Gravity & Levity of Uncertainty

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As of this writing moment, the Earth's human population is estimated to be 6,841,451,100. All of these 6.8 billion people are in the same exact "now." We are all at the exact same time: not a single one of us is either a nanosecond behind or a nanosecond ahead. We are all on time. Make no mistake: time-zones are spatial coordinates, not temporal (time) coordinates. Sure, you are awake reading this, perhaps, on a coffee break from work just as somebody somewhere is going to bed or waking up. Sure, we are all doing different things at this moment of you reading this, but we all - without exception - are in this exact one moment, driving blind into the future that doesn't yet exist.

What this means is that no one, not you, not me, not your favorite politician or stock broker or "seer" of any kind, knows a thing about the future that doesn't yet exist.

What this means is that out of 6.8 billion people that are breathing right now (their first, their next or their last breath) not a single one has been into the future and back to tell you definitively what it is like. The next moment of time hasn't happened yet for any of us to experience it and report it as a fact. And anyone claiming to know the future or promising you a particular version of the future is exaggerating their existential mandate. Remember: a promise is just a statement of intent, not a guarantee of a particular future outcome. After all, how can anyone guarantee the reality that hasn't yet happened, the tomorrow that doesn't yet exist?! Laugh at this future-telling naivette!

So, what are we to do about all this? How are we to operate on this chronic uncertainty? History - we are told by historians - has been our best bet, our best predictor of the future. But, to quote Colin Tudge, "The lessons of history are inevitably broad..." Indeed, the lessons of history are inevitably generic and time-specific, offering us at best approximate guidelines, or hints at what still might be.

And to continue with Tudge's astute observation: "... for no set of circumstance can ever be repeated precisely." Precisely so: there is no ultimate predictive precision! Predictive precision only approximates definitive knowledge but never equals it. Prediction, after all, is but an expression of belief about what might yet be, i.e. about the future that hasn't happened yet, about the reality that hasn't yet materialized, i.e. about the world that doesn't yet exist.

As informed and data-driven as our speculations, guesses, estimations might be about the future, a prediction is still only a prediction, and a belief is never knowledge. This chronic uncertainty is no more a problem than gravity: it simply is (a fundamental parameter of our existence). We see objects fall every day: we have long accepted this. We see predictions fail every day: we just have to accept this too. It's always been like that and, my guess, will always be like that. Let's face it: we are facing a Chronic Unknown, i.e. Time*. So, wink, with levity, at it and remember to acknowledge the timelessness of what still is.

*Chronic, from Greek khronikos "of time," from khronos "time." (



Colin Tudge, "The Time Before History: 5 Million Years of Human Impact" Scribner, 1996.