Making the Future the Way You Want It to BeMaking the Future the Way You Want It to Be
The present is a fait accompli. Once it is reached, it “is what it is.” If we want anything changed about it, it is too late. Changes can only happen when transitions are made to other situations. So we are left with only one choice: to shape events and circumstances to set things up for what we want to have occur moving forward.Despite participating in (and potentially enjoying) our present situation, this means that if we want to effect change, it needs to be either in the future or someplace else—not where we are now. This is because from our perspective:
1. The present has already happened, which makes it unchangeable.
2. The future has the potential to unfold in many ways, but there are only relatively few of these that we want to occur.
Because of this, influencing in the present to arrive at future goals is what we all try to do—sometimes better than others.To have an impact on what is yet to occur, we must make two types of predictions:
I. How the future will evolve spontaneously
II. How our interventions (e.g., actions) will influence the ways it will unfold
It is only afterward that can we hope to influence events in ways that will help us reach our goals.Whether we know it or not, we generally take a structured approach to doing this by:
A. Assessing the current situation
B. Predicting how it will evolve
C. Establishing (future) goals
D. Devising plans to make the present evolve into the future we want
E. Taking actions to direct objects, events, and circumstances so that they develop in ways to make it happen
We typically formulate our predictions by using one of two approaches:
(i) Projecting prior trajectories through the present and into the future (or to other places)
(ii) Applying generalizations to new situations by assuming that previously identified trends and patterns will occur at other times and places similarly
The accuracy of both these techniques depends on first having a proper understanding of the present. To be correct, it must account for all influences. This means that it is only by having a complete and exact set of information that we can implement one of the two the schemas outlined in
(i) or (ii). However, both the systems under consideration and the wider platforms in which they are embedded (i.e., their surroundings) must also be stable for these approaches to function properly. Furthermore, to make predictions, we routinely assume that
a. the present is well-defined (i.e., it is unambiguous as a starting point),
b. causality is the universal instrument of change (i.e., that one event is connected to the next, which is connected to the next, and so on), and
c. we understand the rules governing the changes between states (i.e., the laws of change).
By combining these elements, our presumption is that if we understand the present completely and exactly, and if causality is what dictates all changes, then we can predict how the present will evolve as it moves ahead with a high degree of certainty.To use this approach, we must assess
• what the differences are between the goals we have set and our present situation, and
• what sorts of factors are potentially modifiable to be able to direct the present situation toward the desired goals.
Often, there is a gulf between this set of expectations for making accurate predictions and our typical reality. ¬This is because real predictions are based on
previously collected information that is both incomplete and inexact,
incomplete analyses of available information, and
a belief that prior trajectories—as well as prior trends and patterns—can be accurately projected (or applied) to other times and places, despite factors that can routinely derail them.¬
This book systematically establishes a set of tools to minimize the uncertainties associated with predictions and interventions, so that goals can be attained more effectively and consistently.
The Starting Point: Where We Are Now
We all begin our quest to shape the future from where we have the ability to take actions, which is in the present. Accordingly, the present can be regarded as the “launching point” for the evolution of objects, events, and circumstances as they advance.This leads to an important implication: Even if we could have had an influence to make our current reality different from what it is (i.e., shaped the past differently), it doesn’t matter anymore once we arrive in the present; there is simply no longer any way to change it.The past, the present, and the future are different, but we also believe that they are connected in a sequence; as time passes, the present becomes the (near) past and the (near) future becomes the present. In this sense, we view the present as a moving target, being both dependent on the past and the point of embarkation for what will occur in the future.To decide if something must be done to influence the future, we must first predict how the present will evolve spontaneously. As has already been discussed, the following elements are necessary to make these predictions:
(1) A complete and exact understanding of the present
(2) An understanding of the rules that govern the evolution of objects, events, and circumstances
(3) A presumption that objects, events, and circumstances—and the environments in which they evolve—are stable
The idea of stability is largely dependent on another concept: continuity. It presupposes that objects, events, and circumstances have a connection to those that existed previously. Without this, it is impossible to rely on two things:
(I) ¬ That incremental changes will produce commensurately incremental effects
(II) ¬That the benchmarks against which change can be measured will be preserved
¬The other two points relate to our understanding—both with regard to the present (i.e., our starting point for moving ahead) and the rules of change. Because everything must be encompassed to have a proper understanding, this brings up the idea of completeness. What constrains us here is that we are not privy to
(A) all the information that is “out there” (at least not to the degree of comprehensive and exact detail that would be necessary to define it completely), nor
(B) a comprehensive set of analytical tools to process it according to an all-inclusive set of rules that would allow a complete set of conclusions to be drawn from it.
These two factors explain why human understanding is necessarily incomplete.