no need to feel pessimistic or depressed: cautious hopefulness is a better
response to our assessment.
2. Bright prospects for the long-term future. Your score of 3 is very poor. It is your lowest score--clearly
your weakest area. You do not take the long-term future into account nearly enough in your public and
private decision-making. As a result, your prospects for the next few decades are not very happy. You have
very little chance of achieving a future that is dramatically better than the present. Your chances of a
negative future are alarmingly high -- a matter of grave concern to those of us who are members of the
generations after yours. We inherit the outcomes of your choices and neglect.
A few years ago, your futurists contemplated only positive futures and discussed which of these utopian
options to choose. Now they have had to lower their aim; instead of a utopia, they now hope that you can
simply hold your own instead of slipping backwards. "Holding your own" means that, over the next few
decades, you maintain approximately the same net balance of positive and negative, happiness and
suffering, improvements and deterioration, helpfulness and cruelty, love and revenge, effectiveness and
breakdown, functioning and disruption, peace and warfare.
It is appropriate to strive for a future that is even better than the present; we would be delighted to receive
such a wonderful gift from you. But it is also appropriate to strive to hold your own--to retain the good
features of the present, halt most of the deteriorating trends, and avoid the worst catastrophes of all.
Without such efforts, you run the risk of creating a future beyond your worst nightmares.
Here are some of the particular behaviors that harm and alarm us the most. You continue to invent,
manufacture, and stockpile weapons that are capable of severely harming or even ending human
civilization. You make little effort to implement alternative ways of handling violent conflict, terrorism, and
serious crime. Your environmental efforts to "save the planet" and to halt population growth are so feeble
and ineffective that they would be a cosmic joke if the consequences were not going to be so devastating
for so many people. Because you are so heavily focused on very short-term profits and benefits, you ignore
long-term costs and needs. For instance, you fail to plan and build roads, bridges, railways, ports, water
supplies, educational opportunities, and wilderness parks for the next generation or two. You are
bequeathing us enormous public debts and outmoded forms of governance. You make very little effort to
foresee and forestall various catastrophes that could severely damage human civilization sometime in the
next few decades. Child poverty, hunger, and neglect stunt the healthy physical, cognitive, and emotional
development of the next generation or two.

We suffer because your choices affect humanity for many decades into the future. We sometimes reflect on
the quite different choices that you might have made, and we weep.
Well, let's turn to a happier topic: the third universal goal.
3. Profound knowledge of the world. Your score is 8, which is very good. Your knowledge is extensive and
your recent progress is excellent.
We do have one criticism, however. You unduly neglect your capacity for thoughtful, disciplined inquiry
into the biggest, deepest, most significant questions of all.
4. Mutually beneficial interaction with other civilizations in the galaxy. Your score is 4 (poor). On the
positive side, the proportion of people who are interested in life in the universe is increasing rapidly, and
you have made a good beginning in your efforts toward making contact.
But your efforts toward this goal are far too stingy compared to its extraordinary significance. The
resources devoted to achieving interaction with other civilizations are only about one-fifth of what they
should be. You are so tantalizingly close to a breakthrough, yet you putter along and devote only minimal
resources.
Our reflections
Our vantage point as representatives of future generations gives us an especially useful perspective for
assessing how well you are doing. We find that the four universal guideposts, applicable to all civilizations,
are very useful for this purpose. Here is a review of how we see your performance.
(1) Your day-to-day functioning as a society is a mixture of successful and unsuccessful aspects. Your
overall score is about average, about halfway between complete failure and your maximum positive
potential. We appreciate the positive portions of the foundation that you have left for us to build on. Your
effectiveness has been losing ground over the past few years, however, and you should vigorously try to
reverse this trend.
(2) Your worst performance of all is your attitude and behaviour toward the long-term future. Your score is
only a 3, which is rather close to the bottom of the scale. You risk the health, happiness, long-term
flourishing, economic well-being, and environment of all of us who live in some future era--just so that you
can have a little more luxury, a few more weapons, an insular unconcerned life, or a false reassurance that
all is well with the world. Your awareness of the long-term future is increasing rapidly, but your actions lag
far behind.
(3) You are doing quite well at accumulating knowledge, and have achieved a score of 8, which is close to
the top of the scale. We appreciate the excellent foundation that we inherited from you as the basis for our
own knowledge-building. We would all benefit greatly, however, if you devoted more attention and
resources to the most important questions and phenomena of all.
(4) You are taking appropriate steps toward understanding and interacting with other civilizations in the
galaxy, and we appreciate your initiatives. But you have not been devoting nearly enough resources to such
an important and worthy goal. As a result, your score is only 4, which is poor.
We join you in celebrating your successes and accomplishments. But we also hope you will take our views
very seriously, and will choose fundamental changes to increase your long-term perspective and halt the
decline in your day-to-day functioning. Shift much of your attention and effort toward the long-term
perspective, and lesser amounts to the other three goals.
The four universal goals are four guideposts for comparing your level of flourishing with the likely
opportunities and well-being of future generations. They help you check whether you are shortchanging us
by providing us with opportunities that are much less than your own opportunities.

We feel sad and a little angry that you are so wrapped up in your own problems and well-being that you are
neglecting the needs of all of us who will be alive in future decades. When you pass from the world stage,
you will leave us some superb knowledge and technology and music and ideas, yes. But you will also leave
us enormous debts, a rapidly deteriorating natural environment, harmful population growth, plus a
widespread spirit of apathy and angry belligerence instead of harmonious cooperation. We treasure your
achievements in two of the universal goals (accumulating profound knowledge and managing your day-today affairs) and your good beginning toward contact with other civilizations. But we desperately wish you
would transform your behaviour toward the long-term future. We hope you will become much more caring
about our needs--the needs of your children and grandchildren, and all the other people who are going to
live after you read these words.
Chapter 5: SEVEN KEY PRIORITIES FOR FOCUSING YOUR EFFORTS
You are alive at a pivotal moment in the unfolding of humanity's story. You are making some of the most
important choices in human history. Your era is marked by positive and negative potentials of such newness
and magnitude that you can hardly understand them. Through your public policies and daily lives, the
people of your era have tremendous power to influence the future course of humanity's story. We strongly
care about your choices, of course, since we benefit or suffer from them quite directly. We live downstream
from you in time; whatever you put into the stream flows on to our era.
In this message from us--this message from future generations to you--we have already covered many
ideas. Caring with mind, heart, soul, and hands. A core value. Responsibility. Meaning and purpose. Moral
and ethical choices. Life in the universe. Humanity's place within that cosmos filled with life. Four
universal goals for civilizations. Our assessment of how well you are doing.
After reflecting on all of these ideas, we have concluded that seven priorities are particularly important for
your attention and efforts. By focusing on these seven specific areas of society, you can contribute greatly
to our opportunities and deep happiness. And your improvements in these seven areas will have major
benefits for you, too.
Here is a preview list of the seven areas--the seven priorities that seem to us most important for you to
emphasize over the next few years:
A long-term perspective
Future-relevant research and teaching
Weapons and warfare
Planet and population
Day-to-day functioning
Significant knowledge
Learning, caring, and meaningfulness.
We will be very grateful if you devote your best efforts to these seven priorities, even if you have to reduce
your efforts on other priorities. These are the seven things that we need most from you. From our long-term
perspective on your particular period in history, these are the priorities that we believe deserve your
strongest efforts. These are the seven key things that you can do for us, if you care about our well-being.
Please re-direct your efforts. Shift your attention as much as you can toward these seven societal priorities.
We know how eager you are to find a path to a positive future, to change the course of human history for
the better. Your best prospects lie in these seven directions. You are surrounded by an array of issues,
opportunities, and organizations clamoring for your attention. Please make sure that you do not neglect the
seven key priorities amidst the clamor of competing items for your society's agenda. You need a dramatic
shift of public attention, commitment, and resources to these key priorities--and away from any luxuries,
habits, beliefs, old structures, and narrow interests that interfere with them. You cannot accomplish all the
worthy changes that you desire, but you certainly can accomplish these seven key changes if you focus
your efforts on them.

