One of my annual pleasures is the State Of The World conversation held at The Well, between Bruce Sterling, John Lebkowsky, and a rotating caste of various other smart people. This year Bruce said something about ethics that I thought would be of broader interest to the ErosBlog audience:

If you’re a futurist, you become aware that ethics change. Judgements of right and wrong are historically ductile. People do sense that, but they don’t know how to deal with it. It seems sinful.

By historical standards, we’re morally horrifying here in our shiny new 2018. The oligarchs at the top of our society are incredibly greedy, grasping and unfair. The rest of us are unashamed sodomites with fantastic amounts of legalized marijuana.

Our behavior is damnable on its face by the moral standards of one century ago, or two, three, four, five centuries. To find a sister society to our own — meaning people would consider us in 2018 to be normal, A-okay and entirely sensible — you’d likely have to go back to the Rome described in the “Satyricon” of Petronius Arbiter. The heroes in that proto-novel would have no big problem with our cheerful gay sex and the conspicuous wealth of our vulgar oligarchs.

But we Americans wouldn’t own up to our own moral decadence. No way. We’re super-scoldy and scarily confident about our superior ethics. We’re bold and praiseworthy ethical pioneers, or else, we’re the heroic last-ditch defenders of Judaeo-Christian decency.

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