Suppose an angel visits me tonight and tells me that when I reach the age of 60, I will suddenly find great enjoyment in the music of Kenny G. The angel also tells me that by the time I am 60, Kenny G records will be in short supply, so it might be prudent to stock up on them now. As of now, I hate Kenny G music. The thought of my future self listening to Kenny G in the future disgusts me.
Would it be rational for me to avoid buying Kenny G records today, in order to sabatoge my future self's attempts to listen to Kenny G? Or would it be rational to stock up on them now, which would further the goals of my future self while undermining the goals of my current self?It reminded me of a quandary I have about my son. I recently asked his piano teacher if it might make sense to let him stop, since he finds it so excruciating to sit down and practice (sigh). His teacher says he talks to adults all the time who tell him they wish their parents had made them keep taking lessons, because now they wish they could play. The teacher seemed to think it was obvious I should side with my son's future self, and make him stick with it.
Are these actually two versions of the same puzzle? I'm not quite sure they are, but they're in the same ballpark. I've only gotten this far: (1) We surely shouldn't privilege a later self, just because it's later. (2) It also seems outright ageist to assume that what an adult wants has more weight than what the earlier child wants. Kids are people too! (I'm sure my son will approve of that point.) (3) Numbers don't really settle the matter. I shouldn't favor my adult son's piano-playing enjoyment just because it will go on much longer than my kid's suffering.
I'm not sure what to think about the teacher's argument. It didn't really convince me, but I could act like it did, because truth is I wanted him to keep playing. Why? Very simple. Music is good. I know he'll see the light, if he just keeps going a little longer.