Nguyen in section four raises an important issue about biasness in the selection of sources or subjects which could have serious implications on our work about the future. Prediction, especially in a world where uncertainty and of course greater understanding of possible incidents exist side by side, it is necessary for states and other actors to become more prepared in responding to needs such as security and financial stability. In addition, it also helps us to prepare for calamities that might or will likely affect lives and livelihoods of millions of people due to climate induced conflicts, the expansion of terrorism in particular regions, oppression of democracy, or the statelessness of certain groups, among others.
If the future is known to mankind, the possibility of altering risks and misfortunes will become almost everyone’s priority. Predicting that India or China’s rise will put even greater threat to US economic and political interest in Africa or Asia in a shorter period of time that previously anticipated -through sophisticated computer information systems and statistical methods that Tetlock and his team is using - policymakers in Washington will be alarmed to act decisively. Such knowledge enables policy leaders to focus on priorities that would have been ignored. Therefore, in predicting a possible future world, the exclusion of important facts and information; preference of certain cultures or ideologies; and the exclusion of certain groups such as culturally disadvantaged or minority groups will lead to serious alterations of what will happen, what needs to be done and or where to focus . For instance, without good prediction arising from the factors stated above, Washington’s lack of good policies towards these two continents will have serious damages on its interests.
Nguyen asked, if the future is random and indeterminate? To me, there is no straight answer to this (perhaps, I am also acting as one of those pundits Tetlock described in his paper!). However, there is both certainty and unpredictability. It depends on who answers this question. A child from a conservative Muslim home will likely talk less about the future which s/he is taught to be unknown to man. This can happen despite fact that the child gains knowledge and facts about his/her surrounding from conventional education. Another child from an African Animist home will likely believe that past and present events determine the future. Global events are both random and predictable. Events are predictable in the sense that, human actions are precipitated by needs and circumstances that influence their future behaviors. In addition, education has endowed humans with knowledge that can be utilized through complex data collection and verification methods to forecast what the future holds, partly correct or with serious distortions.
In another example, leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, for instance, could initiate surprising party reforms to provide for greater accountability to their citizens, if not entirely democratize. This random behavior could be a result of large scale unpredictable social movements and events that demand for an immediate liberalization of the political system. The regime might possibly not get away with such demands as it happened in the Tiananmen incident due to the CCP’s current quest to be seen as a modern, “civilized”, legitimate and ethical political institution.
In explaining the world, seeing it through the eyes of the “fox” will enable me to be sensitive to the many tiny things that are not considered but perhaps can have serious impacts on our values and behaviors as individuals, leaders or states. This doesn’t however mean that the hedgehog’s approach to viewing incidents is not relevant. A combination of the two will perhaps give more opportunities of seeing many things, alternatives and problems, but acting through a single and more coherent way towards problem solving. Believing in a single and big theory could enable a simpler understanding and assumption of global events in the future. But is the grand theory big enough to cover the differences, interests, or behaviors of others to enable myself, the US, NATO or the EU to predict more accurately?
Wearing the lens of the fox, I will likely see a future world that encompasses greater interaction between states and others; rising use of art or artists to promote state friendship; unions working and even possibly collaborating with corporate leaders to improve labor standards because of increased monitoring on the ethics of businesses; the universalization of contraception use and increased legalization of abortion for women’s empowerment and the impact of this on the population; greater stability or otherwise in drug producing nations, among others. These fragmented things or scenarios when put together, will probably better inform me about the future shape of our world rather than through a big theory that explains how states will share their power with other actors but without an in depth look at the smaller things causing such a scenario. Simply put, I see myself to be more sensitive to actual incidents around me.
Moving to the next point and to be very practical here, Nguyen’s query to be pessimistic or otherwise about the future depends on several factors. One’s place of birth, sex or gender, religious belief or level of faith, educational level, and other opportunities such as good health and food security influence how one views the future world. Being born female in certain cultures or countries is the beginning of a lifetime struggle of discrimination and limited opportunities. The discrimination could be felt throughout one’s life for being the other (not a son) that will have little chances of bringing hope to your already financially weak family. Among some tribes in India, you might be seen as the female child who blocked the chance of the coming of a son, who, in the future, will not require the payment of dowry for marriage and will likely gain skills that will provide social and economic security for the family. In another example, a child born and raised in one of the urban slums of Gambia or Kenya, might not be able to find any source of reliable employment at the age of thirty and beyond (which include the most productive years of one’s life). These peoples’ circumstances will define their faith in the future. Living in political systems that place little importance or interest in youth advancement or living through cultures that discriminate based on gender, these people are constrained with structural violence that will affect their perception of the future. I see the question as; how do we arrive at optimism or pessimism about the future?
Finally, an illiterate African grandmother’s best diction of guaranteeing a child that the future will be bright is: hope. The rhetorical question that will follow in such a discussion is likely: is hope not mankind’s best weapon against anxiety? To an extent, this usually gives strength to those weak and less esteemed children to carry on with life despite reality that the burden could be extremely heavy in some circumstances. The insecurity, weak financial regulations in some of those countries, brutality of certain regimes against their own people, the atrocities committed by terrorist or rebel groups from the horn to West Africa, the fast speed at which contagious epidemics could spread, the risk of crop failure due to poor rains or floods with devastating consequences of hunger, malnutrition and starvation, the use of technology by “rogue” groups or regimes to threaten the very existence of mankind, the danger of failed states and the link with trafficking and expansion of the work of drug cartels, and the increased spread of religious fundamentalism are some of the reasons why being hopeful and optimistic about the future makes little possibility. (But haven’t we come a long way?)
However, as the grandmother has pointed, despite the competitive and sometimes destructive nature of man, the best option at one’s disposal in the twenty-first century is not only to predict (where possible) but to be optimistic that more lives will be saved from disease, maternal mortality will decrease, poverty will reduce but might not fix the problem of inequality, among other positive trends. These possibilities depend on the sound utilization of resources and opportunities to safeguard certain values we uphold, but experts, and non-experts like the grandmother described above, could be little more than lucky to accurately predict what the future holds, Tetlock revealed. This said, the NIC and its cousin reports about our future become relevant resources to enable us engage in our continuous search and dialogue about values (but beyond liberty, pluralism, peace and justice) to promote progress of all humans, anywhere and anytime.