The Pursuit of Destiny: A History of Prediction

The Pursuit of Destiny: A History of Prediction

The Pursuit of Destiny: A History of Prediction

The Pursuit of Destiny: A History of Prediction

Synopsis

In The Pursuit of Destiny, physicist Paul Halpern brings a scientist's eye to questions of time and fate, tracing the history of forecasting from its roots in ancient mysticism to its development as a modern science. As Halpern explains, the desire to foretell the future is an integral part of what makes us human. Newtonian mechanics offered the tantalizing possibility of describing nature as a clockwork mechanism, but twentieth-century scientific discoveries, such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Einstein's flexible concepts of past, present, and future, undermined this rigid notion. Scientists today grapple with formidable barriers to knowledge, hoping to extend prediction's frontiers. Drawing on modern theories of complexity, chaos theory, quantum theory, and relativity, Halpern explores the latest methods of scientific, social, and technological forecasting. How much of the future is inevitable? When are predictions most likely to succeed? Does time even exist? An intriguing look at the potential limits to our ability to forecast, The Pursuit of Destiny is an eloquent testament to our very human need to try.

Excerpt


The Shape of Things to Come

All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done
is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See this is new"?
It has been here already,
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen
among those who come after.

--ECCLESIASTES 1.8-11

Yearning for the Future

From the moment of conception until the instant of annihilation, the currents of time pull us slowly and steadily forward. As much as we strive to break free, to witness what lies ahead, we are completely encapsulated in the ark of the present moment. Seemingly powerless to alter the pace of our journeys through time, we simply ride them out, never knowing with certainty what will transpire next.

Nonetheless, the desire to foretell, understand, and ultimately explore the future is an integral part of what makes us human. We are . . .

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