Our unique position as the people who inherit the consequences of your choices gives us a fresh perspective
from which to view your most appropriate societal priorities. Also, because we are seeing you from the
future and are therefore not as wrapped up in the details of your daily life as you are, we can see your
strengths and foibles with a keen dispassionate gaze. We hope that you find our suggestions useful, and we
appreciate your willingness to consider them seriously.
Even though our world and our lives are somewhat different from yours, we too are people, vigorously
engaged in a wide variety of activities and projects, just as you are. We want to have opportunities and
resources that are equal to yours. As you make choices in the face of competing voices and demands, please
shift toward a fair and appropriate balance between your well-being and ours. We appreciate the efforts that
you have already made, but we also note that even deeper and faster changes are required.
It is important for you to realize just how deep and pervasive these changes must be in order to give us
equal opportunities. Individual behavior, social structures, economic assumptions, even paradigms and
world views must all change. We know that these changes are not shallow or easy. But if you do not change
vigorously and successfully, we will be much worse off than you are.
The costs of the deterioration and losses will be far larger than the costs of making the changes in the first
place would have been. If you continue your shortsighted selfishness, the consequences will be
catastrophic, perhaps even beyond the stretch of your imagination. From our long-term perspective, we see
how foolish, and unfair you will be if you fail to make the required changes soon. How would you react to
a bus driver who knew the brakes would give out soon but did not bother to get them fixed promptly? If
you do make the changes, the benefits to ongoing humanity will be much greater than the costs of making
the changes.
We desperately want you to understand what your present behavior is going to cost us who are alive several
decades later, even if your behavior improves to the extent that you now consider practical, feasible, and
realistic. You may see the required changes as unrealistic, as not feasible, but how realistic and feasible is it
to expect us to feed two or even three times as many people as you feed? How realistic is it to believe that
your arsenal of nuclear and biological weapons will never be used during the next few decades? The costs
and inconvenience of changing are very unpleasant, but the poignant costs of not changing are far worse. If
you truly care about the well-being of us members of future generations, you will find a way to make the
required changes. You are already making rapid progress in some spheres, and are clearly capable of
making the other required changes if you choose to. We appreciate your courage in facing reality and in
considering vigorous changes.
All seven priorities are intricately connected, of course, but it is useful to focus on each of them separately
as well. We have avoided suggesting implementation details for these seven broad priorities: you are closer
to the situation than we are, and you are certainly capable of planning specific strategies and projects to
achieve these key priorities. For each of these priorities, your books and periodicals already contain plenty
of ideas for particular steps and solutions. Once you choose to move ahead with each priority, you will
readily find useful strategies and organizations close at hand. Fortunately, too, many inspiring success
stories have already occurred. What is needed most is widespread public commitment to each priority.
Accomplishing them will then turn out to be relatively easy.
People and societies cannot accomplish everything that they want to accomplish. They sometimes have to
make painfully difficult choices. In order to focus enough of your attention, effort, and resources on these
seven key priorities, you will probably have to lower your hopes and efforts in certain other areas. You need
a fresh deep re-ranking of your societal priorities. You will have to rethink and reorder your priorities in
ways that will hurt or displease certain groups and certain individuals. But if you fail to shift fundamentally
toward the seven key priorities--if you continue to scatter your efforts widely and to neglect these seven
areas--you will hurt and displease us even more. The solution is to find a fair balance between the needs of
the people who are alive as you read this, and the people who will be alive over the next few decades and
beyond.

A long-term perspective
In all of your major decisions and actions, please consider our perspective and well-being along with your
own. Take our needs as seriously as your own. Care about our welfare as well as your own. Our needs and
rights are not inferior to yours. Please regard your generation and ours as equals. This is the principle of
intergenerational equity -- equal opportunities across the generations.
Reflect on your unique place in human history. You face the historic challenge of making the shift from a
narrow, self-centered, short-term focus to a long-term global focus that takes into account our needs as well
as your own. If you succeed in making this deep-seated shift toward a long-term perspective, your era will
be remembered saving human civilization and its planet from catastrophe and disintegration, and for
building the foundation for a more positive world.
As your decision-making moves toward a longer-term perspective, a very large number of practical
implications and concrete actions will flow naturally from this new perspective. These are not listed here
because they are so numerous that they could fill several books, but a few of them are scattered throughout
these pages. Many others will become obvious to you as you shift toward a longer-term perspective in all
that you do.
Please note that when we urge you to adopt a long-term perspective in your decision-making and in your
various activities, we do not urge you to develop a specific total vision to aim for. We do not urge you to
develop a comprehensive blueprint that spells out every detail of your desired future. It is fine to have some
specific visions of certain positive components to aim for and certain catastrophes to avoid, as we will do in
the next few pages, but much of the positive side of your future will emerge as you go along. Your
prospects for a positive future will be greatly enhanced as you adopt a long-term perspective and the other
priorities that we are recommending. The tiny details of that future will emerge over time, however, and
cannot readily be foreseen or chosen during your era.
As members of future generations, we are particularly eager for you to designate a spokesperson for our
needs in your various policy-making forums, planning processes, legislatures, parliaments, houses of
representatives, senates, and so on. Because we are not yet alive in your era, we are unable to lobby or vote.
We have no voice. We seem unreal and unimportant to many of your politicians because we have not yet
been born. Our perspective and interests are rarely noted in any depth. This is why we are very enthusiastic
about your era's diverse proposals for incorporating the views and needs of future generations into your
legislative and policy-making processes. On the global level, we are pleased with your proposals for
designated advocates and an international tribunal for future generations. We are also pleased with your
additional proposals for particular nations. We now urge you to move on from words and proposals to
practical innovative experiments. As you experiment, you will gain greater insights and skills and thus be
able to develop even better ways of incorporating our views into your public decision-making. Please
experiment with a spokesperson for future generations in the decision-making processes of the United
Nations and its agencies, other international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, each religion,
various levels of government, and all other major organizations. As you proceed with your experiments, we
hope that this book from us will help all of the participants grasp our perspective and our specific needs. As
you see what works, what does not, and why, you will be able to move ahead with wider use of
spokespersons for those not yet born. Our ultimate hope, of course, is that all participants in public and
corporate decision making will eventually adopt the perspective of future generations, and will serve as
spokespersons and guardians for our interests.
The overriding importance of avoiding the worst catastrophes of all will become obvious to you as you
make progress in adopting a long-term perspective. Please begin now. Detect and study the entire range of
potential catastrophes or trends that could eliminate or severely harm human civilization. Avoid losing the
foundation that the previous hundred generations have built up for you and us. Take particularly vigorous
and creative steps to avoid a severe world war. Equally important, halt population growth and the rapid
deterioration of the planet. These two potential catastrophes--warfare and environment--are so probable and
have such far-reaching consequences that they are included separately in our list of priorities for you. In
addition to these two key items, other potential catastrophes include a runaway epidemic, a biological

