Sometimes I wonder what the world would have been like if we all knew our future?
Perhaps that would be a boring world whether you are in heaven or hell. As if you are a program and some programmer has written out a code for you. You will not even have free will. Why would you want that when you don’t need to make a decision?
When everything has already been decided, what fun would it be to live such a life? Every part of your life would have been predetermined, such as meeting people, doing business, earning money, getting married, death, and there would never be any change in them.
Wouldn’t this certainly put a damper on everything life stands for?
Despite this, people want to know everything the future holds for them. For that, they look for someone who could predict about their lives.
The problem is that the future is a concept, not a destination.
Only the institutional dreams, actuarial predictions, investment and insurance, exist there.
Future is not even an inspiration. It’s speculation.
Your aspirations exist in this very present. Then why do you want to know the lot?
We Love Control Over Things, Events
Yes, we want to know the future because we are afflicted with the uncertainty. We are in a world obsessed with predictions. We want to chart everything beforehand, every journey, every outcome and every step of life. We want to strangle every possible amazement this life offers.
Why is this obsession and why we need to figure out what’s going to happen?
Psychologists believe insistence about knowing the future is connected to the control over certain things, events and outcomes in our life, and fate. It leads to the question of our survival which is related to evolution. The predictions amongst humans may have started when they were struck by nature. Perhaps prophecies may have reassured those vulnerable souls.
A consultant on risk perception and management David Ropeik believes,
“The less we know, the more threatened we feel, because lack of knowledge means we don’t know what we need to know to protect ourselves…which equates to a lack control over health and safety, life and death… Knowledge, even if it’s incomplete, is power over how things turn out. Power, a feeling of control (even if it’s false) is reassuring. Without knowledge, and some sense of control, we’re more afraid.”
Predictions fuel our minds still today. Now, we call that futurism.
The questions arise — does this want of control over our future remove our fears? Can we control our destinies in any way? Does knowing the future help us grow in life?
It doesn’t seem to happen this way.
We Seek Future Managers
In almost every part of the world, the prognostication is a practising business. People go to the psychics, fortune tellers, shamans and surrenders to their tantrums. Their bold predictions attract our attention boldly.
The prediction comes from Latin predictio, i.e. foretelling — a description of what will happen.
People in a dilemma, facing tough choices, or circumstances and situations, sometimes reach a conclusion where they are clueless. Fortune tellers become their associates. They provide prescriptions of rituals. It makes people feel better and safer when they are served with some supernatural powers. They think that these practices can change the game. Simultaneously, they can now pass over the responsibility of their actions to some power greater than them.
When you meet with these Fortune tellers, they lead you to a point in the conversation where they extract all information from your mouth and your gestures. They almost convince you that they know your future. If you pay attention you will find that their statements are always open and can be interpreted in any number of ways. This is the art, known as cold reading.
Author of the book The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel says, “prediction is hard because the visible stuff that happens in the world is a small fraction of the hidden stuff that goes on inside people’s heads. The former is easy to overanalyze; the latter is easy to ignore.”
It should also be kept in mind that we never care for the future when we are happy. We only embark on a journey for knowing the unknown future whenever we face troubles.
Historians know it better, that they have no record of a pattern of predictions in any part of the world and in any period of time that went true. Never has any soul been able to predict the twists and turns of life with precision. Whatever we find there are only probabilities.
Prediction is Not Desirable for Humans
Should we embrace the present and actively engage with that to mitigate the dangers of possible futures?
Yes. Because -
Predictions may increase your confidence, not the accuracy of what is about to happen.
The problem is that predictions are entertaining not substantial.
Predictions blind you to current opportunities.
Predictions will cause inefficient use of your time and resources.
Predictions will hinder your strength to respond to the present changing conditions in a timelier manner.
Uncertainty Is the Answer
According to statistician and risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb, there is no need to predict the future. He believes risk-takers are essential to the continued evolution of society and the economy. At the other end of the spectrum are those who talk or act without any risk or exposure. His book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder deals specifically with uncertainty.
No one knows what is going to happen at any point in time in the future. Then what’s the fuss. It would help if you focus on what is happening right now. Every step of yours will pave the way you want for your future to be.
According to Taleb, “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty.”