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What is the Difference Between the Present and the Future?

A look through the quote space in an attempt to wrest knowledge of the present from the future

Bram Adams
Bram Adams
7 min read
What is the Difference Between the Present and the Future?

Table of Contents

Video

What is the Present (time)?

Life is divided into three periods — that which has been, that which is, that which will be.  Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.
-- On the Shortness of Life

similarity = 0.844252258211633


All our life is lived in today. Right now. This second. And this second. And this second.
-- Hear Yourself: How to Find Peace in a Noisy World

similarity = 0.839689504046193


It simply makes no sense to ask which moment in the life of your sister on Proxima b corresponds to now. It is like asking which football team has won a basketball championship, how much money a swallow has earned, or how much a musical note weighs. They are nonsensical questions because football teams play football, not basketball; swallows do not busy themselves earning money; sounds cannot be weighed. “Basketball champions” refers to a team of basketball players, not to footballers. Monetary profit refers to human society, not to swallows. The notion of “the present” refers to things that are close to us, not to anything that is far away. Our “present” does not extend throughout the universe. It is like a bubble around us.
-- The Order of Time

similarity = 0.83235512784951


What is the Future (time)?

Life is divided into three periods — that which has been, that which is, that which will be.  Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.
-- On the Shortness of Life

similarity = 0.849227095046649


Most people, deep down, believe that the future is a blank. Yet the truth is that we can assign probabilities to some of the changes that lie in store for us, especially certain large structural changes, and there are ways to use this knowledge in designing personal stability zones. We can, for example, predict with certainty that unless death intervenes, we shall grow older; that our children, our relatives and friends will also grow older; and that after a certain point our health will begin to deteriorate. Obvious as this may seem, we can, as a result of this simple statement, infer a great deal about our lives one, five or ten years hence, and about the amount of change we will have to absorb in the interim.
-- Future Shock

similarity = 0.842395489201116


The future of civilization is unknowable, because the knowledge that is going to affect it has yet to be created.
-- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

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Is Knowledge Creation Increasing?

Francis Bacon told us that "Knowledge … is power." This can now be translated into contemporary terms. In our social setting, "Knowledge is change"—and accelerating knowledge-acquisition, fueling the great engine of technology, means accelerating change.
-- Future Shock

similarity = 0.833455955771969


in modern knowledge work, nothing is ever static.
-- Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency

similarity = 0.831262291903682


Throughout human history, progress has been loosely correlated to how easy it is for the average person to create—and access—knowledge.
-- The Only Skill that Matters: The Proven Methodology to Read Faster, Remember More, and Become a SuperLearner

similarity = 0.831252604396405


What is the Information Rate of the Present?

Society is steadily moving from a material goods society to an information service society. At the time of the American Revolution, say 1780 or so, over 90% of the people were essentially farmers—now farmers are a very small percentage of workers. Similarly, before wwii most workers were in factories—now less than half are there. In 1993, there were more people in government (excluding the military) than there were in manufacturing! What will the situation be in 2020? As a guess I would say less than 25% of the people in the civilian workforce will be handling things; the rest will be handling information in some form or other. In making a movie or a tv program you are making not so much a thing, though of course it does have a material form, as you are organizing information. Information is, of course, stored in a material form, say a book (the essence of a book is information), but information is not a material good to be consumed like food, a house, clothes, an automobile, or an airplane ride for transportation.
-- The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn

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Information was a substance as old as the first living cell and as new as the latest technology.
-- The Dream Machine

similarity = 0.794657208782802


Herbert Simon, an American economist and cognitive psychologist, wrote, “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”
-- Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential

similarity = 0.789171365554755


Does Knowledge Degrade or Mutate Over Time?

INFORMATION DECAYS or, as Professor Whitehead has so aptly put it: KNOWLEDGE DOES NOT KEEP ANY BETTER THAN FISH
-- SYSTEMANTICS. THE SYSTEMS BIBLE

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in modern knowledge work, nothing is ever static.
-- Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency

similarity = 0.832730457854834


knowledge held immune from criticism never can be improved!
-- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

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How Does Evolution Work Against Selection?

