Pondering the Future

On Saturday morning, I was engaged in a chat with No Passing Fancy that covered a wide range of topics. Our chats typically do cover a wide range of subjects ranging from the personal (our plans for the day) to the bigger picture (life in South Africa compared to life in South Dakota). That latter topic is quite interesting as in many ways our lives are profoundly different and in a few they are kind of similar. It is a time of mutual education, I learn much from her and she learns much from me. It is often that some of the things that I learn or start thinking about appear in my brain after the chat has ended.

One of the topics on Saturday was about how neither one of us really feels “relationship worthy” at this time. That’s not going to be the subject of this post, however. I want to talk about what happened as a result of that conversation.

My comment was essentially that while I did not believe I was “relationship worthy” right now I thought that it could easily change in the future. I told her that if someone had asked me on Jan. 16 to predict what I would be doing on Jan. 23 I wouldn’t have come anywhere close with my guess.

Last Sunday, I wrote about the previous day and how it was a good one. It was noteworthy because I called it the first good day that I had experienced since Ginny died. However, on Saturday morning I still had not reactivated my Facebook page and I still wasn’t feeling very chatty. So if you asked me early in the morning of Jan. 16 what I would be doing exactly one week later, I would not have guessed that I’d be engaged in a thrilling and educational chat on Facebook with someone who lived in South Africa. If you gave me 30 guesses I wouldn’t have guessed that would be my activity one week later.

I probably would have guessed that Jan. 23 would have been a lot like Jan. 16. I probably would have told you that I might spend the day reading, listening to podcasts or watching TV. I might have guessed that I could spend the evening with a friend and perhaps we’d go out to dinner. I would have made those guesses based entirely on the fact that it was basically like that for me every day up to that point. Most of my days had looked the same and most had left me feeling the same. Somewhere between horrible and indifferent. I didn’t declare Jan. 16 to be my first good day in awhile until it was completely over. Another thing is that I wouldn’t have predicted even then that my January 16 would be the first in a string of good days.

I would have been a way off just trying to predict a week out. I have no clue what things are going to be like in a month, six months (I bet it is warmer in six months), a year or beyond. Part of that is thrilling because talking to No Passing Fancy has sort of reawakened my sense of wonder and discovery. I love talking to my friends but so many of them come from the same place I do, have the same background I do and have been my friends for so long that there’s not a lot to discover. And that’s fine because that kind of relationship is long-lasting and healthy and productive in different ways.
On the other hand it is frightening. I am not someone who likes to be surprised. I don’t like to be caught off guard and I hate to be unprepared. When I consider a major life decision I try to anticipate as many of the potential outcomes I can both good and bad. I want to be able to tell someone who might ask about my decision that I have not only considered outcome X but outcomes X, Y and Z…and really the entire alphabet.
So if I can predict my future so poorly a week out, I could be even further off the mark if I try to predict myself a year out. Granted, sometimes we must allow for the extraordinary and this past week would certainly qualify as that. It is unlikely (though not impossible) that this coming week will look so different than last week.

I’m about to make a controversial statement, are you ready? It is hard to predict the future. I know, I know, this is why you read my blog. Where else are you going to find someone willing to make such a shocking claim?
I’m always fascinated by bad future predictions. I heard one from someone who said the computers of the future would weigh several tons. My iPhone has several times more computing power than what took the astronauts to the moon and mine is only a 4S.
If you had asked my parents in July of 1969 what things might be like in 1989 or 2009, their answers would probably have featured a lot of things connected to outer space. The reason is that in July of 1969 the moonlanding was on the minds of many and all over the media to boot. I don’t think they would have even comprehended anything like a smart phone.
Yet since then, space exploration has taken a back seat to computing technology and data. But it would be a mistake to assume that future generations will care as much about making better phones or a better Internet. For future generations, these things aren’t going to be new. They’ll probably want to break new ground some place else.

So is it easier, harder or no different for me to try and figure out my own future or for me to make a prediction about the state of the world? In both cases I could make my prediction for the future based on current trends. I would have done that a week ago and been horribly wrong, but if I had predicted on Jan. 9 what I’d be doing on Jan. 16 those trends would have been pretty accurate. The world is capable of trending in a certain direction and then suddenly turning on a dime. Virtually no prediction of the future in 1980 predicted that the Soviet Union would fall apart in 1991.

I love thinking about the future for both myself and the world. It is why I liked this book so much and enjoyed this one as well. It is the unpredictability factor that still allows me to be skeptical of either book’s conclusions. I also read Nate Silver’s book ‘The Signal and the Noise’ last year which looked at why most predictions of the future fail but some don’t. The first thing you might want to do is determine if you are Fox or a Hedgehog.
Those book reviews I linked to above are centered around technology but I’ve also reviewed ‘The Next 100 Years’ which is a more geo-political look at where the world is heading. They cover different fields and so a head-to-head comparison is going to be hard to make but I expect this one to be the most incorrect just because there are so many more moving pieces to consider.

The bottom line is that this post was written because my conversation on Saturday allowed me to spend a little bit of time thinking about one of my favorite subjects and I wanted to share the result of my mind’s efforts with you. In my case, as a Christian, I also believe in God’s timing. God can move very quickly and he can be incredibly long-suffering. I have not addressed this as much because I actually try to keep religion out of my posts. However, my next post is going to be all about my religious faith and one section of it will be why I don’t write about it very often.


Casey’s Song of the Day

I have tried, though it didn’t start out this way, to theme the song to the entry. I don’t have a lot of songs in my collection that talk too much about the future, unless it is future love. However, I did come up with this.

As a bonus, here is a parody of that song from one of my favorite shows, ‘Futurama’ which I also love!

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2 thoughts on “Pondering the Future

  1. A thought-provoking post, Casey!

    I agree that the future cannot be predicted, and I also seem to be a little ‘iffy’ when it comes to future plans, even those that extend to a few days time. Because anything can happen.
    Apart from the routine things – the things I know I will have to do at certain times of the day – I don’t KNOW much else 😛 😉
    I have to admit that I also don’t like to be caught off guard. A lot of times my friends will say that I lack spontaneity. That said, I do have my moments of being spontaneous. 😉 BUT, most times, I prefer to at least have a plan, some sort of direction, and some sort of idea of possible outcomes. Naturally, plans don’t always go like they should, I only have an ‘okay’ sense of direction 😛 and outcomes are sometimes completely different to what I expected. But at least I try 😉

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