> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 16 July 2020
  • ISBN: 9780753554524
  • Imprint: Virgin Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

The Good Ancestor

How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World




One of Britain’s most popular public philosophers introduces the six ways we can drastically change the way we think in order to ensure a tomorrow: long-term thinking for a short term world.

'This is the book our children's children will thank us for reading' – The Edge, U2

How can we be good ancestors?
From the first seeds sown thousands of years ago, to the construction of the cities we still inhabit, to the scientific discoveries that have ensured our survival, we are the inheritors of countless gifts from the past. Today, in an age driven by the tyranny of the now, with 24/7 news, the latest tweet, and the buy-now button commanding our attention, we rarely stop to consider how our actions will affect future generations. With such frenetic short-termism at the root of contemporary crises, the call for long-term thinking grows every day – but what is it, has it ever worked, and can we even do it?

In The Good Ancestor, leading public philosopher Roman Krznaric argues that there is still hope. From the pyramids to the NHS, humankind has always had the innate ability to plan for posterity and take action that will resonate for decades, centuries, even millennia to come. If we want to become good ancestors, now is the time to recover and enrich this imaginative skill.

The Good Ancestor reveals six profound ways in which we can all learn to think long-term, exploring how we can reawaken oft-neglected but uniquely human talents like ‘cathedral thinking’ that expand our time horizons and sharpen our foresight. Drawing on radical solutions from around the world, Krznaric celebrates the innovators who are reinventing democracy, culture and economics so that we all have the chance to become good ancestors and create a better tomorrow.

  • Pub date: 16 July 2020
  • ISBN: 9780753554524
  • Imprint: Virgin Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

About the Author

Roman Krznaric

Roman Krznaric is a social philosopher whose books, including Empathy, The Wonderbox and How to Find Fulfilling Work, have been published in more than twenty languages. He is the founder of the world’s first Empathy Museum and of the digital Empathy Library. He is also a founding faculty member of The School of Life and on the faculty of Year Here.

Roman has been named by the Observer as one of Britain’s leading popular philosophers. His writings have been widely influential amongst political and ecological campaigners, education reformers, social entrepreneurs and designers. He is an acclaimed public speaker, and his talks and workshops have taken him from a London prison to Google’s headquarters in California.

After growing up in Sydney and Hong Kong, he studied at the universities of Oxford, London and Essex, where he gained his PhD in political sociology. Roman has worked as an academic, a gardener and a human rights campaigner. He is also a fanatical real tennis player and has a passion for making furniture.

Also by Roman Krznaric

See all

Praise for The Good Ancestor

“This is the book our children's children will thank us for reading”

The Edge, U2

“Beautiful to read, heartfelt and persuasive The Good Ancestor is one of those landmark books with the power to shift a mindset. One turns the pages feeling a growing compulsion for change. Krznaric’s clarion call for long-term thinking makes him an ancestor all future generations can be proud of”

Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

“It deserves to be widely read - by policy makers, and indeed by all citizens who care about the prospects for their children and grandchildren”

Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

“A great antidote to the short-term thinking that comes easily to us all. If you want to be a good ancestor, start by reading this book”

Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy

“Clear-sighted and inspiring – a must-read for anyone who's looking for the good news”

Brian Eno

“I judge a book’s usefulness by how many pages I’m compelled to dog-ear and underline. This book on the pragmatics of long-term thinking earned 50-plus dog-ears”

Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog and co-founder of The Long Now Foundation

“An important and fascinating book that asks whether we’ve got what it takes to become citizens rather than consumers and create an ecological civilisation. The Good Ancestor is a triumph”

Sir Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project

“How timely can a book be? Roman Krznaric fizzes with ideas about how we tackle that cuckoo in the nest, short-term thinking. We need to think today for tomorrow, to give future generations their rightful seat at the table”

Lord John Bird MBE, founder of The Big Issue

“There’s a paradox about our situation: that there’s nothing more urgent than acting slowly, with a long view. That we desperately, urgently need to become long-termist in our way of thinking and acting. Krznaric walks this paradox delicately, instructing us in how we could learn to think like an acorn or like a cathedral - and helping us imaginatively to enter into the pressing importance of doing so. As a result, there could be few more urgent tasks for any thinking person alive today than encountering this book. Read it: with slow deliberate care...”

Professor Rupert Read, UEA, author This Civilisation is Finished and Extinction Rebellion Political Liaison and Spokesperson

“Krznaric’s seamless and magical prose delights on every page. Let’s engrave his ‘six ways to think long’ across the gateway to every Parliament in the world”

Professor Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth

“From the seventh-generation thinking of Native American tribes to legally empowered guardians of the future and citizens’ assemblies, Krznaric explores a wealth of ways we can become good ancestors. For anyone who is interested in how we can get today’s society to leave the world better than they found it – this is your guide”

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

“Krznaric asks the defining moral question for our age: how will future generations look back on our legacy? A superb intellectual history and razor-sharp analysis of contemporary politics, this book will change how you think about the world and is a call to action. Read it. You owe it to your children’s children”

Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive, Save the Children

“With a dazzling range of sources, zinging with ideas, stories and jaw-dropping graphics, The Good Ancestor is packed with information and insight. Every school should have a copy, with its maps and plans on every classroom wall”

Michael Wood, historian, broadcaster and author of The Story of China

“In this persuasive book, one of our leading thinkers Roman Krznaric expands his ground-breaking work on empathy to argue that our only hope of survival is to develop deep empathy for future generations across time and space”

Professor Morten Kringelbach, neuroscientist, Universities of Oxford and Aarhus, Denmark

“A fascinating and inspiring exploration of one of the great relationship questions of the 21st century: how can we extend our circle of care to future generations?”

John Gray, New York Times bestselling author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

“Roman Krznaric passionately argues that thinking long term would bring untold benefits and may very well be vital to our survival as a species. Lose yourself in these pages, expand your time horizons, and reimagine your relationship to time, to the future, to activism”

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Town movement and author of From What Is to What If


Related titles