Floor or ceiling?

Human existence is wedged uncomfortably between two extremes. The first is Heaven-on-Earth. The second is Hell-on-Earth. Every society and its culture is somewhere between those two states, and human actors trying to “make the world a better place” have to orient themselves towards one of these poles, either consciously or subconsciously. I’ll give you an example. Advocates of basic income are, generally, seeking to move the majority of humanity away from Hell-on-Earth. They want to create a minimum standard of existence. Advocates of advanced technological solutions to human problems are, on the other hand, trying to get us closer to Heaven-on-Earth. They want to leverage tech in a way that enables us to do what seems impossible. 

I’ll admit, the distinction is grey. Those avoiding Hell-on-Earth are motivated in part by visions of Heaven-on-Earth, and the reverse is equally true. But stick with me for a few more sentences. Another way of framing this is using the notion of floors and ceilings—specifically, we can focus on raising one or the other. Raising the floor is analogous to getting more humans away from Hell-on-Earth. Raising the ceiling is analogous to getting more humans closer to Heaven-on-Earth. 

These distinctions—Heaven-Hell, floor-ceiling—provide us with a question. A question we can use to better clarify our intentions and modify our actions: “Am I trying to raise the floor, or raise the ceiling? Do I want to raise the lower bounds of experienced existence, or shatter the upper bounds?”