Should We Try To Predict The Future?

Despite many thousands of years of practice, human beings are mostly unable to predict the future. After failure upon failure, the question arises: should we even try?

From big events to trivial ones, we humans are really inept when it comes to divining what comes next. There are some very basic things — the sun will rise tomorrow — and that’s about it. Jobs are unstable. Health issues can arise at any time. Marriages fail regularly. And of course, the farther out in the future you go, the less certain things get.

Admittedly, as our understanding of the universe grows, some predictions come easier. For example, scientists can predict with great accuracy solar and lunar eclipses.

And yet, even science has its limitations. Predicting exactly when a particular breakthrough will or will not happen is an exercise in futility. Science is, inherently, an exploration of the unknown, which means that progress is inherently unknowable.

None of this stops us from trying to predict what comes next. From taking your umbrella with you when you go out for the day, to selecting the numbers for the lottery jackpot, we can’t help but guess what will happen next.

A lot of time, effort, and money is spent regularly on prognostication. Insurance companies have armies of actuaries. Pundits get paid to sound confident in their predictions of the next election, even if they were completely wrong about the last one. Meteorologists use the latest in cutting edge technology in forecasting the weather.

Could all this time, effort, and money be put to better use? Would our lives be better without the constantly mediocre attempts to predict the future? Or is it the case that our efforts in that direction is what drives us to learn? To make new discoveries that can make our lives better in other ways?

Related questions: What is time? How much does your past determine your future? How do you plan for the future? What is your five year prediction? Ten?

How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

Imagine that you are Tom Sawyer, able to attend your own funeral. What would you hope to see and hear from those in attendance? How would you want to be remembered?

There are at least two different reasons to think about this question.

The first is to help others that survive you after your death. If you think about — and write down in detail — what happens after you die, you can save your loved ones a lot if guesswork. Everything from what to display at your memorial service to your final resting place, from DNR orders to organ donation, you can outline your wishes.

For grieving loved ones, that effort could be very comforting. Not only would your wishes help to relieve a source of potential stress, but it is almost a way of communicating after you are gone. Your request might seem like a voice from beyond, comforting your loved ones as they deal with emotional turmoil.

Even more important, however, is how thinking about how you will be remembered will help you. Thoughts of what you hope will live on after you can help to set your priorities while you are still alive.

For example, if you want people to think of you as generous, the best way to make that happen is to increase your generosity. If you want to be remembered for being a good parent, you may want to spend more time with your children and less time at work. If you hope that you are thought of as well-read, you can achieve that by committing to reading more.

In that way, what lives on after you can be seen as a mission statement for while you are alive. Your hoped-for future self can serve as an aspiration for the current you.

Have you given any thought to what will happen after you die? Do you know if you will be buried or cremated? Can you imagine which pictures and which mementos you want people to see at your memorial service? Is there something you want to be said in eulogy? And how might the answers to these questions impact what you do today, or in the days and years ahead?

Related questions: What would you say to people in the future? Should we be concerned with legacy? Why are people afraid of death? How do you plan for the future? Burial or cremation?

 

What Would You Say To People In The Future?

If you had a chance to convey a message to future generations, what would you say? What would you hope to communicate?

Speaking to the past is easy. For instance, here at Intellectual Roundtable, we previously asked the question: What advice would you give your past self?

Such a question is relatively common in our society, and it is easy to see why. Even though to your past self, the future is a mystery, your present self knows what happens. You have the advantage of knowing how it all turns out.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What are you waiting for?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Are science and religion compatible?’


However, to your present self, the future is unknown, perhaps even unknowable. So what do you say to the unknown?

You might even have some idea of what to tell yourself a decade on (or more). But what about someone a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years from now? What information would you try to convey? How is it different from sending a message in the present moment, to the other side of the world?

Of course, we have a version of talking through time already. After all, isn’t that what writers do? What is, say, the novel Frankenstein, if it is not Mary Shelley taking to us from the 1800s? Was Homer speaking to people more than a thousand years later when he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey?

So the technology exists to send a message forward in time. How would you use it? What would you say to people in the future?

Related questions: Past, present, or future? How do you plan for the future? What is time? What do we owe the future? Will the future be better than the present?

How Do You Maintain Hope?

Maintaining hope is an important skill for anyone. When bad things happen — and they are bound to eventually — hope keeps us going. When times are particularly difficult, how can you avoid becoming despondent? How do you maintain hope?

A positive attitude allows for a better life. It can give you confidence, and in turn that confidence allows yo top make changes that will hopefully be for the better. Improvement in your life circumstances is dependent on efforts to improve. And those efforts, in turn, depend on trusting that things can, in fact, get better.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What are you optimistic about?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes a tradition?’


In that regard, hope is one of the most important feelings. It is through hopefulness that all else becomes possible.

However, there are times when it is very difficult to stay hopeful. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, for example. Or after a long series of setbacks. If you don’t see much growth or improvement, it is easy to become cynical.

So what can you do to combat this? What behaviors or techniques can you employ to keep hope alive in seemingly hopeless times?

Related questions: Why should we be hopeful? How can we maintain wonder? Optimistic or pessimistic? What are you optimistic about? When do you need inspiration?

Would You Want To Know The Day You Will Die?

Knowing when you will die would allow you the opportunity to prepare, physically, emotionally, and socially. However, knowing could be paralyzing as well. Would you choose to know, if you could?

Share why if you wish.