The one thing that is certain about the future is its uncertainty, yet it seems as though sometimes humans are more interested in predicting the future than recognising our past. The future is impossible to predict with any kind of accuracy, because there are far too many unknown variables which can take what we envisage as likely, down unforeseen pathways.
The present changes so rapidly to make the future seem irresistible, and if one could see the future as some have claimed, then it would be a license to become invincible. If someone does actually see the future or has an insight into the future, then this can be used for massive gain.
An example of this is bandied about often today, involves Nathan Rothschild and the Battle of Waterloo, because of his knowledge of the perceived future (it was actually the present but at the time it seemed like the future) he was able to take control of the Bank of England. I believe the story goes that Rothschild send a spy to watch the battle, and as soon as a winner was obvious to come immediately back to England. The spy clearly saw Wellington was winning and left for London a day before the actual news could arrive. Rothschild then played his card, and pretended though never actually stating that he believed Wellington had lost the battle. This inaccurate news sent London’s financial sector of the time into a downward spiral and Rothschild was able to buy up large parts of the Bank of England as well as many other assets. When the news arrived the next day stating Wellington won the battle the downward spiral changed and Rothschild was the only winner. Even to this day the Rothschild’s are one of the most powerful families in the world.
This is not possible today, since we only have time lags of seconds not days, but it is an example of someone with prior knowledge and using it to their advantage, in so doing predicting the future. This is why predicting the future is such big business, but unfortunately unlike Rothschild who had accurate information unavailable to others; this is not the case now and if it was the case, it would be a crime to use it for your own gain.
I can think of three examples showing how difficult it is to predict the future; one is the two world wars, the second is going to the moon, and the third is the Internet.
In 1914 no one would have predicted the dire affects of the Great War, the war to end all wars supposedly, the First World War. The first battle which is eloquently re-enacted in the film the War Horse, was fought on horseback near Mons in Belgium I think (coincidentally the first engagement was also in the same place of the last, I think, though not sure, it was close I believe). If someone could have predicted the future they would have gone straight to tanks and ended the carnage by September.
In the Second World War at the beginning no one could have predicted that using tanks in a pincer formation, attacking narrow areas of the front line, to punch holes in the defences of the enemy could ever work so effectively. Both Erich von Manstein and Heinz Guderian formulated plans to use what was to become known as Blitzkrieg or lightening war, to beat the French and British army’s stationed across Belgium and France. Hitler and his cronies were initially sceptical and it was only because of the extremely unorthodox natures of the attack persuaded Hitler to carry out such a bold move (of which the sly little shit tried to take credit for later in the war). Knowing the future there could have stopped the Nazi’s early on, before they became totally delusional about their supremacy.
Battleships were another part of the Second World War which was shown by the future to be a red herring. Once it was clear air power could knock out any Battleship with limited loss to the attacker, they became obsolete and spelled the end for the great battleships.
The Moon landings predicted a future with colonies on the moon, the possibility of space travel and even holidays in space all seemed likely; even missions to Mars. None of this ever materialised when the price of going to the moon was weighed against the other more pressing matters. Even now no one has been back to the moon for over 35 years.
The last example is at least a positive one, the Internet. I bet the governments of the world wished they could have predicted the power of the Internet sooner; as they are now finding they cannot control this massive leviathan. It is now the biggest and probably one of the most important innovations ever conceived by humans. Yet if we go back to the mid 80’s who would have predicted the power of such a tool, no one I suspect and if anyone did they would have been guessing.
The future can be guessed, it can be speculated, it can be theorised but it can never be predicted accurately, no matter how many models or simulations, theories or conclusions one thinks of. At any moment something unknown can throw all arguments out of the window, from natural disasters, changes in the Universe, the greed of man, to the genius of someone’s mind; anything and everything can or will happen, and this makes predicting the future a flight of fancy as well as an unfathomable mystery.