experiment gone awry, and the impact of a large asteroid or comet. Please take all necessary precautions to
avoid the worst catastrophes of all. We do not want to inherit an incredibly bleak and hostile world! You
should also consider self-sufficient space settlements as a means of ensuring the survival of a few hundred
people from various cultures despite any terrestrial catastrophe.
Adopting a thoughtful long-term perspective is also important with your emerging technologies, such as
molecular engineering, genetic engineering, biotechnology, intelligent robots, artificial intelligence, space
exploration, and space settlement. With each of these new areas of technology, clarify your long-term goals
and hopes as well as any major disasters or negative side effects that could occur. Then proactively and
vigorously guide these technologies in directions that will be highly beneficial to future generations.
Future-relevant research and teaching
This key priority can usefully be divided into its two components: (a) future-relevant research and (b)
future-relevant teaching.
Future-relevant research. In order to achieve a satisfactory future, you need to rapidly expand your efforts
to develop future-oriented knowledge, ideas, insights, understanding, visions, and wisdom. You need to
know far more about world problems, social change, potential futures, the effectiveness of various possible
paths, individual change,the personal foundations of caring about future generations, and several other
future relevant topics. This future-oriented inquiry can include not only research and development projects,
but also creative visioning, speculative brainstorming, disciplined thinking, synthesis, conceptual
frameworks, theory-building, and wide-ranging dialogue.
Move toward a body of concepts, ideas, and knowledge that is profound, powerful, and well organized.
Carefully examine your conceptual frameworks and paradigms. Organize your existing knowledge base
more rigorously; don't be conceptually sloppy or lazy. Critique and build on the ideas and frameworks of
others, instead of operating in intellectual isolation. Try to attract people with especially penetrating minds
and thoughtful approaches, and then generously support their intellectual work.
The amount of effort going into creating knowledge that is profoundly significant to the long-term future is
only about one-third of what it should be. The gap between the optimum effort and your current level is
foolish and poignant. Your aim should be to multiply your future oriented inquiry threefold over the next
few years. The long-term benefits will far outweigh the costs.
For success, you need to increase your knowledge of world problems and social change much faster than
the problems themselves increase. At present, the problems are outstripping your knowledge of how to deal
with them. You are going to have to run much faster than now simply to catch up to all the major problems.
Then you may find that the negative forces are running faster and faster, becoming more and more
challenging. To develop the knowledge to outrun all these tendencies for civilization to deteriorate, you will
need to increase your efforts even further. You certainly have the potential to win the race, but not by
coasting along at your present level of future-oriented research.
You are to be congratulated on the useful ideas and insights that you have already produced in fields
devoted to studying the future, the environment, policy, risk, future generations, and sustainability. At the
same time it is important to realize that many more ideas and insights remain to be discovered. We are
particularly pleased, of course, that several of your organizations and projects are specifically devoted to
future generations. Although getting through the next 40 years safely and successfully should be the central
goal in your future-relevant research, a small portion of your inquiry should look even further ahead to the
endless procession of future generations.
Future-relevant teaching. Learning and teaching about the future provide an essential foundation for
building a better world. You cannot achieve a positive future without far-reaching learning and changes by
individuals around the world. These individuals include all of you, not just political leaders, government
officials, policy experts, or business leaders. You no doubt recall the prescient words of one of your early
futurists, H. G. Wells: "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

You can successfully navigate through the next few decades only if a large proportion of the world's
population understands global problems and potential futures, cares about future generations, accepts the
need for change, and takes a cooperative and constructive approach to dealing with hard choices. Once
enough people care about future generations, implementing these seven key priorities will become much
easier.
Any path to a positive future will require deep changes in individual perspectives, values, and behavior.
From early childhood to late adulthood, learning opportunities should be widespread. In every city on earth,
at least some schools, colleges, adult education programs, and libraries should provide a wide array of
methods for people to learn about the future prospects of their civilization and their region. In addition to
various educational programs and institutions, these opportunities can include libraries, discussion groups,
informal education, workshops, support groups, television, printed materials, electronic sources and
hardware, and self-planned learning projects. This range of learning opportunities should help people of all
ages understand global issues, think skeptically and critically when appropriate, treasure all life on earth,
feel concern for other people, grasp the importance of caring about us future generations, grasp our
perspective and our message to them as reflected in this book, feel committed to necessary changes,
tolerate diverse cultures and views, cooperate for the common good, and pursue meaningful non material
goals.
Educational institutions should provide courses in futures studies, with some emphasis on the perspective
of future generations, using approaches that affect the head, heart, soul, and hands of people of all ages.
Your education about the future could be greatly enhanced if you develop a better knowledge base about
potential futures, conduct research on the processes of learning and teaching about the future, and
experiment with innovative and profound approaches to such learning and teaching.
In addition, we urge you to consider a worldwide campaign to increase caring for future generations. This
campaign could use various approaches, including:
clear, moving, powerful books and booklets written for the general public and for students
superb television programs and films that enable you to "experience" future generations, and to grasp the
fact that we too are actual living people (in your future) rather than some abstract concept
classroom exercises, such as speaking with the voice of future people, of wild species, or of beings on other
planets
writing a pledge to future generations
a large membership organization for the general public, possibly combined with inspirational support
groups
transformative experiences that combine music, poetry, powerful prose, nature, rituals, inspirational
meetings, and the voices of children and youth.
All of your educational efforts could promote a widespread desire to cooperate and contribute. A caring
nurturing attitude toward other people and the environment. Widespread kindness, goodwill, compassion,
and altruism. Fewer people who intentionally take far more from the world than they contribute. More
people eager to contribute to their world and to future generations. Much more hopefulness than cynicism
in the world. A dramatic reduction in hostility, hatred, revenge, and destructiveness. Instead, a pervasive
attitude of cooperating and contributing.
Weapons and warfare
Please reduce warfare and violent civil unrest by fostering non military methods and institutions for dealing
with disputes, greed, ambition, anger, and the urge for revenge. Firmly establish the norm that any sort of
armed violence is illegitimate and out of the question. Foster widespread human rights and political
participation. Foster a spirit of tolerance and cooperation among various religious and ethnic groups. Find
ways to prevent national governments from killing large numbers of their own people.

