Our radical view of the future

Reading Time: 2 minutes

People (and organisations) are so wedded to predictability. No other area generates so much push back for the ideas in our S&T Happens book than the concept that we have zero information about what will happen next.

We have a primal need to feel the future is in control. Whole religions are built on it.

Of course it is not, not even slightly. Everything that happens is random. Nobody is driving.

 

We can’t model it. All our models of the future are based on the fallacy of causality (and usually the folly of extrapolation). In complex systems, causality is unknowable. We can discern correlation in what has happened in the past but it tells us nothing about the future.

 

People distill probability numbers from the past correlations, and/or make them up based on opinion. Then they claim they tell us something about the future. But they don’t. Nobody is psychic. We don’t know what will happen until it does.

 

Probability only tells us what the average outcome will be over many trials. It tells us nothing about a single trial. At all. The future only happens once. We only get one roll of the dice. Every outcome is equally likely.

 

That’s so hard for people to accept because it means letting go of such deep foundational beliefs. It is frightening.

 

But all prediction is theatre to make us feel good, to create the illusion of control of the future. It’s mostly waste, and always misleading. We need to get closer to understanding reality, in order to do a better job of coping with the future.

 

 

 

I’m told this is philosophically “out there”, questionable. I’m no expert philosopher. What I’m trying to do to break the behaviours of

– going with the “most probable” scenario with confidence.
– put another way: only having one plan
– expecting routine tasks to work next time
– treating any form of extrapolation as fact
– treating any outcome as “unexpected”.
– removing resilience in the name of optimisation.

I’m swinging the rudder hard to shake the barnacles loose.