In season two, episode twenty-four of Steven Universe, "It Could've Been Great", our magical alien superheroine protagonists (and Steven) are taking a break from building a giant drill to extract a superweapon that was buried deep within the Earth by an occupying alien race thousands of years ago, which is predicted to emerge and destroy the planet soon.

While our heroines watch the sunset, Peridot (who alerted them to the buried superweapon) expresses frustration that the group isn't still working. Steven defends their leisure: "Working hard is important, but feeling good is important, too," he says. He then goads Peridot into a musical number, which includes a verse from her explaining her attitude towards the situation and her forced compatriots:

I guess we're already here
I guess we already know
We've all got something to fear
We've all got nowhere to go
I think you're all insane
But I guess I am, too
Anybody would be if they were stuck on Earth with you

"It Could've Been Great" aired in 2016. At the time, I agreed with Peridot: with the fate of the planet on the line, our heroines and Steven should have been burning the midnight oil. If they succeeded at disarming the superweapon, they'd have plenty of time to rest up afterward, but if they failed, there would be no more time for them.

Now, as the long May 2020 turns into March 2023, I'm starting to think that Steven had a point.

It would be one thing if our heroines knew with certainty that the superweapon would go off at a given date and time, presenting a definite do-or-die deadline. But all they had to go on was Peridot's warning. Attempting a speculative technical project to avert uncertain doom with an uncertain deadline, their planning had to average over many possible worlds—including worlds where the problem of survival was too easy or too hard for their efforts to matter, such that even the utility of leisure in the present moment was enough to sway the calculation.

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Thanks for sharing. Strongly upvoted for the well reasoned yet concise example. It's pretty hard to do.

Zack, the second line of your quoted lyrics should be "I guess *we already..."

(Thanks; fixed.)


I don't understand.

The more uncertain your timelines are, the more it's a bad idea to overstress. You should take it somewhat easy; it's usually more effective to be capable of moderate contribution over the long term than great contribution over the short term.


Thank you.