Cut your military forces and budgets by at least 50%, preferably 75%, thus freeing up resources for the
seven key priorities. Virtually everyone will be better off if worldwide peace enables human energy to be
devoted to building a satisfactory future.
As we survey everything that is happening on earth in your era, the thing we worry about most is your
nuclear weapons. Poised to strike on very short notice, they are the severest threat to our inheriting your
knowledge and culture intact--and even to our existence. Wars can occur with startling suddenness and
follow an unpredictable course. Several countries possess nuclear and biological weapons, and would not
hesitate to use them in certain circumstances. You seem oblivious to the likelihood and impact of their use.
In just one day you could destroy the major portion of human civilization. The next few months of nuclear
winter would be marked by cold and darkness, by the lack of safe food and water, and by illness and
suffering. Within a year almost everyone in the world would be dead or very sick. Because of your moment
of anger or greed or belligerence, you would have destroyed human civilization forever. Surely you can see
that this is a totally unacceptable risk that worries us deeply.
Do not dismiss the possibility that your nuclear weapons could eliminate the human species entirely. Just a
portion of your current arsenal could leave the planet without a single living human being. No one left to
play music; no one left to listen. No one to watch the ocean waves, reflect on the stars, walk on the streets.
No talking, no writing, no hopes, no thoughts, no dreams, no painting, no sports, no laughter, no births, no
children. No one to even remember these things. No one at all.
You are remarkably casual about the high risk of human civilization dying out completely. There is a
terribly high probability that someone will eventually begin using nuclear weapons if you continue along
your present path for much longer. Humankind could become extinct without anyone actually intending it.
For reasons that may seem to you sensible in the short run, you have moved into a situation that is
extraordinarily risky in the long run. The chances of surviving risky behavior for a few more years are
good, but they become extremely poor if you continue the risky behavior for several decades.
Everyone feels sad when a healthy thriving teenager dies. Human civilization is, in a sense, still in its
adolescence or teen years. It has not yet had time to reach its maximum potential in organizing society
effectively, in developing the extraordinary powers of the individual, and in exploring and understanding
the universe. It is certainly premature for civilization to die out now, while still in its adolescence. So much
potential lies ahead over the next few centuries!
Give us a chance to be born: eliminate most of your nuclear and biological weapons. Please put humanity's
survival ahead of your own individual, national, and corporate goals. Everyone needs to speak up for
humankind. Whenever any government, corporation, intelligence agency, military leader, or organization
considers any goal or path that could lead to warfare and extinction, all of you need to say no. No other
human goals are more important than your long-term survival. Ironically, if you pursue other priorities and
neglect humanity's survival, you may end up watching all of your goals and priorities go down the drain
along with your civilization.
If you found yourself in a situation that threatened you or your children with a severe illness or fatal
accident, you would react vigorously to reduce the risk. Now all of you find yourselves in such a situation,
and it threatens your entire civilization, not just your bodies. Please explore the many options and solutions
that have been proposed by thoughtful people, and vigorously act on the best ways to reduce the risk. You
will feel very happy as a result, and so will we.
Planet and population
We, the people of the future, obviously require a planet capable of supporting life. We do not want to
inherit from you a bleak and devastated planet that is even more crowded than in your day. We are alarmed
at your rate of consumption: you are degrading your natural environment and using up the planet's
resources very quickly. Yet five decades after you read this, if your present growth continues, there will be
twice as many people depleting the planet. Hunger, poverty, and environmental deterioration will become
worse and worse if you continue on your present path. It is essential that you move toward a sustainable

society and an appropriate population size that do not exceed the earth's long-term carrying capacity. We
will be very grateful if you soon achieve a sustainable relationship with the planet in agriculture, forestry,
fish, wildlife, water, and energy. In order to accomplish this, you will have to take rapid, profound,
effective, extraordinary measures worldwide (a) to halt or even reverse population growth, (b) to reduce
luxurious and frivolous consumption, unduly high incomes, and undue concentrations of wealth throughout
the world, (c) to live in balance and harmony with the interconnected web of life on earth, and (d) to
minimize the most burdensome types of environmental deterioration, such as global warming, thinning of
the ozone layer, scarcity of good drinking water, toxic and radioactive waste, soil erosion, and the loss of
wilderness and wild species.
These various changes are difficult and costly, but not impossible. Already you have made excellent
progress in environmental awareness, research, and learning. If you make the needed changes over the next
few years, we will feel very fortunate and grateful. If you fail to change profoundly, then we will be much
worse off than you are.
There is little point to arguing amongst yourselves about who is to blame for creating and exacerbating the
deterioration in your environment and the rapid growth in your population. The important thing is for all
nations and all people to take responsible actions for reversing the negative trends.
Population growth is one of your worst follies. It already hurts you in several ways, and will make poverty
and environmental problems much more difficult to handle in the long run. Zero population growth will
have to be achieved sooner or later: we will be far better off if you move rapidly toward it now instead of
letting things become worse and worse.
We have a specific solution to suggest to you, but we also recognize that your creative minds may come up
with an even better solution. Our proposed solution is a worldwide rule of only one child per woman. If this
rule applies to everyone in every country, it is a fair way to stop population growth. It could enhance the
status of women. It is a clear and simple rule: no woman is allowed to have more than one child. (In order
to limit her pregnancies, she is free to choose whatever means she prefers. And if she and the father do not
raise the child together, she has the choice of who will raise the child.) Such a proposal provides a good
example of just how outrageous and unpalatable the solution must be in order to achieve a sustainable
relationship with the planet. Perhaps you can create a solution that is more palatable than our proposal. As
long as you halt population growth one way or another, we will be very grateful to you.
Humanity will sometime have to stop its rapid population growth and its degradation of the planet. Surely it
is better to take vigorous action on all the needed changes immediately, rather than waiting till the situation
becomes even more costly to change. Any sensible person can see that it is better to reverse the harmful
trends during your era rather than later, when the damage and difficulties will be far worse. Some required
changes (such as reducing births, conserving energy, and fostering alternatives to automobiles) will actually
benefit your generation as well as us.
A society, like a person, must resist the urge to live only for the moment and to consume everything in
sight, regardless of future consequences. It is fine to do some things because of an urge for immediate
pleasure, but at times people look far ahead and give up some immediate benefits because of the greater
benefits later on. Perhaps you have sometime in your life given up the pleasure of smoking, for instance, in
order to be healthier in later life, or perhaps you once gave up a secure job in order to study. Within a longterm perspective, such farsighted decisions make sense for an individual or for society.
Day-to-day functioning
As we noted earlier, our assessment of how effectively you handle your day-to-day affairs rates you as
average, compared to your potential. Unfortunately, your effectiveness has been declining over the past few
years. It is obviously important to reverse this downward slide. Otherwise your short-term functioning
could eventually slip into a catastrophic trough and be virtually impossible to reverse. We urge you to take
vigorous action now to reverse the downward trend, instead of waiting until it becomes worse--and harder
to correct.

