The future is commonly understood to contain all events that have yet to occur. It is the opposite of the past, and is the time after the present. Organized efforts to predict or forecast the future may have derived from observations by early man of heavenly objects. In the Occidental view, which uses a linear conception of time, the future is the portion of the projected time line that is anticipated to occur.
In the philosophy of time, presentism is the belief that only the present exists and the future and the past are unreal. Religions consider the future when they address issues such as karma, life after death, and eschatologies that study what the end of time and the end of the world will be. Religious figures have claimed to see into the future, such as prophets and diviners.
Future studies or futurology is the science, art and practice of postulating possible futures. Modern practitioners stress the importance of alternative and plural futures, rather than one monolithic future, and the limitations of prediction and probability, versus the creation of possible and preferable futures.
While ethologists consider animal behavior to be largely based on fixed action patterns or other learned traits in an animal's past, human behavior is known to encompass an anticipation of the future. Anticipatory behavior can be the result of a psychological outlook toward the future, for examples optimism, pessimism, and hope.
Optimism is an outlook on life such that one maintains a view of the world as a positive place. People would say that optimism is seeing the glass "half full" of water as opposed to half empty. It is the philosophical opposite of pessimism. Optimists generally believe that people and events are inherently good, so that most situations work out in the end for the best.Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope implies a certain amount of despair, wanting, wishing, suffering or perseverance — i.e., believing that a better or positive outcome is possible even when there is some evidence to the contrary. "Hopefulness" is somewhat different from optimism in that hope is an emotional state, whereas optimism is a conclusion reached through a deliberate thought pattern that leads to a positive attitude.
- Main article: Forecasting
Organized efforts to predict or forecast the future may have derived from observations by early man of heavenly objects, which changed position in predictable patterns. The practice of astrology, today considered pseudoscience, evolved from the human desire to forecast the future. Much of physical science can be read as an attempt to make quantitative and objective predictions about events. Forecasting is the process of estimation in unknown situations. Due to the element of the unknown, risk and uncertainty are central to forecasting and prediction. Statistical forecasting is the process of estimation in unknown situations. It can refer to estimation of time series, cross-sectional or longitudinal data.
Prediction is a similar, but more general term. Both can refer to estimation of time series, cross-sectional or longitudinal data. Econometric forecasting methods use the assumption that it is possible to identify the underlying factors that might influence the variable that is being forecast. If the causes are understood, projections of the influencing variables can be made and used in the forecast. Judgemental forecasting methods incorporate intuitive judgements, opinions and probability estimates, as in the case of the Delphi method, scenario building, and simulations.
Despite the development of cognitive instruments for the comprehension of future, the stochastic nature of many natural and social processes has made precise forecasting of the future elusive. Modern efforts such as future studies attempt to predict social trends, while more ancient practices, such as weather forecasting, have benefited from scientific and causal modelling.
Future studies or futurology is the science, art and practice of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them. Futures studies seeks to understand what is likely to continue, what is likely to change, and what is novel. Part of the discipline thus seeks a systematic and pattern-based understanding of past and present, and to determine the likelihood of future events and trends. A key part of this process is understanding the potential future impact of decisions made by individuals, organisations and governments. Leaders use results of such work to assist in decision-making.
- "Take hold of the future or the future will take hold of you." Patrick Dixon, author Futurewise
Futures is an interdisciplinary field, studying yesterday's and today's changes, and aggregating and analyzing both lay and professional strategies, and opinions with respect to tomorrow. It includes analyzing the sources, patterns, and causes of change and stability in the attempt to develop foresight and to map possible futures. Modern practitioners stress the importance of alternative and plural futures, rather than one monolithic future, and the limitations of prediction and probability, versus the creation of possible and preferable futures.
Three factors usually distinguish futures studies from the research conducted by other disciplines (although all disciplines overlap, to differing degrees). First, futures studies often examines not only possible but also probable, preferable, and "wild card" futures. Second, futures studies typically attempts to gain a holistic or systemic view based on insights from a range of different disciplines. Third, futures studies challenges and unpacks the assumptions behind dominant and contending views of the future. The future thus is not empty but fraught with hidden assumptions.
