Thursday, October 7, 2010

278 / My Problem With Predictions

Predict |priňądikt|

According to my online dictionary, to "predict" something is to "say or estimate that (a specified thing) will happen in the future or will be a consequence of something." For instance: "it is too early to predict a result."

The word "predict" originated in the early 17th century, and came from the Latin praedict- ‘made known beforehand, declared,’ from the verb praedicere, from prae- ‘beforehand’ + dicere ‘say.’

"Predict" can mean anything from hazarding a guess (as: they predicted he'd never survive the year), to making an astute inference based on facts or statistical evidence (as: he predicted that the Republicans would win the election).

Here's my problem with prediction. Prediction is always something we do as "observers." We look around, or into our crystal ball, and then "say ahead" what we think will happen. Our predictions are, inevitably, based on the past, or on what we see right now. They are derived from our observation and our subsequent extrapolation of past and current experience into the future.

My main point about our world - the world that we create - is that we are "actors," not "observers." What we see now is never inevitable. We can change our world (and we regularly do, whether on purpose or by accident). Therefore, the purpose of predictions has always escaped me, at least as an activity to be celebrated or pursued.

As far as I am concerned, the point is not to observe the world, and then to report back with a well reasoned "prediction." The point is to observe the world, and then change it to match our desires.

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