The Future of History

Out of the uncountably many possibilities that might actually happen, those events that do become in some sense encoded in (and as) spacetime and personal or shared historical memory are often as difficult to unambiguously define as the futures they came from. Just as forecasting future events is deeply infused with uncertainty and complexity, the retrospective analysis of prior facts is riddled with bias and ambiguity.

We might say that the past represents a different kind of complexity from the future but in our often unspoken belief in the sensibly continuous and causal thread we might trace through the evidence available to us, we can only generate meaning as a function of the suppression of causal agents and influences. This narrative compression has a tendency to convince us that the limited sub-set of factors which make a history (as assertion of shared memory) intelligible are also the key probabilistic factors that determine the future.

Such a procedural caricature is useful but also embodies a profoundly incorrect assessment of the actual complexity and autonomously self-propagating nature of culture and technological civilisation. The stories of history we settle upon tend to shape the future in ways not dissimilar to how personal experience shapes the arc and trajectory of our lives. It is critically important to remember that any narrative, any description is only ever one arc and trajectory in the vast and hyper-inflating space of all possible explanations or descriptions of the past.

While we require narrative caricatures and referential anchors, we also do very well to remember that while they are signs and pointers towards a future that they do not obligate us to accept or be in any way imprisoned by as though trapped in the most likely forecasts we might infer from them. The past is in many ways as undefined (or probabilistically undefinable) as the future. This fundamentally irreducible uncertainty, incompleteness, undecidability and complex adaptive openness of reality is the essence of our individual and collective freedoms.

In all things that our shared future is not captive of, in or to any memory or simplistic revisitation of the past.

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