Governance, policy-making, and public administration is a particularly important area for you to improve.
In order to be successful, these processes need to be well-informed, well-intentioned, and future oriented.
You need to sharply reduce the influence of narrow and short term pressures on all aspects of governance.
With your current governance patterns, you cannot successfully cope with global and social problems.
Please build an effective foundation for public priority-setting and decision-making at the local, regional,
and global level.
In particular, you will find it very beneficial to emphasize the following:
governance arrangements that incorporate the long-term global perspective and the needs of all generations
governance processes that cope well with the total range of serious interlocking problems
problem-solving processes that select the best ideas and individuals regardless of gender, race,
socioeconomic status, cultural background, or any other characteristic except merit
freedom from corruption
a widespread spirit of cooperation, dialogue, and social responsibility among both leaders and citizens,
instead of turning each issue into an unpleasant battle
effective civic and social institutions
pockets of excellence and creative innovations.
Stop governments spending beyond their means: balance your budgets instead of leaving us with
burdensome debts. Try to get ahead of your major problems instead of letting them outstrip your efforts.
Please do not leave us with horrendous problems that could have been alleviated or solved far more easily
in your era than in ours.
As we reflect on the entire panorama of your day-to-day functioning around the world, we find your
treatment of many children particularly repugnant, to say nothing of economically shortsighted. We are
glad that you are making progress in this area, but please do your best to reduce even further the amount of
child poverty, hunger, neglect, and abuse. You create enormous costs to us if you physically, intellectually,
or emotionally stunt their growth and development. Over the years they will cost society an extraordinary
amount of money for extra education and social services, for instance, and in reduced worker productivity
and employment. Try to provide children with adequate love, attention, and learning. Give them the
opportunity to develop into effective, happy, cooperative adults. The competence and creative problemsolving of tomorrow's adult population depend on your success at raising children with good mental and
physical health, adequate self-esteem, and excellent skills in thinking and learning.
We also urge you to aim for widespread freedom of speech, assembly, inquiry, and political opinion. On the
one hand, of course, you may need some restrictions so that these freedoms do not unduly threaten social
stability, law and order, the environment, or future generations. Apart from those restrictions, you could
readily give most individuals and subcultures plenty of opportunity for liberty, choice, self-determination,
creativity--and as little external restriction, control, and repression as possible. In particular, you could limit
the powers and interventions of governments and rulers. And you could limit the efforts of religions and
other organizations to control the lives and behavior of non-members and involuntary members. And you
could eliminate discrimination based on non-merit factors, such as gender, ethnic background, or sexual
preference. When your recent Parliament of the World's Religions developed a global ethic based on what
is already common to all religions, they wisely included commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of
truthfulness.
Significant knowledge
We value humanity's accumulated body of knowledge and understanding as one of our most treasured
possessions. Your era's contributions to that knowledge is one of the most valuable gifts that you can pass
on to us. Please continue your efforts to improve your knowledge, ideas, insights, and wisdom, especially
in directions that emphasize depth and synthesis. In order to maximize your contribution, it is important to
keep your thinking open-minded yet skeptical, bold yet disciplined, fresh yet profound, wide-ranging yet
penetrating.

In particular, we hope you will double your efforts to understand humanity's broad significant contexts--the
biggest questions of all. Our place and significance in the universe, for instance, and our sources of
meaning and purpose. Other civilizations that have developed in our galaxy, and how our future and theirs
might be linked. Better ways of exploring whether God, spirits, Satan, psychic and spiritual phenomena,
life after death, and reincarnation actually exist in the external world or are better understood as inner
human experiences. Feasible paths for achieving a positive human future.
At your stage in the centuries-long accumulation of knowledge, the most important cutting edge of all is the
search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Your current search efforts with radio and optical telescopes are quite
appropriate, but support for them should be doubled or tripled. You should also explore any other methods
and possibilities for discovering a detailed message. For example, search for small automated surveillance
probes within the solar system, even on the earth itself, with the hope that at least one of them will be
designed to yield information as well as collect it. Study the likely capacities, aims, helping projects, and
activities of advanced extraterrestrials, and the implications for your scientific search. Build up the whole
scientific field that focuses on life in the universe, including an annual global conference that focuses on
fresh profound ideas, a wide-ranging refereed journal, and some interdisciplinary graduate programs.
Prepare for the day when a message or other contact is confirmed.
In addition to enlarging the storehouse of significant knowledge, it is important to protect it from
dictatorships and other potential catastrophes. Remember that various armies, rulers, and governments
throughout history have tried to suppress and destroy existing knowledge. This could happen again. Please
develop steps to ensure that the core of human culture, knowledge, literature, music, and art will survive
any war and any repressive worldwide regime, whether military, political, or religious.
Learning, caring, and meaningfulness
Now we come to the final societal priority that we recommend for your era. This priority continues to be
very important to us, so we hope it will soon become important to you, too.
In this final priority, we urge your society to focus plenty of attention and support on the deeper and softer
aspects of individual lives. We refer specifically to three areas: (a) widespread individual learning about the
most important questions of all, (b) caring based on deep connectedness to people, the planet, and future
generations, (c) a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life. Although we will discuss these three areas
separately, they are actually closely interrelated. And all three contribute to the individual's deeper and
softer side.
(a) Your society could do much more toward widespread individual learning about the most important
questions of all. You should encourage and help each individual to learn the accumulated knowledge on
these questions, and also to think through their own best answers. Obviously they will be more successful
in their quest if your society has fostered their ability to think clearly, flexibly, creatively, and skeptically
about difficult and controversial questions. Here are some of the big questions that thoughtful individuals
face:
the origin of the universe
cosmic evolution and the ultimate destination of the universe
our place in the universe
our relationship with other intelligent beings and civilizations in our galaxy
the origin, history, and long-term future of humankind and human culture
our appropriate relationship with the planet and its diverse forms of life
core values
finding a path to a positive human future
how each individual can contribute to achieving that positive future
(b) Your society should do much more to help people feel a deep bonding or connectedness with all of
humankind, with the planet and its diverse forms of life, and with future generations. Explore the
usefulness of music, hymns, songs, poetry, prose, laser light shows, art, hiking, cathedrals, inspirational
services, children, mountains, observation towers, zoos, nature reserves, and scenic beauty for this purpose.

