“Prediction is very difficult especially if it is about the future. – Neils Bohr
Humans are the most fascinating creatures on Earth. Our ancestors perfected the art of deciphering patterns in nature which eventually proved in handy in predicting the outcome based on present actions. It was understood quiet well that planting seeds at a particular time of the year would lead to production of food eventually. We lived on our survival instincts. Today’s needs are a little more complicated than a mere knowledge of where to get the food from and which predator to steer clear of. Our first goal is to safeguard our and the “future” of our progeny. What is this future and how will we safeguard it without knowing what it is.
Peter Drucker, an influential writer in the field of management said, “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” And yet, we never stop trying to find the answers to our present conundrums in the future.
There have seldom been ideas that have taken hold of human imagination like the ability or desire to see the future. Scientists, economists and explorers predict the future day in and day out. The technical term for what they do is “Co- relation”. It refers to understanding coincidences or events occurring together. They use one variable and see the effect on others. For example, environmentalists project that at current emission rates, the level of carbon dioxide, a persistent green house gas, is likely to go way beyond the “safe value” and cause dangerous climate change. Honestly, we should revere these people for they are the true fortune- tellers.
But the thing with time is, in most cases, the knowledge of the future leads to a change. This knowledge will impact your present significantly and make the prediction redundant. If I could see that in my future I will be a millionaire, there’s no way I’d continue to live like I do. Something will change in my subconscious and I’d stop being as hard working as I am or as frugal as I am or stop worrying about paying my loans ergo I remain an average middle class society member and being a millionaire would only remain a distant dream.
The obsession of knowing the future has given way to a lot of pseudo astrologers who swindle people based on the vulnerability. They would basically turn up and give a wide variety of possible things that could happen and claim a “higher status of awareness” once one of the outcomes occurs. There is a probability at play here and not divine intervention. I was told by one such fellow that I’d be married by the time I am 22 and as you can guess, it has been two years since my 22nd birthday and I am nowhere close to getting married. My mother went to him again and this time it’s been pushed to 25. Well I can make a prediction with 100% certainty that that isn’t going to happen.
Since, we have not been able to perfect the art of looking into the future we use the tool of imagination. Literature is flushed with examples of time travel and future sightings. One of the earlier stories that I remember is Charles Dickens’s The Christmas Carol in which the Ghost takes Mr Scrooge on a trip to his past, present and future self. This trip has a profound impact on him and he vows to be a better person thus saving Christmas. Religious texts such as Mahabharata and Quran also make a mention of time travel. We have an immense collection of books, movies and TV series depicting time travel. Characters end up in various time zones (past, present or future). These deal with timeline as either a static concept or a dynamic one. The protagonist may travel anywhere in the timeline and see things but may not alter anything because that would lead to a change in the timeline and future in turn would differ. Some deal with time, universe and histories as a dynamic concept. The flaw with this is the temporal paradox. Example: if I were to go in the history and alter the Battle of Plassey (1757), Robert Clive would have never won the battle and the Empire would have not been established in Calcutta. Then things wouldn’t have moved the way they did. My grandparents would have never met (they met and fell in love during the time of Indian independence struggle), my mother would never have been born and i would have not existed hence I would be unavailable at this moment to go and kill Robert Clive. This is called the grandfather paradox. It is immensely fascinating, the subject of time travel and makes predicting the future a precarious business.
Physicists have been working on putting this concept to realty. Einstein’s general relativity and special relativity theories give the concept of time dilation and thus allow time travel. This means the perception of time is altered for two people at different pints in space. In Christopher Nolan’s 2014 movie, Interstellar, he has dealt with the time and relativity very precisely and showed that when Matthew McConaughey came back to his world he was 124 years old and everyone else was old or dead. He started from the present and ended up in the future.
I don’t know if in my lifetime, I’d be able to travel to the future but even if I could I wouldn’t know whether I should. Future is what we make it and change one thing everything else changes. I’d like to leave the reader with a quote from HG Wells Time Machine, “We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existence, which are immaterial and have no dimensions are passing along the time dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.”