A Stanford Professor Said Something I’ll Never Forget

His 10 words can be pondered for a lifetime

Andy Murphy


Photo by leah hetteberg on Unsplash

Stanford professor Scott Sagan said something I’ll never forget: “Things that have never happened before happen all the time.”

Morgan Housel brilliantly pointed this out when reflecting on the study of history: “History is the study of change, ironically used as a roadmap of the future.”

The future is full of things that have never happened before but we often use a bunch of statistics locked in time (history) and pretend to know what’s going on. In truth, the future is far more mysterious than that and it always will be. That’s what makes it so compelling.

There is no knowledge of the future, there is only speculation. Yet the space between not knowing and knowing causes people to do beautiful and crazy things. It leaves some feeling hopeful while others feel despair.

Then there are certain fields like physics that get away with trusting the past because they use laws that never change. A ball that fell to the ground in 1024, for example, experienced the same gravitational pull that a ball falling to the ground in 2024 does.

Other fields such as politics, philosophy, and investing aren’t as lucky because there are more unknowns.