Tag Archives: TED Talks

About a future that already happened

You know how they say that the future cannot be known? They are wrong. Well, partially wrong. Because there are aspects of the future that can and should be known to us: that is the future that has already happened.

An elegant proof of this idea was offered to me by Hans Rosling, during a chat we had in Doha, this past April. The chat referred to his latest TED talk, and specifically to his claim that we should prepare for a peak population of at least 10 billion (watch the video footage between 10:20 and 12:20).

It is not easy to imagine Herr Rosling losing his temper, but I think I got him pretty close to that state, later in the evening, when I referred to his statement as a hypothesis to be tested. He did not wish to continue the conversation until I acknowledged that his claim was not a hypothesis, but a statement of fact. He offered a neat illustration of a dynamic that confuses many of us who wish to better understand the world. When things happen, some of the consequences take a long time to manifest, but they are inevitable.  Much of what will become visible only years from now, has already happened.

What did I take away from my chat with Hans Rosling? A question and an insight. The question: what other important aspects of our future have already happened? The insight: when it comes to the knowable future, to see forward, once must glance back.

Please share with me ideas about other aspects of the future that you think may have already happened.

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