Is the future real?
The word ‘future’ has important meaning to human beings. I’m not about to do a thesis on what the word ‘future’ means. Look up for estimated reading time, if you have a dog to bathe. And I’m not interested in whether any particular reader has a dog or not!
A popular definition is to be found on the internet, “a period of time following the moment of speaking or writing; time regarded as still to come.”
Future is important in this blog because several posts refer to it. WordPress – the engine that runs this site – finds topics that are tagged. So you can see loads of posts that were tagged with the word future.
The definition above – which is not the only definition – has some important words e.g. ‘period of time‘, and ‘following the moment.’ The future must also be about expected, or predicted events at a time beyond now. Events obviously need ‘time’ with which to happen. The whole universe runs on time. No time → no events.
The reality is as follows. The future is not a place and/or time that ‘we’ can know about, in advance of it happening. One cannot just go into the future, check it out and report back what happened in that future. I’m not into debates about time-travel and the speed of light etc.
Where does the future ‘exist’? It exists in one important space – the space inside human heads! By that I mean it is an idea in the minds of one or more people. No people → no ideas → no future. Did I say that the future will stop unfolding if there are no people? I did NOT. Hellooooo.. you might wish to focus on the future as an idea. Even the ‘unfolding’ of the future is just an idea.
Idealism v Reality
This is where Berkeley’s idealism comes in. There is no doubt that the world exists ‘out there’. No world out there → nothing to emit sense data → nothing to be perceived by the senses. Berkeley’s point is that what we can know and perceive, is a creation of our minds making sense of what comes to it. Sense is not simply the five senses, but also what the mind does with the information provided by the senses. That sense, is not the real object; only a representation of the object in the world. Such objects are without texture, shape, form, smell, colour etc. We create those qualities.
But the future is not an object. It does not exist to emit sense data, for minds to receive information about. So – it is illogical to refer to the future as some ‘thing’, or even to treat it as a reality.
The above means that the future is not a ‘thing’ that exists in the present or at a time beyond the present. We cannot know of a thing that exists at a time beyond our sensory abilities to sense it. So sorry, the future is not ‘orange’ or any other colour. You cannot ‘see the future’. You can only see what your mind tells you may happen in that sense of future. Your mind might have an idea what the future may look like but ‘what it may look or feel like‘ is a creation of the mind. A creation of the mind is not ‘a reality’ or an objective reality.
Predictions – are therefore ideas in the mind about what would or could happen. Nobody making a prediction has visited the future and returned with evidence of what exists beyond the present time.
Scenarios – are what the mind thinks or believes may happen in a future that does not exist.
Attachments – to things, people, relationships, value, life etc are based on the present and past situations. Loss of attachments either happens in the present or are experienced as if they may happen in a future that does not exist.
Expectation – is a psychological estimate of what may happen in a future that does not exist.
Emotions – connected to all the above, are again products of the mind. Our feelings happen now, in the present. But our feelings about things are based on scenarios in a future that we know does not exist, nor can we predict will exist.
Logic and reasoning – is often based on ideas about what may or will happen, based on all the above. To learn of how an epic dilemma was approached, with dire perceived consequences read (or not) The Ethics of Decision Making in the Battlefield of Life. How did Arjuna make his decision to do battle against his beloved relatives? Did I say everything has to be approached from the mindset of ‘battle’? I did not! ‘Battle is not the issue! Chrysst! Those who do the headline intelligence thing, are idiots. [Warning to idiots: the links are tight summaries of several hundred pages. Did I imply that you who reads this is an idiot? I did not! I’m not here to provide anyone with ‘understanding’. I write this blog for me – but I know from geographic tracking in the background, of a small handful of people who come across my words. Am I going to stop nauseatingly asking myself a question and going ‘I did not’? I shall not!]
Decision-making – is then made on all the above.
The future is nowhere and is nothing but a construct of the mind. It is not a place, time, or set of real events. Estimates made by minds about ‘the future’ are based on historical information projected by the mind into a set of scenarios that do not exist. These are probability estimates that are called ‘predictions’, expectations or scenarios.
The accuracy of any probable outcome of so-called future events, can only be based on current and historical knowledge, facts or perceptions.
