George Walford: We Predict the Future

One of the less intelligent everyday remarks is that we cannot predict the future. In fact we not only can but are constantly doing so, and could not live sensibly otherwise. For the most part our predictions remain unexpressed in words, but they appear from our actions. Every time we make a plan, buy anything, lend or borrow money, work through the week to be paid at the end of it, appoint somebody to do something or set out to go somewhere, in fact every time we engage in any purposeful course of action, we are relying on a prediction of the future.

The method used to reach the prediction is always the same. Study the past, including any indications it may contain of a forthcoming change of direction, derive a curve and extend it forward. Such projections can always be upset by “wild cards,” but there are two things to say about these: First, the only reason for expecting them to appear is that they have done so in the past; even in allowing for them we are projecting the past forward. Second, they are wild, their effects by definition unpredictable; by accepting this, recognising that however thorough and careful our studies may be the best we can ever do is to establish a probability – NIAT, after all – we take them into account.

In social affairs this same method is used, although the predictions reached tend to be more explicit, and to extend over longer periods than is common in personal life. Here, however, another factor comes into prominence. Social predictions fall into distinct categories, and on examination the distinguishing features of these turn out to depend upon the respective ideologies of those making them. As the two great ideological classes look back in order to derive the curve to be projected, each sees its own tendencies as embodying the real, solid substance of society and consequently expects these to predominate in future. The eidostatics tend to anticipate a mainly stable society and the eidodynamics a radically dynamic one.

Systematic ideology does not claim to be free of ideological influences; it rather aims at taking them all into account instead of allowing any of them to affect it unawares. In the present connection this gives, for the social future, a prediction of dynamic stability.

from Ideological Commentary 51, May 1991.