What does the future hold? The art of reducing uncertainty

What does the future hold? The art of reducing uncertainty

What will happen tomorrow? What will happen in a week? And in a year? Or in twenty? What does the future hold? Difficult question, not to say impossible to know. By definition,the future is what has not happened yet. It is therefore fraught with uncertainty, this general doubt that prevents us from being sure of something. Can this uncertainty be reduced?

Of course,uncertainty can be reduced although it can not always be completely eliminated. Although there are pseudo-sciences and other arts claiming to know the future, they tend to make vague interpretations of the future so as not to make mistakes. If they assure us that tomorrow will be a good day, it is more likely to be so given the fact that our attitude will be positive in the face of uncertainty. But in addition to changing our attitude and reducing uncertainty, it does not correspond to a realistic prediction of the future.

Reduce uncertainty with a plan B

If we assume that the future is unpredictable, that we do not know exactly what will happen – because the future is uncertain –the best option to know the latter is to reduce this uncertainty. For this, one option is to make various predictions. Imagine that we do not know what the weather will be tomorrow, but based on our intuition, we come to the conclusion that it will be fine. Even if it has not been raining for many months, it may be raining and we have to cancel our trip to the beach.

If we had a plan B: if it's nice, I'll go to the beach; if it's raining, at the museum; our plans would not have been broken (we would not have that feeling).Imagining different options for the future is one way of reducing uncertainty.By reducing uncertainty, we will be better prepared to face the unknown, whatever happens.

It is not necessary to determine what will happen to predict the future and reduce uncertainty.We just have to think about what could happen.Imagine all possible options that might occur and rule out the most unlikely ones based on the evidence. For example, we could imagine that the weather could be sunny, rainy, snowy, cloudy, etc. Even so, based on the current temperature, humidity, location, etc., we could set aside some options and assign more or less probability to others.

Create models to reduce uncertainty

A common, sometimes unconscious, practice that we use to reduce uncertainty is the use of models.Experience tells us that certain events tend to repeat themselves when favorable circumstances arise.And, the more experience we have, the more these models are confirmed.

These models are in principle useful. Especially when we know the causes and the effects. We know that if we throw a stone on another person, we will hurt it. But if, moreover, we know that the damage will depend on the size of the stone and the force with which we throw it, we can modulate these variables according to our interests. Of course, the social norm is that we do not throw stones at anyone, it is only an example.

"I'm interested in the future because it's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life."
-Woody Allen-
These models also serve to explain our behavior. However, the latter is so varied and so suggestible that it is difficult to know all the modulating variables. Making a joke to someone else can make them laugh or make them angry. If we make the joke and the person laughs, it is likely that similar jokes will do it too. But beware ! What happens if this person had a bad day? Maybe she will not laugh.Models may not be good predictors because heuristics and biases can play tricks on us.

Foresight to reduce uncertainty

Discipline has arisen in the face of the problem of predicting the future, the prospective.Foresight is the discipline that studies the future in order to understand and influence it. Of all that we can know about the future, the least interesting is what will happen, what really matters is how and especially why. Foresight can be seen as a tool for managing uncertainty, reducing uncertainty.

Foresight seeks to understand what are the causes and the sequence of events that may lead to one possibility, among all those envisaged, that will eventually emerge in the future. This is the reason whyForesight does not make predictionsit does not serve to predict the future, it serves to explain. Not what will happen, but why it will be so and not otherwise. And, ultimately, change that future before it happens. Although the future is uncertain, uncertainty can always be reduced so that we are not caught off guard.

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