Prediction and Prophecy

Many bloggers are listing their predictions for 2011 and beyond. Anyone who has done research on prediction knows that it is the hardest thing in life. No one can predict future with accuracy.

Prediction is intellectually hard yet it is also natural. Biological organisms depend on prediction for survival. The Princeton physics professor William Bialek says that organisms are prediction machines. Think about it, our bodies constantly anticipate the next step or the next move otherwise we can’t even walk. Our minds always anticipate the next day or the next month or even the next ten years. Spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle warned us that anticipation is the main characteristic of the ego and if we want to find happiness we should live in the moment. I agree but this does not mean ego is useless. We depend on the ego for our long term survival. Human challenges are manifold. We have egos and we depend on the ego for survival but for our spiritual development we need to rise above the ego. This dilemma makes life interesting.

Our minds and bodies are designed for prediction

Our minds and bodies are designed for prediction. This is the root cause of the interest in prophecy. Prediction is very different from prophecy which relies on intuition. In prophecy there is no computation. Prediction involves a computation, either in the biological process or in the intellectual mind. Intuition refers to our higher mind which is connected to the Cosmic Mind.

No one can predict future with accuracy

No one can predict future with accuracy. This principle applies to prophecy as well. No prophecy will be 100 percent accurate. Even the prophecies of sadgurus, mystics, or saints will not be 100 percent accurate. There is a reason for this. Cosmos is evolving. Cosmos is unfolding. Cosmos is becoming. The Creation is an ongoing process. The evolution, the process is controlled by the Supreme Being. You may get a glimpse of the future if your intuition is developed but your reaction to that glimpse will change the future. This is similar to the situation in the microscopic world. When we measure the location of an electron we disturb it and we no longer know where it is. The mental realm is much subtler. Any action in the mental realm will have far reaching consequences.

Accuracy, Uncertainty, Probability

I would like to emphasize the word “accuracy”. I did not say “No one can predict future”, I said “No one can predict future with accuracy”. The concept of “accuracy” is a probabilistic concept. We can predict future with some probability.  Each prediction should have a probability attached to it.

Anyone can predict with 100 percent accuracy if the statement is vague and broad. I can say that there will be an earthquake next year; my prediction will come true because there are earthquakes every year. Some small some big but there are earthquakes every year. Many fortune tellers use linguistic tricks like that.

Short-term versus long-term

In general long-term predictions are harder unless there is a cycle or trend. The world is evolving from moment to moment and the small errors in your predictive computations are amplified as you proceed into the future.

Macroscopic versus microscopic

In general macroscopic predictions are harder because there are many more factors to compute. The computation takes longer. With smaller number of factors computations are easier.

On the other hand once you cross the threshold into the world of atoms and electrons the prediction becomes hard again. The microscopic world seems to have a different set of laws.

Deterministic and indeterministic uncertainty

The physical laws are sometimes distinguished as “classical” and “quantum mechanical”. The classical mechanics describes the motion of macroscopic objects and “quantum mechanical” laws describe the electrons, protons, neutrons, neutrinos, photons, etc. In quantum mechanics there is an intrinsic uncertainty which scientists have no understanding. They accepted this intrinsic uncertainty as given and built a computational mechanics to predict the location or momentum of electrons in a probabilistic sense. Quantum mechanical uncertainty is known as indeterministic uncertainty.

In classical mechanics there is no probability, everything is described with precision based on the initial conditions. The problem is that the initial conditions cannot be known accurately. The uncertainty in the initial conditions makes it impossible to know the future state of the object. This is known as deterministic uncertainty.

In either case, prediction of the future, even for a physical object is very difficult to compute. It is amazing that biological organisms do these kinds of predictions so fast.

Dangers of Overfitting and Dogma

If you use more explanatory factors in your model of the world you can explain the past better but it seems that this becomes a weakness in predicting the future. In science, this problem is known as “overfitting”. This is also similar to the failure of dogmas. They were useful at some point but they do not fit future. All rigid ideas or models are bound to fail in the future.

Cycles and Trends

It is easier to make predictions if you can identify cycles or trends. The best examples for cycles are the Earth cycles or the astronomical cycles. I can predict with 100 percent accuracy that sun will rise again tomorrow.

There may be historical cycles. Identification of these cycles will greatly help the social sciences. It is also easier to make prediction when you can spot a trend or a cycle.

Few predictions of my own

  • The solar system is passing through the mid-plane of the Milky Way galaxy entering the region where we will be exposed to more cosmic rays (gamma rays, energetic protons, etc.). This passage is a very slow process. The Mayan Calendar ends in 2012 because Mayans observed and calculated the fact that the solar system will be crossing the mid-plane of the galaxy. Since we will be exposed to more cosmic rays in the future there will be many mutations in both humans and animals. Human bodies and nervous systems will evolve. With stronger nervous system (bigger brains) and because of other changes in the human body humanity will acquire new mental capabilities. Our hope is that the spiritual development keeps pace with the rapid development of the psyche.
  • The current global warming interestingly coincides with the mid-point of the 23 thousand year cycle of the precession of equinoxes. There was another global warming 11.5 thousand years ago (the scientific evidence from the ice-core studies). There is also unusual activity in Earth’s mantle surrounding the liquid core. The magnetic pole is drifting towards Siberia and I am afraid the rotation axis will eventually align with this drift and there will be a polar shift of the TPW (true polar wander) kind. You can read more about it in the article “Past and Future Pole Shifts“. These changes will contribute to the changes in human biology as well. Humans will adapt to the environmental changes.
  • There is a bright future for Humanity.

About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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