The many ways we try to predict the future

The many ways we try to predict the future

You might think that it is a fool's errand to try to predict the future, but some people are good at it.

The experts on predicting the future are meteorologists. They helped the Allies decide to start the successful Normandy invasion on a specific day in World War II. Meteorologists have been helping us all ever since.

Gamblers think they can predict the future. The odds are against them, though.

Stock traders also think they can profit from their expectations of the future.

Long ago, I bought and sold individual stocks. I noticed that the stock of an American hospital company called Humana rose in the winter when people went into the hospital for flu-related problems. So, I bought the stock at the start of winter and sold at the end. I made a good profit a few years in a row. Then the prediction failed.

Soothsayers and seers make a living out of foretelling the future. I never see any of these folks around. It is a tough racket in which to make a living.

Modern soothsayers call themselves futurists. Their success in predicting the future is low.

I think of myself as a futurist, a lousy one. All my recent predictions, which relate to Donald Trump, have failed. My latest prediction about him is too dark to mention.

Because I am writing about predicting the future, you expect me to mention Nostradamus. Sorry, but I am too bitter about my failures. All I will say about him is that he got lucky.

Predicting the future is hard. Nevertheless, we all predict the future every day.

We unconsciously predict that the future will be like the past.

That prediction makes life easier for us by reducing uncertainty and anxiety.

I predict I will still have a job tomorrow, that I will still have money in the bank, that my friends will still like me.

The prediction of future sameness is convenient. However, if the past was very bad, we can certainly feel depressed about the future.

In such circumstances, we are better off working to make the future the way we want it to be than accepting the extension of the past into the future.

Recognising the potential for asserting control in the future is part of what keeps us from giving up when the going is brutally rough.

I predicted that you (or more precisely people like you) would read this column. What do you predict about me?

John Malouff is an Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, University of New England.