Do you know the difference between a futurist and a prophet? Or how risk plays a role in the way we treat time?

Futurists or prophets – do you know the difference? The World Future Society is an organization of people (Futurists) who attempt to look at the future through a variety of tools. Forecasting, scenarios and environmental scans are all methods of trying to extract possible futures from present and predicted trends. Of course, many times there are “discontinuities” that are not predicted or even predictable. Hurricanes, earthquakes, assassinations, and deaths can radically alter the best laid plans or projections. Thus, futurists do not attempt to proscribe the future as much as set out a variety of possible scenarios given what is currently known about the world.

Prophets on the other hand are more artistic and less logical. Their knowledge about the future appears to come from some inner vision or perhaps inspired vision. The ancient Greeks would go to the Oracle at Delphi to find out what the future held for them. Legend has it that the Oracle or Oracles were generally very obtuse with their predictions. Even back then, they did not want a negative prediction being held against them. Thus, you could infer many different possibilities from visiting with the Oracle. The same thing could be said today about spiritualists, palm readers, tarot card readers and astrologists. Most of the interpretations of these “seers” could be viewed from a variety of possibilities and outcomes.

Then we have the Weather Forecasters! Those seers who attempt to tell us whether we will have a nice weekend or a rotten one. Of course, this often depends on what weather you would prefer to have. Myself, I love a nice rainy and stormy day. Karen (my spouse) would prefer it be warm and sunny year round. That is why we are now snow- birding between Arizona and Wisconsin.

People have been trying to predict the future since the time of Adam and Eve. Have you ever thought about why we keep trying or why we so desperately want to know the future? It probably seems evident with just a little thought that we all want to reduce risk. By knowing what is coming, we can make contingency plans or know what to avoid or at the very least, feel more confident today. Or so we would like to think. We all want more control over our lives, but as history has shown, this is an elusive goal. Moreover, if we did achieve it, we would be bored silly. Risk brings excitement and adventure. Would you really want to get up each day knowing exactly what was going to happen to you today, tomorrow and the next day? Would you want to know the day and means of your death? How much risk are you comfortable with in your life? How do you attempt to predict your future? Do you go to seers or fortune tellers? Do you think it will rain or snow today?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 17:16:48

    I'm not sure if it's what I want, but I have grown comfortable with the fact than almost every day I find myself doing things or having experiences that I did not plan for or expect when I woke up.

    As for knowing the date of one's death, I had a curious experience about 48 years ago, when I was 15 or so. I was lying in my room, and I suddenly heard something like an internal voice conveying the idea that I had exactly 47 years to live. I did the math and the projected death date came out to April 19, 2010. Since at that time I considered it most likely that I would die in a nuclear war fairly soon, and since 2010 seemed like a long way off, I guess I was pleased to think I would make it all the way to age 63.
    A few months later I was fooling around with a ouija board with some friends, and the question came up of when I would die. I was shocked to see the board (under the control of me and my buddy Paul) come up with the same exact date! I don't think I had told him about my premonition, but maybe I had, and then forgot I had. I had no conscious experience of moving the planchet myself.
    So, as the years marched on, I never forgot that date. It came and then passed uneventfully. So now I have no idea when I will die. If somehow I could know, I wouldn't shrink from finding out.

    A prophet has divine access to information about what will happen. A futurist is using present information to project what may happen, and usually gives a range of probabilities and not a specific dated event. Prophecy can only work if the future is already out there somewhere, fixed and waiting for us to discover it. Futurism can be effective even in a non-deterministic world where the future is indeterminate.



  2. John Persico
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 21:42:47

    Thats a really eerie story Bruce, What do you make of the fact that you have now outlived your scheduled departure date? Do you remember the story called “Appointment in Samarra?” I often refer to this story. It is an interesting reflection on the possibility of escaping fate and destiny. Do you think you excaped your “destiny?”



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