Nobody knows the future. Nobody. That’s the secret that the experts don’t want you to know. Here are 3 examples of expert ignorance, and why that matters for you.
1. No One Knew the Future of American Oil
For most of my life, experts have talked about American dependence on Middle Eastern oil. And then, in the past several years, something extraordinary happened: America became the world’s largest oil producer. In retrospect, it seems obvious how the shale revolution would cause us to extract oil that was previously too expensive or difficult to extract, but that’s exactly the point: in retrospect, it’s easy to see, but in the year 2000, I don’t remember that any of our experts foresaw the American oil boom of the last several years. Why? Because no one knows the future.
And then, this past year, oil prices collapsed. In Texas, where I live, lots of folks who work in the energy business are feeling that collapse, but I don’t know anyone who predicted a year ago that oil prices would fall off a cliff. Why? Because no one knows the future.
2. No One Got Ebola Right
Last fall when there a few cases of Ebola in Dallas, I remember reading the experts’ predictions that the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia might infect 1.4 million people by January 2015. Although about 10,000 people died and although the Ebola outbreak has been a disaster for the countries affected, the worst part of the experts’ predictions did not happen (thank God!). Why? Because no one knows the future.
3. But That’s Not Always Good: Look at the Cost of the Iraq War
I don’t mean to suggest that the experts’ predictions are always worse than what actually happens. Sometimes, reality turns out worse than the experts’ sanguine predictions, as the depressing example of the the cost of the Iraq War shows.
People argued in 2002-2003 about how much the Iraq War would cost, and people argue today about how much it ultimately cost, but what is absolutely certain is that it cost many many many times more than what the experts predicted in 2002-2003.
Some things never change: no one thought the Civil War would be as long or as bloody as it was, either. War planners always underestimate a war’s cost and casualties and length, except when they do the opposite.
The Experts Don’t Know What Will Happen
Here’s the point: no one knows the future, and no one knows on any particular issue whether the future will get better or get worse. Because no one knows the future, excessive worry about it is a waste of time.
Often, when experts predict the worst, things will get better in unexpected ways: be hopeful.
Often, when experts predict a rosy future, things will get worse in unexpected ways: be prudent.
Either way, remember: no one knows the future, and there is no point in worrying about it: “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).