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Future tension By Anthony Sudbery

So sang Doris Day in 1956, expressing a near-universal belief of humankind: you can’t know the future. Even if this is not quite a universal belief, then the universal experience of humankind is that we don’t know the future. We don’t know it, that is, in the immediate way that we know parts of the present and the past. We see some things happening in the present, we remember some things in the past, but we don’t see or remember the future. 

But perception can be deceptive, and memory can be unreliable; even this kind of direct knowledge is not certain. And there are kinds of indirect knowledge of the future that can be as certain as anything we know by direct perception or memory. I reckon I know that the sun will rise tomorrow; if I throw a stone hard at my kitchen window, I know that it will break the window. On the other hand, I did not know on Christmas Eve last year that my hometown of York was going to be hit by heavy rain on Christmas Day and nearly isolated by floods on Boxing Day.

In the ancient world and, I think, to our childhood selves, it is events such as the York floods that make us believe that we cannot know the future. I might know some things about the future, but I cannot know everything; I am sure that some things will happen tomorrow that I have no inkling of, and that I could not possibly have known about, today. In the past, such events might have been attributed to the unknowable will of the gods. York was flooded because the rain god was in a bad mood, or felt like playing with us. My insurance policy refers to such catastrophes as ‘acts of God’. When we feel that there is no knowing who will win an election, we say that the result is ‘in the lap of the gods’.

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Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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