Predicting the future

[Ulrich] suspects that the given order of things is not as solid as it pretends to be; no thing, no self, no form, no principle, is safe, everything is undergoing an invisible but ceaseless transformation, the unsettled holds more of the future than the settled, and the present is nothing but a hypothesis that has not yet been surmounted. (Robert Musil, novelist)

–The future’s unpredictability is not something up ahead or for later on, but is instead present prospection. One implication is that to predict the future is to insist we manage the present in different ways.

Indeed, the notion that what will save us ahead has yet to be invented misses the point that pulling out a good mess or forestalling a bad mess or taking on different messes today is the way to change tomorrow. The only place the future is more or less reliable is now, and only if we are managing our messes, now.

–This also means that the microeconomic concepts of opportunity costs, tradeoffs and priorities, along with price as a coordinating mechanism make sense–if they make sense–only now or in the very short term, when the resource to be allocated and alternatives forgone are their clearest.

Now: What’s a good mess to be found in this huge uncertainty and unstudied conditions? Do we assume, by way of an example, Global Climate Change is going to affect all insect species? How would we model that? Insects may not matter to you, but they do matter to millions and millions of other people. Yet, some 1 million insect species have been identified in a world of possibly 30 million insect species.

–Yes “of course,” Planet Earth is a closed system, but equally closed with respect to everything? In my view, the mess we’re in–and it’s a good mess–is that this global crisis, like others, can’t be about the planet and science, all the way down. All the way down takes us quickly to all manner of “yes, but. . .”

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