Brain Food #576

The End of History Illusion

Thoughts of the day

Humans broadly have an inability to predict how something that happens today might change the future. Sci-fi writers will beg to differ, but broadly speaking, it may have been impossible to imagine, more than ten years ago, how the seemingly innocent emergence of social media could be playing a major political role in our lives today, how vaccine technology could be entirely recreated, how wearables could become inseparable from ourselves, and going back a little further in time, how new religions and beliefs would be so widely adopted.

We always think we are at ‘the end of history’; a term coined by political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who predicted that liberal democracy was the final form of government.

A group of psychologists researched this phenomenon to discover that we not only fail to predict how the innovations and events of the present will change the future, but also how our future selves will be entirely different from who we are today. We are bound to change, and we are bound to underestimate that change. Our personality traits, values, and preferences can change. How do we pick the right career path, the right partner, the right place to live, for our future selves?

This can be a daunting thought, but also a reassuring one. We are not at the end of history, and we are far from being at the end of our own personal stories. History is being made every day, and we have the chance to shape it, in the same way that our very self is still also in the making, and our choices today may very well impact who we will be tomorrow.

Understanding our trajectory may come from mapping out our path so far. To tell our stories to others, even to ourselves, and to go back to them every once in a while, and see what narrative emerges.

“What the History is really about lies behind this: man, giant-sized, seen against the background of the entire world, universalized in his conflict with destiny, the gods, and the cosmic order. The medium that is most fertile in showing the true nature of reality is the human mind, remembering, reflective, and fertile most of all when its memory and reflection are put at the service of its dreaming and fantastic side.”
— Herodotus, widely known as the father of History

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