In his book The Mating Mind, the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller gives a promising answer. Miller argues that while ecological selection (the pressure to survive) abhors waste, sexual selection often favors it.
-- The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life

similarity = 0.830198097990306


Bizarre as this may sound, in evolutionary terms it is quite normal. Most species do not change their habits during their few million years on earth or alter their lifestyle much in different parts of their range. Natural selection is a conservative force. It spends more of its time keeping species the same than changing them. Only towards the edge of its range, on an isolated island, or in a remote valley or on a lonely hill top, does natural selection occasionally cause part of a species to morph into something different.
-- The Rational Optimist

similarity = 0.827179992160038


biological evolution often reaches ‘local maxima of fitness’.
-- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

similarity = 0.81833011227834


What is the Difference Between Life and Space Objects?

Almost all the atoms in intergalactic space are hydrogen or helium, so there is no chemistry. No life could have evolved there, nor any intelligence. Nothing changes there. Nothing happens. The same is true of the next cube and the next, and if you were to examine a million consecutive cubes in any direction the story would be the same.
-- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

similarity = 0.810503432089882


He looked at the stars again, and he realized that it’s not the stars that create light, but rather light that creates the stars. “Everything is made of light,” he said, “and the space in-between isn’t empty.” And he knew that everything that exists is one living being, and that light is the messenger of life, because it is alive and contains all information.
-- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)

similarity = 0.804098995659638


Time and space are real phenomena. But they are in no way absolute; they are not at all independent from what happens; they are not as different from the other substances of the world, as Newton had imagined them to be.
-- The Order of Time

similarity = 0.802169029625823


Is the Future Probability and How Do Living Things Fight it and Death?

Most people, deep down, believe that the future is a blank. Yet the truth is that we can assign probabilities to some of the changes that lie in store for us, especially certain large structural changes, and there are ways to use this knowledge in designing personal stability zones. We can, for example, predict with certainty that unless death intervenes, we shall grow older; that our children, our relatives and friends will also grow older; and that after a certain point our health will begin to deteriorate. Obvious as this may seem, we can, as a result of this simple statement, infer a great deal about our lives one, five or ten years hence, and about the amount of change we will have to absorb in the interim.
-- Future Shock

similarity = 0.847018959922583


Systematic knowledge of the current range of human lifespans has made that range seem natural. Today our society is permeated by the twin ideas that death is both inevitable and random.
-- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

similarity = 0.838486878509766


Dealing with the future is all about 1) perceiving and adapting to what is happening, even if it can’t be anticipated; 2) coming up with probabilities for what might happen; and 3) knowing enough about what might happen to protect oneself against the unacceptable, even if one can’t do that perfectly.
-- Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail

similarity = 0.826944084910054


How Do We Prevent Extinction?

one day the genes of a rare species could survive its extinction by causing themselves to be stored on a computer and then implanted into a cell of a different species.
-- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

similarity = 0.82127374161198


Even life on Earth will eventually be extinguished, unless people decide otherwise. Only people can rely on themselves into the unbounded future.
-- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

similarity = 0.813120434618855


Secondly, when climate change causes mass extinctions, sea creatures are usually hit as hard as land dwellers. Yet there is no evidence of any significant disappearance of oceanic fauna 45,000 years ago. Human involvement can easily explain why the wave of extinction obliterated the terrestrial megafauna of Australia while sparing that of the nearby oceans. Despite its burgeoning navigational abilities, Homo sapiens was still overwhelmingly a terrestrial menace.
-- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

similarity = 0.812011160343256


Tragedy of the Commons Evolution of Science and Capital?

The tragedy of the commons actually stems from two linked problems, one of overuse and another of underprovision. On the demand side, the commons situation encourages a race to the bottom by overuse—what economists call a congested-public-good problem. On the supply side, the commons rewards free-rider behavior—removing or diminishing incentives for individual actors to invest in developing more pasturage.
-- The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

similarity = 0.871265160035131


The tragedy of the commons predicts only three possible outcomes. One is the sea of mud. Another is for some actor with coercive power to enforce an allocation policy on behalf of the village (the communist solution). The third is for the commons to break up as village members fence off bits they can defend and manage sustainably (the property-rights solution).
-- The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

similarity = 0.870863170071187


The “tragedy of the commons,” as exposed by economists, is as follows—the commons being a collective property, say, a forest or fishing waters or your local public park. Collectively, farmers as a community prefer to avoid overgrazing, and fishermen overfishing—the entire resource becomes thus degraded. But every single individual farmer would personally gain from his own overgrazing or overfishing under, of course, the condition that others don’t. And that is what plagues socialism: people’s individual interests do not quite work well under collectivism. But it is a critical mistake to think that people can function only under a private property system.
-- Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

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Bram Adams

writer, programmer

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