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How ‘the future’ connects across subjects

‘Today’s world is complex and unreliable. Tomorrow is expected to be more so.’ – Jennifer M. Gidley, The Future: A Very Short Introduction

From the beginning of time, humanity has been driven by a paradox: fearing the unknown but with a constant curiosity to know. Over time, science and technology have developed, meaning that we are now more able to predict and quantify the future than ever before. We live in a world of quantum possibilities and there is still no certainty in what might happen tomorrow, next year, or hundreds of years from now.

The below video explores the concept of the future and finds the connections that appear across a range of futures-related topics:

This got us thinking more about the future, so we’ve collected together some facts about this concept and its related topics:

  • To even be able to think hypothetically of a possible future is a remarkable and distinctive feature of human intelligence. Animals generally learn to adapt behaviour using their past successes, whereas humans can imagine a future, or number of futures.
  • The word ‘future’ in English was first used in the 14th century, with its origin (via Old French) in the Latin ‘futurus’, meaning ‘going to be’ or ‘yet to be’.
  • The genre of utopian literature, which is evidence of early future concepts, began in ancient Greece. Plato’s Republic is widely regarded as one of the first attempts to create a utopian, or eu-topian (meaning a good place), model of civilization.
Image credit: ‘Sundial, Perranporth’ by Tim Green. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
  • One way in which humans have tried to control the future is through measuring time. It is thought that the first farmers (around 10,000 BC) used primitive sundials, whereas most of the historical calendars (that we know about today) were invented 2,000–3,000 years ago.
  • Using models to predict the future(s) of climate change are crucial in order to try mitigating negative effects. Recent climate models suggest that global surface temperature will rise by 0.3°C to 0.7°C between now and 2035.
  • We use stories and literature to imagine different futures. In contemporary fiction, most images of the future are tied up with what impact technology will have, and the hope or despair that arises from that are usually seen through the figure of the child.
  • We may think of time as a simple linear dimension – the past, present, and future – but that may not be the case. Einstein created a four-dimensional picture of space-time, whereas Hawking and Hartle imagined the universe as a four-dimensional surface of a five-dimensional sphere.

Featured image credit: ‘High in the SuperTrees’ by Annie Spratt. Public Domain via Unsplash.

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