One of the most persistent subjects of discussion and fantasy over the years has been about the future. What will the future look like? How will we act? What great advancements and changes in technologies will it bring, and will we encounter other intelligent lifeforms throughout the universe? Or is the reality much more mundane, and ephemeral. Here we look at some quotes on the future:
I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that's my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again... the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.
- J G Ballard
Let's start off with a more pessimistic view of the future. Whilst most people are busy coming up with fanciful ideas about Back to the Future like spacecraft and James Bond type inventions, for Ballard the future might be, well, boring. If our methods of prediction are so good that we can know with certainty what's around the corner, then there will at least be no more surprises.
The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future.
- Stephen Ambrose
Sociologically, the concept of the future is very important, as observed here by Ambrose. No matter how bring the present is, and whatever suffering is going on, people often look to the future with hope - of a better time, whether that is in terms of lack of suffering, or positive qualities such as more respect, better law and order and more respect for people's rights. For many of religious faith, the future will not be on Earth but in Heaven or some equivalent, whereby all the present wrongs will be righted.
He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past.
- George Orwell
Orwell demonstrates another important fact - the more knowledge we have of the past, the more we can develop our knowledge of the future. Because if there is a causal chain of events, presumably the future is in many real ways caused by the past and present. Hence the more we know the one, the more we know of the other.
I prefer to think of the future as something that is not written in stone
- Patrick Stewart, as Captain Picard in Star Trek
OK, not the most obvious quote to use on the subject perhaps, but this captures nicely a massive debate - is the future in some sense already real? That is, is it determined completely by the current state of the universe, and if we had enough knowledge could we predict with accuracy the future, or does it contain some randomness? These sort of questions have kept those of a philosophical bent occupied for a long time, and will continue to do so.
Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.
- Niels Bohr
Of course, it is really very difficult to predict what will happen in the future, even the near future, as captured here by Niels Bohr. After all, how many weather forecasts of more than a few days tend to get the weather conditions right? If weathermen were on performance related contracts, there wouldn't be that many of them left! It seems reasonable to suspect that the more knowledge we get of our environment, the better our predictions will be.
The final words we ponder here to an unlikely source, ex-Conservative politician Malcolm Rifkind. Hopes of the future are always high, with people hoping for cures to diseases and peaceful, happy times. But Rifkind eloquently sums up a general unease with this vision:
The future is not what it used to be.
Oh, brave new world.
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