As more and more people experience a deep connectedness, they will care strongly about humanity, future
generations, and the planet--and will act on that deep love and caring. They will eagerly want to make a
positive difference to humanity and the planet. They will be happy to experience a bond with something
ageless, something transcendent, something much larger than their own life.
Creating inspirational groups dedicated to future generations could be particularly useful. The people in
these groups would feel bonded together by their deep caring for future generations, and by their efforts to
build a better world. Various methods could be used to inspire and strengthen each member's sense of
connectedness to humanity and its positive future. Inspirational gatherings, oral readings, silent reflection,
discussion, and songs of gratitude and joy could all play a part. Members could share their feelings about
the long-term future, discuss what we are saying to you in this book, reflect on the implications of recent
events, and discuss their most significant unanswered questions. Members could also discuss their current
efforts to contribute, including their strategies, obstacles, triumphs, and failures. Many people want to make
a positive difference to the world, but lack a sympathetic and inspirational support group. Such groups
could be built on love and reverence for human civilization and other societies in our galaxy, awe
concerning the mysteries of the universe, and commitment to service on behalf of future generations. By
supporting various efforts to build a positive long-term future, these groups could provide people with an
inspiriting and transcendent purpose in life.
These inspirational groups have the potential to develop into a powerful worldwide network. This
inspirational movement might occur within established religions, and remain a vital part of these religions
for many generations. Alternatively, the inspirational groups might eventually form a new religion of
service to the cosmos, a global religion centered on humanity's positive future within a grand universe. As a
third possibility, the inspirational movement might occur within a new secular organization that resembles a
religion but that is silent on the nature and role of a deity, leaving people free to follow their own beliefs on
that matter.
(c) Your society should also focus much more attention and support on the individual's desire for a sense of
meaning and purpose in life. This theme runs throughout our message to you because it is such an
important part of our era. A sense of meaning and purpose can easily pervade a society in which people
share a sense of connectedness with the cosmos, with its diverse life, and with the continuous procession of
generations. These foundations are quite real, of course; there is no need to adopt false beliefs or unrealistic
expectations in order to feel a deep sense of meaning and purpose.
As your support for this societal priority increases, you will find that more and more lives are suffused with
insight, wisdom, love, caring, altruism, meaning, and joy instead of ignorance, ill will, meaninglessness,
and unhappiness. Some fears and pain and sorrow will remain, but will be more focused on future
generations than on oneself. Over time, in fact, the distinction between oneself and future generations will
blur. As the depth and strength of the connectedness increases, the boundaries between self and humanity
become softer and less important. The dominant perception is a sense of oneness. People feel like affirming
that "I am at one with future generations, and they provide a shining beacon in my life."
Reflections on the seven priorities
The seven changes that need to be made by individuals, organizations, governments, and society are
startlingly large, deep, and far-reaching. But the alternative is for your grandchildren and the other
members of their generation to spend much of their adult life in a social and physical environment that is
bleak and nasty. The seven profound changes are necessary in order to avoid such a negative outcome.
They provide the best path to a positive future.
Of the seven, the most important of all is a worldwide shift toward caring deeply about the well-being of all
the people who will be alive over the next few decades, and the well-being of the planet. This perspective
transformation or paradigm shift is necessary for citizens, policy-makers, business leaders, and key people
throughout governments. As more and more of you change your inner perspective, there is an excellent
chance that the necessary outer changes will also occur. People, goals, values, processes, structures, and

projects must all shift toward supporting humanity's long-term flourishing. As a result, the ever-unfolding
history of human civilization may alter course toward a positive future.
Perhaps you are feeling that our message to you is unrealistic and too ambitious. You wonder whether you
can actually manage to implement the seven priorities that we are recommending. We believe that you can.
Do not be too quick to dismiss our recommendations as farfetched or impossible. Human history provides
other examples of dramatic paradigm shifts. The seven priorities can be achieved if enough people around
the world become strongly motivated to do so. We have intentionally omitted dozens of other worthy
priorities from the list in order to make it more feasible, because no one can achieve all of their hopes and
dreams, no matter how worthy. We are grateful for the inner changes and outer efforts that are already
under way. If you focus your attention and resources on these seven crucial priorities, you have a good
chance of success. The costs and obstacles are daunting, but you are quite capable of overcoming them if
you are strongly motivated.
Perhaps you are wondering whether a wide range of the people who inhabit your future agree with these
seven priorities, or whether the list reflects the views of just some specific group or some particular
segment of the population. In fact, most groups in our era do agree with each of the seven priorities. If you
do not believe this, then think for a moment which priority would be deleted by which group. Virtually no
thoughtful group would want to abandon any of the seven. Each group realizes that these seven priorities
provide an essential path toward a future that will allow that particular group to flourish, along with a
panorama of diverse groups. If these seven priorities fail, then all groups and all nations and all segments of
the population will suffer. Of course, if they think only of their own self-interest for a few moments, any
group could easily think of one or two priorities to add to the list. Of course, every individual would love to
add some item to the list that would be special benefit to their own family, home, work, savings, or
neighborhood. But when groups and individuals focus on the way to achieve a world in which they and
their group can flourish, they support the list as it is.
As an aside, it is interesting to speculate about what changes, if any, would be made in the list by birds,
trees, wild mammals, extraterrestrials, people looking back from the year 2300, or a council of wise people
chosen from your own era. You will probably realize that all of them would strongly support the need for
emphasizing these seven areas of change. They might put a stronger emphasis on the "planet and
population" priority, they might make a few other minor modifications, but in general they would strongly
support the importance for you to make these seven changes as early and as deeply as possible.
We worry that you will choose the tempting path that lies right in front of you, dissipating your efforts on
alluring goals and priorities that will have little influence on long-term flourishing--squandering your time
and energy not only on consumption, luxury, competition, quarrels, and violence, but also on the faddish
projects and causes of the moment. Think of the pain and suffering that you will cause us--the bleak lives
and barren planet, the harsh restrictions, the lost potential, the sense of malaise and futility. We cry when
we think of what might come to pass. Perhaps you too will feel some tears as you think about what your
era's lack of future-oriented caring and effort could inflict on us.
We will be very grateful if you focus your attention, caring, efforts, and resources on the seven essential
priorities that we have spelled out for you. This is not a safe and easy path, though it is safer than any other
path. But if you want to achieve a positive future, it is your optimum path.
Thank you very much for listening to our views so thoughtfully. We are cautiously hopeful that more and
more of you will grasp our perspective, and that your society will treat our needs as equal in importance to
your own. If enough people join the loosely knit worldwide effort to build a positive future, then a
profound change in direction becomes possible. Working together, you can shift to a path that improves
your prospects for a peaceful, caring, flourishing future. You can pass on to us a store of deeply relevant
knowledge, a flourishing and peaceful culture, and a vibrantly healthy planet. You can steer human history
toward a shining positive future.
Chapter 6: WHAT EACH OF YOU CAN DO

