Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Murky ahead

In case you are wondering about the nature of this blog's author, here is an email I received lately:

You seem to attract positive attention. You instinctively know where to go, what to do, who to spend time with. And our Supper Club is happy to be part of your entourage. Let us lay a little love on you with this Reward Certificate. It's our Supper Club's way of saying, "Thanks for making us part of your posse!"

Like horoscopes and Chinese fortune cookies, there are almost always people around who will tell us about our character and our future.  Lynn has kept an eye on predictions and found that the same source, say, Harry's crystal ball, will say this is a good time to launch a business today and then say in three days time, that one should definitely not launch a business.  

We can usually depend on there being a group of predictors who are convinced that something or other is going to be the death of America if not all of human life.  We recently read this article by one of my favorite authors, Adam Gopnik, on authors and thinkers, nearly always 60 years old or older, like the famous Oswald Spengler, see the coming decline of this or that.  Personally, as a member of the age group that is home base for Gopnik's "declinists", I am very cautious about grumbling about the soon-to-fall sky or any other future but scary dangers.  Socrates is supposed to have warned against that encroaching new invention called "writing" and what it would do in the future of human mental capacity.  

There are a number of ways to make predictions that turn out to be correct.  One way is to make a sure-to-be true one: The xxx team will win.  Don't say when or by how much or in which game or against which opponent.  You can also make the statement ambiguous: The Greeks the Welsh will defeat.  

There is the interesting additional problem of "So what?"  He predicted the 1929 stock market crash.  But will his new prediction be correct?  Does the prediction include a date?  How can we be sure ahead of time that we can rely on his prediction working out?  We get right back to the same old slippery procedure of using judgment, calculation and information to guess whether events will work out as predicted.  There is the famous 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, explained in the article in the Wikipedia.  When the "end of the world" doesn't occur as predicted, how will those of us who gave away our clothes and houses and cars feel?  Will we be able to get them back?

If you are interested in this topic, you may be interested in Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers, the story of being left behind after The Rapture has taken millions suddenly off to Heaven.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

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