The human mind is weak in interpreting current and historical facts, evidence, perceptions, and emotions.
Decision-making in the present about the ‘future’ is fraught with risk.
There is a risk of doing nothing, where one becomes overly occupied with anxiety provoking scenarios in the mind.
Ooops.. here we go – Stupid has broken in to this!
Stupid: What you mean, the future is not real?! We know that the the sun will rise tomorrow! Are you for real?!
CW: I explained what I meant. I’m not going to repeat all of it. The future is not a thing that emits data that can be sensed by humans. A tree is a real object that transmits form, smell, texture, colour etc. Our brains take that information and makes it into a picture – and we call that a tree. The future isn’t there, like a tree to transmit anything.
Stupid: This is getting ridiculous. Everybody knows that future exists. Are you saying that the sun will not rise tomorrow?
CW: ‘Everybody’ shares the same belief about the future. Shared belief creates a sense of ‘fact’ or existence. If everybody believed that the rainbow had 3 colours instead of 7, that would become a fact. But it simply isn’t.
Stupid: Are you saying that rainbows don’t exist?
CW: Yes. There is no physical object of a rainbow. You can’t go and find it, or touch it – but you see it. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Stupid: This is becoming more crazy. If I see a rainbow, it exists! Everybody sees the same rainbow, so it must exist.
CW: What you see as the rainbow, is light refracted and reflected off microscopic droplets of water. The different wavelengths of light are refracted at different angles. Light is split up into it’s different colours, which human eyes perceive. Everybody sees the same thing, so they believe the rainbow is there, as an object. The reality is that the rainbow is a mirage. The only thing that can be said to exist are the zillions of objects that refract the light at different angles. Everybody sees the same mirage. The mirage cannot be found, touched or measured. It is a creation for minds to perceive. Minds perceive it in the same way because human eyes – being part of the brain- does the same thing with the information transmitted by the microscopic droplets of water.
Stupid: I’m confused. Are you saying that the droplets of water are the rainbow?
CW: No. I’m saying the rainbow’s apparent existence is created by droplets of water. A shared sensation of – the sight of – the rainbow means that it exists in minds but not in an reality external to those minds.
Stupid: I’m not a brain specialist , nor a psychologist!
CW: That’s correct.
Stupid: You don’t need to be so rude again!
CW: What – you said something that was true. You know it’s true and I confirmed it. Nothing there is rude in that.
Stupid: Right – I’m lost now. What does rainbows have to do with the future?
CW: The point is, that not because everybody shares a common perspective or common belief, means it is true or that it is reality.
Stupid: Do you mean that rainbows and the future are lies?
CW: No. I meant only that a shared perception of a thing does not mean it exists in a world outside of our heads. Both rainbows and futures, have the same effect. They give people the sense that they exist.
Stupid: So are you saying that the future is a trick?
CW: No. I’m saying that the operations of the mind create a trick. The mind tricks itself into believing the future exists because the mind perceives it. Groups of minds perceiving the same non-existent thing, trick themselves in a much larger way.
Stupid: But people know what will happen. You once gave an example of someone crossing a busy road with their eyes closed.
CW: That’s a good example. The mind perceives a probable future where that person will get run over. But the mind cannot visit the future and return with facts.
Stupid: So as you say that the future is non-existent and not real, you don’t worry about adverse outcomes – right?
CW: I’ll worry about future adverse outcomes. The difference is that I know those outcomes do not exist in a real space and time that I have access to. I am aware that my emotions will rule significantly over what I might think is an adverse outcome.
Stupid: So, you’re saying that everybody else is wrong. How arrogant! I still think the future exists. You haven’t convinced me it doesn’t.
CW: The facts and the logic when applied properly by anybody, will mean that most people are wrong. It’s not about what I’m ‘saying’. There are truths and realities that exist independently of minds. Perhaps you assumed I was here to convince you. How limited are you. You serve one particular purpose. Right..
Stupid: No wait… .
CW: Wait what. You started up with name calling – your use of adjectives about my person i.e. arrogant. Not called for. You’re gone.
CW: That’s it. Poof!
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