Predicting the Future
Predicting the Future is Very Hard
What we are trying to do is harder than you think.
We do it all the time
Predicting the future is something that people do all the time. The surprising thing is how bad we are at it. A thousand monkeys with typewriters could probably do as well.
If we could do it well, it would have been of immense value to us in the evolutionary past. We never evolved the knack, so it must be a very hard thing to do indeed. As Yogi Berra said: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
High rates of change
This problem is made much worse in our modern society by the high and exponential rates of change. Today technology is driving societal change faster than any time in recorded human history.
The exponential effect is practically hard to deal with. A good example is Moore's law which states that the number of transistors in a commercial integrated circuit chip doubles about every two years. This then drives run away changes in computer power and world communication.
We consider the amount of change that occurred in the 20th century as a change unit of one. If we then look at the amount of change from known exponential effects in the first 25 years of the 21st century, we can expect five units of change. By the end of the 21st century we could expect 200.
Society is simply going to have great difficulty dealing with change at this rate. Settling the Moon could be a minor accomplishment against this background of mind boggling change.
This effect also makes it useless to try to predict the future beyond a few tens of years except in the most general terms. Perhaps one reason for even trying is to help us mentally handle the high rage of change.
A few good people
A few people do seem to have the knack of predicting the future. The writers Jules Vern and Arthur C. Clark both did amazingly well at predicting the future. Perhaps predicting the future is an individual talent that a few people have. Perhaps we are looking for those few people. Or maybe they just got lucky. Or maybe their vision let a new idea come into being.
Lunarpedia and the future
What we are doing here is not so much trying to accurately predict the future as to provide a positive vision of the future that people can work toward. Nothing helps us deal with problems so much as being in positive action.
It does not matter that the particular future we envision happens and we must not get entangled with others over hair-splitting details of things that have not happened.
If we give people a positive vision of the future, people will get into action and some positive version of the future will then happen.
There are a lot more ideas on the Purposes List.
There are some things everyone knows about predicting the future. The relative positions of the Earth, Luna, and Mars can be accurately predicted a thousand years into the future. A tossed die will land generally with one of the six faces horizontal on top, but predicting in what order the particular numbers of spots will be displayed in a number of tosses is impossible. For events in general, predictability lies somewhere in a range from cinch to impossible and one of the secrets of prophesy lies in knowing what can be predicted.
Sometimes years of study or experience allow someone to realize certain things are reasonably predictable when the average citizen would not realize this. So some people get wealthy in the stock market. Sometimes predictions are more resistant to being proven wrong if they are qualified on some other less predictable event. So I predict that there will be underground public transportation on Luna if the population exceeds one hundred thousand. That's a reasonably safe prediction because we know that going through an airlock to use a private vehicle on the surface of Luna will be considerable trouble and expense. So the choice of using public transportation in the form of a subway through an air filled sealed tunnel would be relatively more likely than using a subway on Earth. We do not know that there will ever be one hundred thousand people on Luna. On the contrary we know that to be economically self supporting; to manufacture underground greenhouses for agriculture, to closely control very thorough recycling of air, water, and waste and to produce exports to pay for it all; industry on Luna will need to be much more automated than industry on Earth today. There might be less than a thousand people on Luna including spouses and children while industry churns out thousands of tons of solar cells, aluminum electrical wire, bricks, fiber glass, structural metals and other products sent off to habitats that sail around the sun in their own orbits. There could be just too few people for a public transportation system.
We do not know all the details of a future lunar settlement, but we could make a prediction of that settlement more likely by contributing to making it happen. Henry Ford was able to predict an automobile that the common man could afford and then organize all the needed inputs of labor, capital and expertise to make the prediction come true. We can not all be Henry Ford but if a person does nothing more than be a reasonably law abiding citizen, that is a contribution to man's future in space. That justifies cheering when and if the first mass driver comes on line on Luna. We do not know that the right decisions will be made to make it possible. We do not know that we will avoid being sidetracked into catastrophic war. The uncertainty makes it more exciting. Keep on hoping. Keep on trying. Perhaps we will make it through these interesting times.