We appreciate your taking the time to read our message to you. Thank you very much for your patience and
caring. It is probably a new experience for you to listen to a message from people who are not yet born at
the time you read it, people who are alive many decades after you are. Now, after reading our message, you
have a good sense of our perspective, needs, goals, and feelings. Now we probably seem more real to you.
At this stage you may be wondering how to learn even more about us. How to feel hopeful and empowered
as you think about how much your era affects ours. How to feel even deeper bonding with us. How to help
us in ways that will truly make a difference. What sort of affirmation and pledge might be useful in your
life. We will do our best to explore each of these questions thoughtfully.
How to learn more about us
If you want to learn more about our perspective, there are several avenues that you can follow.
Experiential learning through imaging exercises is one excellent avenue. Such an exercise can help you
"know" us in a more direct and immediate way than simply reading about us. In a quiet room, you can
fantasize that you are one of us. Either just generally be someone in the future or choose a particular
identity, such as a shopkeeper in Budapest living 70 years in the future. What does this person need and
want from you? If she could send a message back to you and your era, what would she want to say to you?
You might want to turn on a tape recorder before you begin this exercise, so that you can play back your
experience and thoughts later on if you wish.
Reading is another excellent avenue for learning more about us. To help you choose particularly useful
books and articles, we provide two lists of further reading suggestions for you.
We make that portion of our message very specific because, from our perspective in the future, we see just
how valuable each of these books can be for you. Our first list presents the ten most useful books for
understanding our perspective and needs. You can continue on to our second list if you want to read even
further in order to gain the insights necessary for acting successfully for our well-being.
Joining a highly relevant organization or talking with other informed people is another good avenue. As
you select from among the many voices and groups competing for your attention and money, ask yourself
which one truly looks far enough ahead to understand our perspective. Which one takes our needs seriously,
and pursues a path that will actually turn out to be helpful to us? From such people and groups you can
learn a lot.
Other avenues, too, can be useful for learning about us. Occasionally a television program, radio program,
or magazine article focuses on the long-term future of the planet and humanity. In-depth travel to various
parts of the world can produce insights, understanding, and caring. Occasionally some other opportunity for
learning will arise unexpectedly, if you are on the lookout.
At times you may find that learning about us will challenge your intellect to the limit, especially as you
wrestle with just how your era can actually succeed in giving us equal opportunity. Some world problems
are difficult to grasp in all their complexity, despite all that is written about their causes and potential
solutions. As you learn about world problems and potential futures, you may find at times that you have to
learn certain knowledge that is paradoxical, counterintuitive, highly conceptual or theoretical, technically or
psychologically sophisticated, or deeply challenging to your current beliefs and world view.
How to feel hopeful and empowered
As you learn more about our perspective, you may find yourself experiencing a wide range of positive and
negative emotions. On the positive side, you may feel eager, excited, challenged, exhilarated, hopeful,
joyful, enthusiastic, empowered, and committed.
On the negative side, especially during the early or middle stages, you may experience fear, grief, horror,
revulsion, frustration, anger, discouragement, hopelessness, despair, even depression. Sometimes you may

want to run away from the whole appalling subject and retreat into disbelief, denial, defensiveness,
cynicism, apathy, and paralysis. You may also find that your sense of meaning and purpose in the universe
and in your own life is shaken at times. Learning what you are doing to us can produce an earthquake deep
within you!
All of these emotional reactions are quite normal and natural as people face the wide array of potential
long-term futures, ranging from some dreadfully bleak possibilities through to some glorious utopias. Our
advice to you is simply to get in touch with your feelings fairly often during your learning process. Express
them face-to-face to a supportive companion, or express them to yourself aloud or in writing. As you stay
in touch with those feelings and continue expressing them with full force, they will gradually lose their
power over you. There is no need to become stuck in negative emotions or hopelessness. Fully face the
negative sides of the world and its potential futures, of course, but do not become paralyzed by feeling that
the problems are too big, the forces against change are too entrenched, your actions are too slight, or the
odds are too unfavourable.
After you have allowed yourself to experience and work through the negative emotions, you will probably
find yourself ready to move on to feeling more hopeful and empowered. This transition can be aided by
noting various positive options and projects and organizations. You might ask people about them, read
about a few, or even visit one or two. It also helps to develop a clear vision of a positive future. You might
do an imaging exercise in which you imagine yourself walking around in a future world without weapons
or without hunger, for instance. You may also develop a strong sense of mission in life, a clear goal toward
which you will devote your efforts.
You may be wondering whether pessimism or optimism is more appropriate when you think ahead to the
likely world in which we future generations will live. Well, neither position is appropriate if it becomes
rigidly entrenched. Absolute optimism keeps people from facing serious problems. Total pessimism is
immobilizing. The actual future could be positive or negative or somewhere in between: there is simply no
way for you to be completely certain what the future will be. Our advice to you is to adopt an attitude of
hope, an attitude of cautious optimism. Face the deep-seated problems of the world, of course, but also
retain plenty of hope, energy, and enthusiasm. Feel empowered rather than despondent. Remind yourself
that you have a good chance of achieving a positive future if you devote enough effort and intelligence to it.
There is no point in being permanently gloomy, discouraged, and paralyzed by the possibility of a
disastrous future. Cynicism and hopelessness are not useful because they can produce the negative
outcomes that they anticipate. The odds of a catastrophic future are worrisome, yes, but the odds of a more
positive future are certainly encouraging. Although the outcome is in doubt, remember that great dangers
and challenges sometimes elicit the best creative efforts in individuals and civilizations.
It is important to face and accept all the aspects of human civilization that will probably not improve much
over the next century. Even if you achieve all seven of the key societal priorities, many other unpleasant,
nasty, cruel, harsh, and dangerous aspects of human life will continue. Of course, we and you wish that
human civilization could rapidly achieve a total utopia in which no one involuntarily suffers pain, hardship,
hunger, illness, rejection, depression, injustice, or lack of freedom. In actual fact, though, we are not able to
achieve such a utopia within the next century. It follows that you will be happier and more effective if you
deeply accept the 80% or 90% of the human condition that is not going to improve. We are not suggesting
that you condone or encourage this lack of improvement. Simply accept it, and put your efforts into
changing the 10% or 20% that you can change.
How to experience deep bonding with us
Learning more about us will help you make a difference to our world and well-being. Working through
your negative emotions and becoming more hopeful and empowered will also increase your usefulness.
But there is another level, too, a level that you may experience as even deeper than learning and emotions.
This is the level of deep bonding or connectedness with us. This level may feel to you like a deep spiritual
level or even a mystical experience--a melting of the boundaries between you and the earth, between you

and humanity, between you and future generations. Such an experience can produce a very deep seamless
caring for the planet and future generations.
Music is probably the most common path to this experience. You may find that symphonies, electronic
music, songs and hymns about the future, triumphant celebrations, or rock music is best for you. Or one
piece may produce tears of joy and beauty one day, and quite a different sort of music may have the same
effect a year later.
You may also find that immersing yourself in nature can give you the experience of feeling deeply bonded
with us. Or interacting with young children may do this. Or reading science fiction or other future-oriented
fiction. Or watching movies and television stories that occur in the future.
You might also want to experience the effects of repeating an affirmation to future generations with a group
or aloud on your own each day or each week. This works well if you repeat it yourself aloud, or if you do
so with a group. You might want to write you own affirmation, based on your thoughts and feelings after
reading our message. You might want to use the affirmation that we have prepared for you. Or you might
want to produce a combination of the two by adding your own personal modifications to our affirmation.
TO FUTURE GENERATIONS--AN AFFIRMATION
Even though you live far in my future,
I know that you are real and human,
Not just an abstract concept in my imagination.
You laugh, dance, think, and talk.
You work, play, love, and care.
I feel connected with you
And with the planet that we share.
You and I are one species
one civilization
many cultures.
I care deeply about you.
Your well-being is just as important as mine.
You are a shining beacon in my work and my life.
How to help us
Perhaps at this point you are reflecting on our core value and seven priorities, along with other values and
demands that compete for your attention. As a result, perhaps you are asking yourself some of these
personal questions:
What are my own core values and priorities?
What sort of person do I want to be?
What should I do with the rest of my life?
What are my responsibilities as a human being in these extraordinary times?
In what ways should I contribute to building a better world?
How can I find an inspiring purpose in life?
So many tasks need to be done in order to build a better world for those of us who live in your future! If
you are trying to choose your particular contributions, there is certainly no scarcity of possibilities.
You could begin by thinking about some of the obvious ones. Promote the long-term perspective in a letter
to a political leader or newspaper. Try to reduce your impact on the environment. Discuss world problems
with the people around you. Speak up for your own views. Join a group that shares your concerns. Offer to
speak to a group or class.