Futures studies does not generally include the work of economists who forecast movements of interest rates over the next business cycle, or of managers or investors with short-term time horizons. Most strategic planning, which develops operational plans for preferred futures with time horizons of one to three years, is also not considered futures. But plans and strategies with longer time horizons that specifically attempt to anticipate and be robust to possible future events, are part of a major subdiscipline of futures studies called strategic foresight.
The futures field also excludes those who make future predictions through professed supernatural means. At the same time, it does seek to understand the models such groups use and the interpretations they give to these models.
In the philosophy of time, presentism is the belief that only the present exists and the future and the past are unreal. Past and future "entities" are to be construed as logical constructions or fictions. The opposite of presentism is 'eternalism', which is the belief that things in the past and things yet to come exist eternally. One other view (that has not been held by very many philosophers) is sometimes called the 'growing block' theory of time, which is a theory that takes the past and present to exist but the future to be nonexistent.
Contrary to Saint Augustine, some philosophers propose that conscious experience is extended in time. For instance, William James said that time is "the short duration of which we are immediately and incessantly sensible".[How to reference and link to summary or text] Augustine proposed that God is outside of time and present for all times, in eternity. Other early philosophers who were presentists include the Buddhists (in the tradition of Indian Buddhism). A leading scholar from the modern era on Buddhist philosophy is Stcherbatsky, who has written extensively on Buddhist presentism: "Everything past is unreal, everything future is unreal, everything imagined, absent, mental... is unreal... Ultimately real is only the present moment of physical efficiency [i.e., causation]."
Religions consider the future when they address issues such as karma, life after death, and eschatologies that study what the end of time and the end of the world will be. In religion, major prophets are said to have the power to change the future. Common religious figures have claimed to see into the future, such as minor prophets and diviners. The term "afterlife" refers to the continuation of existence of the soul, spirit or mind of a human (or animal) after physical death, typically in a spiritual or ghostlike afterworld. Deceased persons are usually believed to go to a specific region or plane of existence in this afterworld, often depending on the rightness of their actions during life.
Some believe the afterlife includes some form of preparation for the soul to be transferred to another body (reincarnation). The major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. There are those who are skeptical of the existence of the afterlife, or believe that it is absolutely impossible, such as the materialist-reductionists, who state that the topic is supernatural, therefore does not really exist or is unknowable. In metaphysical models, theists generally believe some sort of afterlife awaits people when they die. Atheists generally believe that there is not a life after death. Members of some generally non-theistic religions such as Buddhism, tend to believe in an afterlife like reincarnation but without reference to God.
Agnostics generally hold the position that like the existence of God, the existence of supernatural phenomena, such as souls or life after death, is unverifiable and therefore unknowable. Some philosophies (i.e. posthumanism, Humanism, and often empiricism) generally hold that there is not an afterlife. Many religions, whether they believe in the soul’s existence in another world like Christianity, Islam and many pagan belief systems, or in reincarnation like many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, believe that one’s status in the afterlife is a reward or punishment for their conduct during life.
Eschatology is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world. While in mysticism the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine, in many traditional religions it is taught as an actual future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age]], the end time, and the end of days.
- Hastings, J., Selbie, J. A., & Gray, L. H. (1908). Encyclopædia of religion and ethics. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Page 335 - 337.
- Hegeler, E. C., & Carus, P. (1890). The Monist. La Salle, Ill. [etc.]: Published by Open Court for the Hegeler Institute. page 443.
- Moore, C.-L., & Yamamoto, K. (1988). Beyond words: movement observation and analysis. New York: Gordon and Breach. Page 57. (cf., The representation of time as a linear, unidirectional progression is a distinctly Occidental point of view.)
- Broad, C.D. (1923). Scientific Thought, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co..
- Vol.1 of Buddhist Logic, 1962, Dover: New York. 70-71.
- Future Wikia, a wiki engaged in fact-based speculations about the future
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