TED Conversations

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

There are no facts in the future

Fact-oriented behavior is considered rational and methodical by many, especially technocrats. But facts exist entirely in the past. The human future is composed of what we intend to do, what is likely or probable, what we assume and what we believe. The human future is completely devoid of facts. When this simple fact is ignored, it has a huge effect on how people (even technocrats) launch initiatives. People often fail to distinguish between "that's how things are" and "that's how they have been in the past". Shaping the future requires abandoning fact oriented thinking EXCEPT to the extent that facts from the past can shape our assumptions and beliefs. We can look at Oklahoma tornadoes from last week (i.e., a fact) and create an assumption "I should build a better basement shelter" or "I should leave Oklahoma". Neither of these has any facts but the divergent assumptions have a huge impact on the person's future. The tornado doesn't know the difference and doesn't care.

+1
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jun 4 2013: What about constants such as mathematics. 1+1=2, now, in the past and wait........ now it is the future, yep 1+1 still =2. Might be taking your thoughts a little bit out of context Ashwath. Especially if you mainly mean people, not physics, natural environments etc.
    In terms of people, you are right, there is no certainty for what is our future. Though that said, I do believe that our futures are created from our actions of today. There are too, exceptions as well. These are not readily explained, however, it has been recorded that some people will get visions of a future event before it happens. As time unfolds, that vision transpires and so effectively they have foreseen a future fact!
    I agree that shaping a future does to an extent require letting go of the past, as otherwise you keep getting the same result if you keep doing the same thing. To shape something differently new ways of thinking need to be incorporated and old ideas challenged, with the hope of making new innovations and creations.
    All of us live only in the present and as such because the future is always out of our reach it is empty! :D
    • thumb
      Jun 7 2013: Math is not a constant it does not exist in the physical world we see and live in. Technically there is nothing that is 100% identical to another in the physical world. Math is only a constant on paper.

      http://www.ted.com/conversations/13925/is_our_math_wrong_is_it_our_a.html
      • thumb
        Jun 10 2013: What????? That sooooo doesn't even make sense! Justify your last comment so that you postively refute that 1+1 does not = 2 and don't tell me that it = a window! Mathematics in human history is A BIG DEAL. You need now to back up your statement with something pretty convincing, as I'm pretty sure if you counted one physical person sitting on any bus plus another sitting on that same physically identical bus, you would have 2 people on the bus!
        • thumb
          Jun 10 2013: Yes, you would have 2 people, of a very general category. But they would not be identical in any other category of then some arbitrary one that we call people. Now can you show me 2 people that are 100% perfectly similar even down to the way that their molecules atoms and cells move in their body exactly the same? Then you could prove to me that their is 2 people. And not just some vague construct

          Also check out that ted talk it is all right there
        • thumb
          Jun 11 2013: Here is a paper form or what mathematics like to call a proof by Jon Ho taken from that ted conversation

          Our maths aren't wrong, its reality itself that defies definition. For example, why is the result of a division by zero is undefined? The reason is the fact that any attempt at a definition leads to a contradiction.

          To begin with, how do we define division? The ratio r of two numbers a and b:
          r=a/b
          is that number r that satisfies
          a=r*b.

          Well, if b=0, i.e., we are trying to divide by zero, we have to find a number r such that r*0=a. (1)
          But r*0=0
          for all numbers r, and so unless a=0 there is no solution of equation (1).

          Now you could say that r=infinity satisfies (1). That's a common way of putting things, but what's infinity? It is not a number! Why not? Because if we treated it like a number we'd run into contradictions. Ask for example what we obtain when adding a number to infinity. The common perception is that infinity plus any number is still infinity. If that's so, then

          infinity = infinity+1 = infinity + 2
          which would imply that 1 equals 2 if infinity was a number. That in turn would imply that all integers are equal, for example, and our whole number system would collapse!

          So, what now? How about 0/0?

          I said above that we can't solve the equation (1) unless a=0. So, in that case, what does it mean to divide by zero? Again, we run into contradictions if we attempt to assign any number to 0/0. Let's call the result of 0/0, z, if it made sense. z would have to satisfy:
          z*0=0. (2)

          That's OK as far as it goes, any number z satisfies that equation. But it means that the result of 0/0 could be anything. We could argue that it's 1, or 2, and again we have a contradiction since 1 does not equal 2
        • thumb
          Jun 11 2013: Continued, silly character limitation -

          But perhaps there is a number z satisfying (2) that's somehow special and we just have not identified it? So here is a slightly more subtle approach. Division is a continuous process. Suppose b and c are both non-zero. Then, in a sense that can be made precise. the ratios a/b and a/c will be close if b and c are close. A similar statement applies to the numerator of a ratio (except that it may be zero.)

          So now assume that 0/0 has some meaningful numerical value (whatever it may be - we don't know yet), and consider a situation where both a and b in the ratio a/b become smaller and smaller. As they do the ratio should become closer and closer to the unknown value of 0/0.

          There are many ways in which we can choose a and b and let them become smaller. For example, suppose that a=b throughout the process. For example, we might pick

          a=b = 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, ....
          Since

          a=b,
          for all choices of a we get the ratio 1 every time! This suggests that 0/0 should equal 1. But we could just as well pick

          b = 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, ....
          and let a be twice as large as b. Then the ratio is always 2! So 0/0 should equal 2. But we just said it should equal 1! In fact, by letting a be r times as large as b we could get any ratio r we please!

          So again we run into contradictions, and therefore we are compelled to

          let 0/0 be undefined.

          So, yeah, zero does not exist, unless if you studied calculus and learn about Rule of L'Hôpital. Which then gets pretty whacky and my hands are all tired from typing and steering this spaceship at the same time so I am ashamed to tell you to just Wikipedia it. Sorry.
    • Jun 8 2013: Remember that for 2000 years it was a "fact" that there was no square root for minus one. Once it was realized that this was merely an ASSUMPTION, someone made the opposite assumption and opened the door to a totally new world of complex math. (With huge implications in fluid mechanics, telecom engineering, etc.)
      • thumb
        Jun 11 2013: And zero at the as the starting point of our number system is a relatively new concept
    • thumb
      Jun 17 2013: It's a matter of convention. 1 is a number. 2 is a number. + is an operation. These can be defined in whatever way we choose. There are common conventions - that's true. But they are conventions. Using a different set of conventions, I can say that 1+1=10.

      Mathematical "facts" are not facts, they represent ideas. What these ideas represent in reality - is up to us. 1 box of tea may have 6 packs inside, each of them has 20 small bags. So, when you say "1", it can be any number.

      Without context, there is no meaning.

      "Arthur: Six by nine? Forty-two? You know, I've always felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Universe.
      (Faint and distant voice:) Base thirteen!"

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.