No SDES-2017-9
Title Intergenerational sustainability dilemma and a potential solution: Future ahead and back mechanism
Author Shibly Shahrier, Koji Kotani and Tatsuyoshi Saijo
Abstract Intergenerational sustainability is pivotal for the survival of human societies. However, current economic and political systems based on capitalism and democracy might not be effective at considering future generations’ needs, thereby compromising intergenerational sustainability (Schwartz, 2007, Shahrier et al., 2016, 2017). We design a new mechanism to improve intergenerational sustainability called the future ahead and back mechanism (FAB) and examine its effectiveness through field experiments consisting of intergenerational sustainability dilemma games (ISDGs). In such games, a lineup of consecutive generations is organized, and each generation can either maintain intergenerational sustainability (sustainable option) or maximize its own generation’s payoff by irreversibly imposing a cost on future generations (unsustainable option). In a basic ISDG, generations make the decision through deliberative democracy. In the ISDG with FAB, each generation is first asked to consider the decision of the current generation as if it is in the position of the next generation. Second, the generation makes the actual decision from its original position as the current generation. The results reveal that deliberative democracy does not prevent a majority of proself people from choosing unsustainable options, which is the mirror image of the results demonstrated in Hauser et al. (2014), thereby compromising intergenerational sustainability in the basic ISDG. By contrast, FAB is demonstrated to enable proself people to change their individual opinions from unsustainable to sustainable options, inducing more generations to choose sustainable options. We argue that the memories and experiences of what and how people request (or role-playing) as future generations in FAB trigger more logic-based reasoning than norm-based reasoning, thereby enhancing intergenerational sustainability.
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