You could also contribute money to organizations and projects that are particularly beneficial to future
generations. Put yourself in our shoes and ask what projects we would be most likely to recommend to you.
Be on the lookout for worthy projects that have not yet caught the public's attention.
Volunteer activities provide another path for helping us. Many organizations and projects need volunteer
researchers, writers, office workers, and executive officers. Another useful option is to initiate some project
on your own to meet one of our needs. Reflect on the unique ways in which you might contribute through
writing, public speaking, teaching, mass media, art, music, politics, your present work, or a new job.
Your present work may be an excellent opportunity to contribute to humanity's future, especially if you
emphasize the long-term perspective. Another possibility is to choose a new field or job with excellent
scope for making a long-lasting contribution. In the extraordinary times in which you live, the choice of
one's career or other work becomes a moral choice. Morality requires each individual to put service
(building a better society) ahead of personal gains.
In choosing your own path for helping us, think carefully about it likely long-term contribution. In what
ways will it help future generations? Think particularly about each of the societal priorities that we have
suggested: what could you contribute to one of these?
Think too about your own inner qualities. What are your particular interests and strengths? Which tasks and
challenges will arouse your energy and passion? What are your most cherished hopes for making a
contribution, your half-hidden visions, your impossible dream? What does your deep inner self say to you?
We hope you will get in touch with your inner dream--your altruistic, caring, ethical desire to make a
positive difference to the world--and let yourself take the risk of striving for that dream.
At times you may feel powerless, doubtful that one person can make any difference. One way of breaking
out of this helpless feeling is to think of yourself as part of a team of people with a similar goal, even
though this group may be scattered geographically. Working together, a few courageous and dedicated
people can sometimes begin a process that eventually results in saving a wilderness area, ending a senseless
war, initiating a new field of study, or inventing a fresh social solution to a problem. Another way to feel
empowered rather than paralyzed is to think of the many aspects of our heritage that were contributed by
individuals. Examples of individual contributions include the ancient artwork in such places as Beijing's
Forbidden City and Pompeii, the plays of Shakespeare, the Gettysburg address, and hundreds of poems,
symphonies, and books.
Your pledge to us
We urge you to make a personal pledge to us. Your pledge can sharpen your commitment to us. It can help
you find clarity amidst all the competing requests, demands, and options in your world and your life. It can
help you maintain a sense of clear direction as you continue to learn about our perspective, our needs, and
the impact of your era on us. By returning to your personal pledge whenever you feel confused by the range
of problems and demands, you can re-focus your efforts.
A personal pledge brings the whole array of global issues and potential futures down to what one individual
can do to contribute positively.
Your pledge can give you clear principles for living your life. A simple set of commitments to us. An
answer to the perennial question, "What can I do?"
We have developed a pledge for each individual of your era to consider adopting. Some people will adopt it
just as it is. Others will modify it somewhat to fit their own level of caring, their own style of commitment.
Some people will prefer to develop their own unique pledge soon after they read these words.
Regardless of where your own particular pledge comes from, we feel deeply grateful to you for caring
about us, and for committing yourself to live your life in harmony with that caring. We thank you with
much enthusiasm and affection.

Gaining deep meaning and happiness from your efforts


Your efforts to build a positive future can benefit us, of course, but they can also benefit you personally.
They can fill your life with zest, exhilaration, a deep sense of meaning and purpose, and a quiet
contentment or happiness.
You can gain satisfaction and joy from helping other people, even if you never see them and even if they
are not yet born. You can feel useful, helpful, loving, pleased, proud, happy, connected. Your self-respect,
self image, and self-esteem will increase. You will like yourself better if you are contributing more than you
consume. Other people may praise you, thank you, or feel more affection for you when they see your
altruistic side. You may feel more deeply connected to the ongoing river of human life across the centuries.
Perhaps part of your motivation for building a positive future is your strong altruistic love for all of
humankind, even unborn generations. Perhaps part of your motivation is simply that you take society's
highest values quite seriously in your day-to-day life. You believe in taking action for the world, not just
proclaiming certain values without acting. Perhaps another part of your motivation is your caring about the
opportunities that your children and grandchildren will have throughout their adult lives. You want them to
inherit a safe and pleasant world, not a bleak society noted for its wars, famines, chaos, and repression.
Your meaning and purpose in life can also be enhanced by your efforts on our behalf. For many people, the
essence of their deep sense of meaning and purpose is their altruistic mission in life, their efforts for the
noble cause of building a better future. Bringing your actions into alignment with your core values and
beliefs can produce a deeply satisfying sense of harmony and rightness in your life. Human beings need far
more than food, water, shelter, sex, self-esteem, and love. They also need to feel a part of something that is
worthwhile and enduring. They need to work toward a transcendent goal that is worth dying for or at least
living for. Working toward such a goal can overcome your desire for escape and aimless diversions. You
may feel less rootless and unconnected. Instead of feeling empty and meaningless, your life can feel full of
purpose, commitment, and zest.
You may find that your greatest happiness comes from devoting your life to future generations. A
significant heroic challenge--such as building a positive future--can be exciting and exhilarating. Those
who embrace the challenge feel fully alive, fully engaged with life. Such efforts can also be demanding and
risky, but for some people these characteristics add to the attraction. All successful social transitions feel
difficult and dangerous at certain stages.
And the outcomes will always be uncertain. You have no way of knowing in advance whether harmonious
altruistic efforts for the future will triumph over such powerful forces as unmitigated ego and selfishness,
narrow short-sightedness, ruthless exploitation, apathy, and the urge for violence and revenge. Because of
their importance, challenge, and suspense, such efforts are the ultimate adventure available to human
beings in your era.
For our own sake, of course, but also for your own happiness and deep meaning, we hope you will rise to
this challenge and join the people around the world who are doing their best to make a positive difference
in the future that we will inherit from you. We know that you and other people have the courage and
capacity to change your thinking and behavior in the necessary ways. We want you to know how much we
treasure and appreciate your efforts. To you we send our thanks, our warmest best wishes, and our love.
You have an opportunity to play a role in the greatest human drama that has ever been played on the world
stage. You can join the most important struggle that has occurred in the past few centuries, a struggle whose
outcome could enhance or impoverish human life for the next 100 years. You can vigorously join the
worldwide effort to change the course of human history and to improve humanity's prospects for a safe,
happy, flourishing future.
You can choose this effort as your highest purpose in life. Your supreme challenge. Your exhilarating
mission in life. And your opportunity to participate in the ultimate human adventure!

These two web pages form an integral part of A Message From Future Generations:
A pledge to future generations
Useful books about future generations
Copyright 1995 and 1998 Allen Tough. All rights reserved.
Based upon a presentation to the First Global Future Generations Kyoto Forum, Kyoto, Japan, November
25, 1994
Copyright Allen Tough. Designed and maintained by Microcomm
Galaxy painting courtesy of Jon Lomberg
This page last updated 21 April 2006
Contact Professor Allen Tough