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Thread: If we're so bad at predicting the future, why aren't we scared of it?

  1. #1
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    If we're so bad at predicting the future, why aren't we scared of it?

    I've been thinking; there have been many attempts to predict, guide and shape the future and almost without exception, none of them have worked. We seem to have an inbuilt expectation that future events will unfold as we predict them to, but they almost never do. The future, for all intents and purposes, is an event horizon. And yet that doesn't scare us. We traipse along as a species, comfortable in our inherited understanding. But do we really have a right to be so confident?

  2. #2
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    Yesterday's future could have been better but it's far from the worst that I could have imagined. I don't see any reason to expect today's future to be really bad either.

  3. #3
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    My 2 cents: Maybe the future could be something horrible, and we should be scared. Or, it might hold something wonderful, which we should eagerly anticipate. Not knowing which of these (or some mediocre middle ground) it will actually be, and humans being quite adaptable, we simply get used to the idea of not knowing, and go on with our lives.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  4. #4
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    We have a right to be optimists, pessimists or anything in between. Who would be an authority to decree any particular stance?

  5. #5
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    I'm not so sure we're so terribly bad at predicting the future. Almost every noon the prediction that I will get hungry comes true, and in the evening it gets dark, and it gets cold in November. When I see clouds it often rains, and when a tree starts to topple over the prediction that I have to run to avoid getting crushed seems remarkably accurate. I know this might sound trivial, but what I mean to say is that prediction serves us well, I think, but there is a subset, which is what you are discussing, where we have troubles. But we probably keep doing it because the habit serves us so well in ordinary life.
    As above, so below

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I've been thinking; there have been many attempts to predict, guide and shape the future and almost without exception, none of them have worked.
    You may be right about "guiding" and "shaping," but I think it's just about the opposite with respect to predicting... after Newton published the Principia, that is.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

  7. #7
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    Funny, I am writing a paper on Sir William Petty, a guy known for prediction and guidance.

    He was actually pretty bad at it but his writings had good effects. Petty was using simple rules for non-statistics (1 in 30 people die in London in a given year, which doesn't seem to be true at all) and averages (moneys available for taxation due to trade, war and colonization, figures which he made based on past observations from his time on Navy ships, also not exactly science) to offer a reasonable course of action for the English to counter the rise of other countries. His "political arithmetick" wasn't exactly rocket science, but his observations seemed to be apt.

    His basic premise was valid, peace and prosperity make for a better kingdom or protectorate and happier citizens despite the fact is numbers were more hypothetical than real and reality doesn't often create situations where all are peaceful, productive and happy. He lived through the the English Civil War, so his model had to be so generalized to match the changing situation. He was able to do that.

    I think there were seven changes of government in his time and 3-4 different forms of government - absolute monarchy, republic, protectorate, and constitutional monarchy. Even when things are matched name to name, these governments were not the same. Richard's protectorate was different from Oliver's, while they took a stab at four different monarchies, each running alongside a Parliament of various strength and power made for very different forms of leadership. Petty never attempted predicted that.
    Solfe

  8. #8
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    I am not going to edit, but Petty was actually comfortable enough to write down advice for kings while riding around with Oliver Cromwell. He was so generalized, that it was probably accepted that he was speaking to all of Europe academically and not trying to overthrow governments. Perhaps Cromwell and others were more mellow than I think or it could be a lot of his work was published after his death. There is a little blurriness, because Petty was using the phrase "political arithmetick" from very early on in his time in Paris via pamphlets, but the had the whole body of work published after his death.
    Solfe

  9. #9
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    What's the point in being scared? As F. Herbert puts it, Fear is the mind-killer. We need to have a clear head to solve day-to-day problems. Those who don't are fettered by their own inability to tune out anxiety.

    Being realistic or giving up is simply not an evolutionary advantage.

  10. 2015-Nov-17, 08:23 PM

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I've been thinking; there have been many attempts to predict, guide and shape the future and almost without exception, none of them have worked. We seem to have an inbuilt expectation that future events will unfold as we predict them to, but they almost never do. The future, for all intents and purposes, is an event horizon. And yet that doesn't scare us. We traipse along as a species, comfortable in our inherited understanding. But do we really have a right to be so confident?
    Oh, I think the future scares most people. The alternative, however, is even more frightening.
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  12. #11
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    Being "scared" of the future accomplishes nothing but tying the brain in a gordon's knot, fearful and resigned .
    Being apprehensive, the superior mind sets itself toward working for a better future in all it's endeavours. Surely there is much to be accomplished.

  13. #12
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    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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