Dr. John J. Hidore
November 16, 2016—–The desire to know the future is deeply ingrained in the human species. The future is extremely important to contemporary society, but it is probably no more so than it was to people at any other time in history. Forecasting is the process of predicting some event or the status of some phenomenon in the future. Forecasts can be useful for planning purposes, humorous, or even dangerous. In the past when a demand for knowledge of the future existed, mystical forms of prophecy came into existence. Priests, witches, prophets, crystal balls, astrology, palmistry, and oracles all played a part.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops
There exist sites and remains of structures which have played important roles in predicting the future in ages past. One of the earliest is the Great Pyramid of Cheops (ca. 2650 B.C.) in Egypt. The size and finesse of construction of this pyramid, more than 4000 years ago, has led to speculation of every kind about its construction and what it means.
The pyramid is a monument to Pharaoh Cheops, founder of the fourth dynasty. Perhaps as many as l00,000 laborers built this monument. They moved more than two million stone blocks from a quarry down the Nile River to near Cairo. The blocks were then transported to the west side of the Nile valley and hoisted onto the escarpment. There they assembled the blocks into the structure which remains today. White limestone pieces were then fitted so as to provide a smooth surface to the structure. Most of the white facing is now gone. Only a few pieces still remain near the top. It was probably pirated over time for other structures.
Inside the structure are a series of passageways which lead to two burial chambers, one for the pharaoh and the other for his wife. In 1864 a Scottish astronomer, Charles Piayyi Smyth, made accurate measurements of the direction and dimensions of the passageways. Based on his measurements he came up with a chronology covering 6000 years. He used one pyramid inch (25.25 mm) to represent one year. Downturns and restrictions in passageways represent hard times and world disasters. Upturns, broad passageways, and the burial chambers themselves represent good times and major advances for the human species.
Some of the structural chronology and significant world events coincide. However, either the human species did not heed the message, or there were mistakes made in construction because the system fails frequently. They built the passageways, as they are, for real reasons. Certainly, a people capable of the design and construction of the monument did not build the interior randomly. However, their reasons are now unknown. The end of the corridors implies a great new world by 2001, an optimistic prediction which unfortunately did not seem to be correct.
The Need for Forecasting
Today, as in the past, there are many questions about the future global system for which we need information. One whole group of question centers around the widespread and varied impact that climate change would have on other aspects of the environment. Among the many things that would change if climate changes are global temperatures, sea level, biological diversity both on land and in the ocean. Some notion of the difficulty of forecasting global environmental change is the complexity of the interaction and feedback between various parts of the global system.
For example, human induced increases in CO2 and other trace gasses are major elements in potential global warming. However, because CO2 is the primary raw material for photosynthesis, increased CO2 concentration is likely to have a direct biological impact on the extent and distribution of Earth’s vegetation.
As the human population grows, and the world enters further into a global economy, forecasting future events becomes ever more important. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the future for certain. There are now forecasts being made from climate change to space travel. Some forecasts are being made out as far as the year 2100, 85 years from now. If we look back 85 years to 1930, it is worth noting what has transpired. Technological developments that have occurred since then include such things as hybrid cars, self-drive cars, drones, television, organ transplants, satellites, travel to the moon, nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence. None of these could have been included in forecasting today’s world.
Today forecasts are being made for conditions as far away as 2050 and 2100. The question is, how can forecasts for conditions this far out be made accurately, when so many technological and cultural changes can be expected to occur during this time. Some cultural elements, such as regional over-population, income imbalance, indigenous uprisings, and resource depletion, are individually and collectively important factors in defining our world in the future. There can be no doubt that in 2016 the rate of change is taking place faster than ever before and how it will change simply is unknown in many, if not most, cases.
The effective life of forecasts may be very short. For instance, climate forecasts by the IPCC have often underestimated the extent of future changes. These forecasts have been revised every seven years. Forecasts of global conditions to 2050 are at least questionable. Those for 2100 even more so. It must be recognized, that for some forecasts that are continually being made, the reliability decreases on almost a daily basis.
As an example of forecasts going bad is the presidential election in the United States in 2016. A seemingly endless number of forecasts predicted Hillary Clinton to win up to the day before the election. Sadly they were all wrong.
As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is purported to have stated, “There is nothing permanent except change!”