Predictions Are Always Wrong

by Phil Rubinstein

Of late in dealing with the outlook of the population, we often have to face the impact of linearity most directly with respect to the sense of time. This occurs in the form of “can you predict…?”, “can you tell us when…?”, or “your prediction was wrong, it didn’t happen”, etc. All of this reflects a view of space-time that is one of a linear extension, with space as a filled-up box and in effect no concept of time, since time can exist only as change, action, becoming. It is precisely this linearity that simplifies language to dumbness, reduces music to noise and makes all science and geometry of the post-Kepler period incomprehensible.

It is no accident that one can find a nearly completely modern expression of this in Aristotle’s “On Interpretation” — he says first in section III “… verbs by themselves, then, are, nouns and they stand for or signify something…. [T]hey indicate nothing themselves but imply a copulation or synthesis, which we can hardly conceive of apart from the things thus combined.” And then, “we call proposition those only that have truth or falsity in them.” Were this only the ancient outlook of a discredited Aristotle no problem would ensue, but in fact this is the root of the thoroughly modren outlook of Russell, Frege, Carnap, etc. In fact, On Interpretation could be a handbook for information theory. While Aristotle like his modern followers recognized that the thoroughly deterministic outlook that follows from this contradicts the actual choices made by human beings, his resolution is to introduce mere contingency, a kind of randomness, which is allowed to the empty future.

The reality is best grasped by taking an approach rooted in physical economic planning. Begin with a moment in history defined by a resource level determined by an existing science and technology. A horizon can be hypothesized at which the social cost of resources usable at that level of technology would lead to a critical degeneration or inability to maintain capital or labor. That crisis defines the necessary present deployment of advanced technologies to create new scientific breakthroughs. This, however, requires greater density of use of resources, labor and soon, thus, the horizon is changed. Take the example of fossil fuel, nuclear fission, then nuclear fusion. Our present resources may be either stretched to extend the horizon, but that merely worsens the crisis. If we choose to accelerate the use of fission energy, the demand on existing resources USES UP those resources more rapidly. If we plan to achieve fusion, the rate of usage increases.

Thus, the future is changed for present action at each step. The problem then becomes to determine the actual activity required in the present. As this occurs, the relationship between now and the future is constantly altering: that also alters all other activity, allocation of resources, labor, and so on. In this way, the present is itself an incommensurable. It is a perfect example of non-constantly changing action. It is this subjectivity that lies at the root of understanding physical space-time as something both of constantly changed activity of a multiply connected type in the sense of Leibniz.

From this standpoint, one can see that not only is the future causing the present, but that implicit in any hypothesis of this type is an inversion that is assymetric. As the forecast is made it immediately brings us to a new concept of the path of action itself. The relationship of past, present, and future is altered.

This also has implications for language, such as the fundamental role of the subjunctive, and in physics, such as non relativistic relativity and non-statistical quantum theory. That could be raised for future discussion, but at least never let us be caught in Aristotelean conceptions of the future.