Moral progress in The Future is almost a science-fiction cliche, so there are
plenty of examples, at least in the pulp science-fiction of the Golden Age.
However, there are some issues to address besides dissenting views on what is
moral. For the purpose of this discussion, I'll simply assume that the
Declaration of Independence, the general sentiment of Americans who supported
John F. Kennedy as President, and the views of Britons of Whiggish political
stripe, with a nod to the Fabian Socialists, represent at least a good
approximation to what is absolutely moral.
One issue is the distinction between real moral progress and apparent moral
Let us say that in the future, wildlife habitat in Africa is greatly expanded. And so the lions have plenty of gazelles to hunt, as nature intended, and they no longer attack livestock and menace farmers.
Should we then conclude that the lions of Africa have now made moral progress?
Hardly. A lion is still a lion, but a lion with a full belly is less dangerous
than one with an empty stomach.
So one might see a future with very little war and crime... not because of any
fundamental change in what humans are, but simply because technology has
increased human prosperity.
This issue is often ignored in science fiction, and it also has been
occasionally addressed, in one form or another, in science fiction. One example
I can think of offhand is Heinlein's _Beyond this Horizon_, where racial bigotry
has become a forgotten thing of the past - but people who don't carry guns
because they'd rather not be challenged to duels are treated as inferiors, so
the human impulse to discrimination has only found a new target.
But there are also many people who believe that "human nature" makes even moral
progress of this illusory kind impossible. Basically, once technology makes
humans prosperous, that doesn't last, because population increase will bring
humanity back to being impoverished and quarrelsome.
I don't agree with their pessimism, but I do agree with one of their premises.
Since the "demographic transition" didn't really become a thing until *after
1968* in the dimensions required - the developed world had lower birthrates than
the underdeveloped world before 1968, but _not_ below replacement level, the
developed world was still undergoing exponential population growth...
my conclusion is that under healthy economic conditions, such as those which
existed when the postwar economic boom was in full swing, population growth is
That it, and other factors, has now led to a state of human misery, where young
men don't find a steady job shortly after high school, and so on, just shows
that disaster indeed loomed ahead; that it has already arrived is not an
indication that it will never come. Just that it has perhaps been made milder
I am not, however, so pessimistic to think that no future society can manage
family planning short of mass starvation. Our present situation proves
otherwise: just the economic pinch of a persistent recession is enough to cause
below-replacement fertility. So just a bit *further* advance in human foresight,
and we can achieve exact replacement fertility under optimum economic
conditions, such as those of the early 'sixties.
After eons without the war, boom, and bust cycle, new generation after
generation growing up without historical baggage to bedevil them, that _real_
moral progress might also happens hardly seems impossible.
Well, at least on the theoretical plane. On the practical plane, they might be
capable of quite a bit against anyone who tried to return things to the bad old
days, lacking any strength borne of experience to resist expedients in such a