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?

1 thought on “Should We Try To Predict The Future?”

  1. Before heading out the door, following an expert’s weather forecast is likely a good idea. It can’t hurt to pack an umbrella or sweater if that’s their advice. However, putting stock in the predictions of political pundits these days is probably not a worthwhile practice. Polling has become untrustworthy with the prevalence of smartphones. And too many pundits have become opinion leaders rather than objective analysts crunching the correct numbers.

    I’d advise that you not invest too much time predicting the future unless you have the expertise or a long relationship with an issue. It would be better if you’d work to make your hoped for tomorrows so (to the best of your abilities and as environmental factors will allow) rather than simply projecting hopes. If you want to be healthy in the future, form healthy habits now. If you want financial comfort as a senior citizen, begin saving money as soon as possible. To become a proficient gardener, learn about and practice gardening now. Or, if you want your community to embrace policies you think are better for the populace, give to and volunteer for candidates and causes that work to advance values similar to yours.

    Save your energy. Leave predictions to reliable experts. Put your time and resources into working for the future you want.

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