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Divining the Future

The Future Divining the Future

Posted on December 8,2010

We can pat ourselves on the back for the progress we have made towards figuring out the future. Lifting the veil of what lies ahead is just a matter of filling in the blanks. It is always the subtleties of what we don’t know that throw off our predictions. Math problems commonly call values that change with circumstances ‘variables’. The number of variables can also be a variable because when predicting the future, there might be any number of things to account for. Sometimes the end of the road is clearer than the road itself.

For instance, death is certain for everybody, but the path that takes us there is a mystery unless we are able to untangle the variables. Normally, statistics can tell us some of the answers like average life span. But life span statistics are variable based. Some of the variables would include the person’s sex, diet, access to medical care, and environment. With a proper set of variables, we can make a good guess about the average lifespan of a culture. But nothing in that statistic relates to an individual’s life. In the end, we only know for sure that the person will die. The lifespan prediction is only for those that live, and there is no hint about the path the person will take to get to the end.

Fortunetellers and stargazers have made a living out of predicting our paths. We pay them to tell us about the path our lives may take. The trick to being a successful fortuneteller is to determine what you already think so that their ‘fortune’ reinforces those thoughts. Showmanship is also part and parcel to being a good fortuneteller. A fortuneteller may fuss over a crystal ball, the alignment of the stars and planets, or use your palm for their medium. The intent of the fortuneteller is to foretell the future as mysteriously revealed to them through the chosen medium.

We have even had an impressive number of leaders throughout history that depended upon their ‘soothsayers’, ‘psychics’, and ‘fortunetellers’. Not left out, we also find that modern primitive cultures have their own set of magic men - ‘medicine men’ and ‘witchdoctors’. All of these prognosticators depend upon our curiosity about the future and their salesmanship.

But what about actually foretelling the future? Predictions that are so good, that you can make decisions based on them. Did you ever think about predicting the weather as predicting the future? Weather prediction has now risen to a high level of dependability for all of us to use. Weathermen, until recent times, had no way to calculate and coordinate the large number of variables needed for accurate weather prediction. Powerful cheap computers have enabled accurate predictions by calculating millions of pieces of data. The total information crunched by the new computer models take into account the influences of such data as topography, color shade of the land, temperature of the atmosphere at different levels, moisture content of the different levels, the Sun, and many more. The idea is that once you increase your recognition of the variables and their nuanced effects, the future becomes less murky. Weathermen have done just that. The future for weather predictions gets more accurate everyday as weathermen continue to add to their knowledge about the things that influence the weather.

The variables that affect us personally are there. The trick is to recognize them as the markers of the path that we will follow. We now recognize our DNA as a roadmap to our physical and social well-being. We have identified certain gene sequences as precursors to genetic diseases and character traits. That little package of DNA contains all of the information needed to predict the physical life produced from the information contained within its coding. In addition to the physical traits, our genes also determine how aggressive or muted that a personality will be at the time of fertilization. This science is in its infancy and there is no telling what other discoveries about the future lurks within our DNA.

Soon, prenatal DNA test will be able to determine a lot about the path that an individual will take in life. Unraveling DNA is just one of a long list of variables we will need to predict what lies in the future for an individual.

Predictions based on logic without enough variables also go awry. Logic does not follow a predicted path without knowing the variables. My own predictions concerning politics, the economy, and global warming have all been solidly based in logic. However, outcomes based wholly on logic without considering all of the variables vital to an outcome are not productive. It is like knowing the outcome of life is death while ignoring the path that gets there. The path can be long with many stumbles if we offer a conclusion without accounting for the things hidden from view. The ignored variables will manifest themselves influentially along the path of a predicted outcome. The predictor of an outcome is going to look foolish or remembered as a great sage. It all depends upon how alert the predictor is to the markers along the path of the prediction.

Predictions reflected in the articles that I write are no less vulnerable to being wrong. I will be rewriting and possibly changing my original positions because of data unknown to me at the time of composition. The old writings will remain so that you can see the progression of those predictions.

For instance, my position on global warming has evolved from blaming CO2 to blaming Sunspots. When I first looked at the issue of global warming, I was among the global warming advocates that embraced the idea of CO2 being the problem. Later I rejected the idea of CO2 based global warming and wrote a follow-up article about my new position. But remember those pesky variables, they can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I can now make the case for heat buildup based upon the idea that the Earth has variables that control its ability to get rid of heat. The heat loss rate must not vary if we are to maintain a steady mean temperature. Any temperature change on the Earth means a change in one or more of the factors that regulate the Earth's heat loss rate. Relevant factors to the Earth’s mean temperature include a change in heat generation on the Earth, an energy change from the Sun, cosmic energy changes, or a change in the atmospheric makeup. If the ability of the Earth to lose heat changes, then any change in one or more of the variables mentioned above will be responsible for the change in the Earth’s mean temperature.

A future article about global warming is in the works and I think you will find it more compelling than the first two.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that jumping to a conclusion about any topic is only a leap of faith unless enough of the subject’s variables are known. Hence, we have developed the scientific method and peer review to help uncover any missing variables. Neglected and overlooked data will often change the original conclusion. But armed with the necessary variables, the future is predictable.

"A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something."
- Wilson Mizner


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Robert Gross

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A Physics Major at the University of Texas
Retired from the offshore drilling industry where he worked as an Electrical Supervisor, Licensed Chief Engineer, and Electrical Designer.

Robert Writes for 2 Online Magazines and three private web sites.
Interests include computers, Cosmology, Evolution, and Environmental Research.

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