First point is interesting to me, what changes do you think could be made to language that would make it better adapted to modern contexts?

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Hmm. I wonder if organizations in past eras were really more morally comprehensible, or if their distance to us just makes it easier to spin them to fit into simplistic moral structures while retaining immersion. A western that gets the social dynamics of the old west blatantly wrong is a lot less jarring than a film set in the modern day that gets modern social dynamics blatantly wrong.

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> This helps to explain why we invest so much time and energy into fiction, far more than did any of our ancestors.

Is this true? I think story-telling has been generally prioritized by humans at most place and times. It is not obvious to me we invest far more than our ancestors, I doubt it.

I am finding this piece very thought-provoking.

> Our moral evaluations of the main big actions that influence our world today, and that built our world from past worlds, are still up for grabs. And the more we build such shared evaluations, the more we’ll be able to tell satisfying stories set in the world in which we live, rather than set in the fantasy and historical worlds with which we must now make do.

Hmm. I think some of the best stories help us work out our moral evaluations and build shared ones. This isn't just something that happens outside of fiction and then affects our consumption of fiction -- fiction, for the reasons the you outlines in fact, is one of our tools for working it out. We build shared evaluations by telling stories. Story-telling is fundamental to how humans make sense of the world, moral and otherwise, but moral too. I think you would agree? That is in fact why we fight over it, because we know how powerful it is in this area?

As a devotee of speculative fiction, I'm a bit offended at the framing that it is something we must "make do" with out of our moral confusion. Like any other genre, there is good and bad, but I think at it's best SF can be a notably valauble tool in helping us self-reflect and develop our moral sensibilities, it is in fact a power that SF has particularly. Sure, there's plenty of lazy SF that avoids reflection or difficult questions, but at it's best it has a particular power to challenge in a way that builds new understandings, precisely by inviting the reader to look at things with fresh eyes instead of the comfort of the familiar and legible and already-settled.

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One of my favorite features of my favorite novel, Dune, is that it embraces this very issue. Even more as the series goes on.

Paul is the villain in Dune…

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0) I disagree; our language is not much adapted to modern contests. 1) I doubt China has adapted much more 2) cutthroat is far from the same as having clear moral color 3) modern day, but not much connected to the key modern conflicts and contests 4) You usually can't talk well and in detail about X unless you talk directly about X.

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0) It is unclear to me why you made the language comparison when you are talking about how our current norms are inadequate. Our language can describe perfectly well what norms are useful nowadays.

1) If it takes a while for stories to adapt to rapid social change, why have China's stories adapted?

2) Are you sure they have actually adapted? Looking at this page, https://publishingperspecti..., it doesn't seem like business fiction dominates. That said, Chinese web novels have remarkably cut throat protaganists. So even though the works may not be focused on business, they may portray the same sorts of behaviour you mentioned.

3) Looking at this years NYT bestsellers list, and Waterstone's in the UK, most fiction seems set in the modern day, give or take a few decades. And I'd contend most modern fiction and entertainment is actually set in the modern day, discounting video games. So it seems any increase in "moral clarity" regarding the past hasn't had a big impact on when fiction is set.

4) Why does fiction need to be within a business setting to have moral messages adapted to modern business? Work is kind of boring for most people. So it seems more adaptive to make a story which is about fashionable topics but displaying an adaptive moral message.

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Bad guys being ugly is specifically one of the tropes George R. R. Martin was trying to subvert with his series. But many people misinterpreted his statements to mean that the ice zombies can't really be the baddies!

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Stories we write today set in say the 1920s feel to us more comfortable than do stories set in the 2020s, or than stories written in the 1920s and set in that time. That is because stories written today can inherit a century of efforts to work out clearer moral stances on which 1920s actions would be more moral. To our eyes, their world has now clearer moral colors, and stories set there work better as stories for us.

This puts me in mind of what Spotted Toad wrote four years ago comparing our current depiction of the past compared to how the people living through it thought about it. One of the things he said was "Sometimes I think we are afraid to know how different the past was, sometimes afraid to know how similar to us they are."

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Excellent article! Meanwhile figures like Jordan Peterson argue how only "archetypical" stories with the most simple and clear good-evil distinction are engaging and worth telling. Unfortunately, there are bad incentives for writers and filmmakers. Stories with very simple good-evil distinction sell the best. Also, in stories like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings the bad guys are always the ugly ones. It is weird for me how it is socially accepted to link physical unattractivness with bad morals this directly. Just think about the public outcry if you would link other physical characteristics like race or disability with bad morals.

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