The trap of thinking short-term

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3 min readFeb 8, 2024


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Why do we, as a species, struggle so much with long-term thinking?

I’ve been seeing this everywhere recently, in things as personal as my ongoing battle to get regular exercise or as universal as the news headlines — the dysfunction of Congress, say, or the climate crisis. One Medium writer frames this problem, in the U.S. at least, as the result of being a short-term nation. It’s because of our short term thinking, he writes, that by 2016 the United States “had fallen behind much of the rest of the world in research and development and infrastructure building” (according to this Aspen Institute report).

How to get past the seemingly intractable trade-off between immediate and long-term needs? Strategist

offers one approach: Play for time. “It is better to keep the faith alive and give yourself a chance to fight for the future than to fight a battle today that will destroy your chance of reemerging,” he writes. Futurist Peter Schwartz offers another, after citing IBM’s catastrophic 1981 decision to downplay the future market of personal computers: “One of the most important messages about long-term thinking is the inclusion of diverse points of view.”

What else we’re reading

  • When artists feel the only road to success involves building a brand on TikTok, you know something has gone badly awry with the internet. That’s why I loved “The essential guide to self promotion for introverts,” which includes this timeless piece of advice: “Promotion is about finding a way to make a difference in the life of someone who needs to hear from you.” Not to self-promote, but this is why we’ve built Boost into Medium’s distribution system: To create a space where life-changing writing can find an audience without the hustle and grind.
  • Here’s an observation from game designer and developer , who is adapting his 3D jigsaw puzzle game for the Apple Vision Pro: AVP’s “killer app” isn’t any single app, but the Apple ecosystem. It’s the ability to bounce between applications or run them simultaneously in virtual space: e.g., to jump into a FaceTime meeting while working through a 3D puzzle. This tracks with YouTuber Marques Brownlee’s conclusion: Apple’s ecosystem is strong enough by now that we’ll try a new UI because we know the rest of the experience (all the apps we know and love) will be there waiting for us.

From the archive

“In Celebration of Black Freedom, a Cowboy Story” (2018) is

’s re-telling of the fascinating life and times of Nat Love, a Black cowboy, writer, and under-heralded hero of the Old West. Love’s arc traces a large period of the Wild West era, from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the night in 1881 when his friend Billy The Kid was gunned down. “In any of these glances at this one man’s life, the shape of the West comes into clear focus — and there, you will see Black cowboys.” Worth reading just for the story of how he earned the nickname Deadwood Dick. Get this man a limited series on HBO!

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