In the 1970s, I belonged to The World Future Society. I even toyed with the idea of becoming a ‘futurist’. I vaguely recall that there was a magazine on the subject and various intellectuals were trying to get prediction raised to the status of a science. According to Wired magazine, the Society still exists and there are people who call themselves professional futurists, but the numbers are shrinking and their status seems to be less than in the past—primarily because the future is increasingly less predictable (if it ever was).
Yet, why do people continue to seek answers to what will the future be? Soothsayers have always been part of community life and we still pay fortune-tellers to give us a clue to what our individual future might be. Why?
I think it is because we still live with the illusion that if ‘know’ something, then we can ‘do’ something—we can have control over outcomes. As various authors have noted, this kind of logic is a bit of a non sequitur: if we really knew the future, then there would be no point to control as it would be predetermined. On the other hand, if we can’t know the future, then ‘controlling’ (which is only possible relative to past experience) is counterproductive and even dangerous. Controlling will always produce more of the same, and increasing numbers of people and organizations are learning it is a formula for bankruptcy.
So what is the alternative? I think it is to master how we relate to the future (and the past). We don’t have control over what will happen and we can’t really trust our predictions or even the predictions of experts. We can’t change the past but we always have a choice about how we interpret and experience what has happened in the past. If we can acknowledge and accept that we really don’t have control over much of anything, then we might begin to live more in the present and discover the amazing truth that we can control (we have a choice about) how we relate to our perceptions of the future and the past.
This is freedom.
When we determine how we relate to the world, we are no longer stuck with a fixed (historical) interpretation of what circumstances mean. We don’t have to be optimistic or pessimistic, since both of these ideas are predictive. We can accept life on life’s terms and continuously make choices based on our commitments in the moment and in a context of our relationships with others. The future is a choice.
In these turbulent times, we simply do not have certainty about what is going to happen. We need to learn to live life one day at a time and entrust the larger, longer-term outcomes to God or the Universe or ‘self-organization’ or whatever theory we have for whatever is driving the larger patterns of our world.