Should you worry about your work surviving 200 years from now?

No, because doing so is counterproductive. But I like the way this author puts it, in an essay about having perspective on one’s contributions:

At some point in life, we come to realize that we exist in a context. If you are a scientist, you might make a small but useful contribution in your subfield, a subfield that is impossible to explain to anybody else. If you write short stories for literary magazines and exist in that ecosystem, you may not really exist to people outside of it. And — for most of us — our lives form part of the circumference of that context. We live a little while and then we go into the ground. Our children, if we have them, remember us, their children remember us a little less, their children even less, and so on until we are part of a school genealogy project.

It might be helpful to reframe reality as just that: We live in a context. History is interesting, but it can be manipulated by others, and our understanding of it is marred by our lack of knowledge or the bias of our own times. This “time bubble” we live in is more important, and is actually the sum total of our understanding and perception.

Thinking of ourselves as part of a time bubble, rather than part of larger history, makes time smaller and causes us to identify with a smaller unit. As a mental model, it’s reductive but interesting. Worth exploring from time to time in order to better understand the scope of our potential.

Secondly, it’s a reminder—that in your art or your work, and in your particular context, you are much more likely to be understood only by a small group of people. Outside your “time bubble” and outside your area of expertise, you are more likely to be misunderstood. The conclusion I draw from that is focus on excelling in your field, let larger timescales play out as they may.

More at the link.

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