Updated date:

Past Tendencies

Aydasara Ortega Torres is a Faculty Member of Psychology at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

Past Tendencies

past-tendencies

Of All Kinds

As thinkers, researchers, artists … humans of all kinds, we think of the future by analyzing the past, tracing its changes and transformations.

Oh, my life is changing everyday
In every possible way

Of The Most Useful

Not only because the past remains one of the most useful analytical tools for coping with constant change but also given that it is a permanent dimension of human consciousness, “an inevitable component of the institutions, values and other patterns of human society.” (Hobsbawm, 1998)

Thus, to be a member of any human community is to situate oneself with regard to one's past - its past - “if only by rejecting it.”

Of The Future

As such, the extrapolation of past tendencies into the future has been “the most convenient and popular method of prediction.” By searching the process of past development for clues, the shape of the future is discerned as history becomes essential to discover what it will be like.

I’ve spoken to people who want climate model information, but they’re not really sure what they’re asking me for. So I say to them, “Suppose I tell you that some event will happen with a probability of 60% in 2030. Will that be good enough for you, or will you need 70%? Or would you need 90%? What level of information do you want out of climate model projections in order to be useful?” MIT Technology Review

Of Change

Nonetheless, the capacity to discern general tendencies from the past does not imply the capacity to forecast their precise outcome in the complex and - at times - unknown circumstances of the future. Finding out “what actually happened” does not replace the construction of adequate social models with or without historical enquiry.

When it comes to the future, you have two choices. You can sit back and think “It’s not happening to me” and build a great big wall to keep out all the bad news. Or you can build windmills and harness the winds of change.

Of My Voice

© 2021 Aydasara Ortega Torres