Personal Official Futures

Reacting to the same news I posted on yesterday, the pseudonymous Chirol at Coming Anarchy observed;

Each individual has what is called an ‘official future’ they imagine. It is essentially a compilation of assumptions usually based on extending current trends into the future in a linear way. That means assuming the US Dollar will remain the world’s reserve currency because it is now, or that Russia and the US will always be adversaries, that China will rise, or that the West will always be dominant politically and culturally. These assumptions are dangerous because they create a bias that blinds regular citizens, analysts and policy makers to alternatives and to key indicators of change.

That’s an idea that’s novel to me but I think it’s useful. Is that common knowledge? I’d appreciate knowing its source.

It made me start thinking. What’s in my official future? I’ll need to reflect long and hard to identify my assumptions about the contours of what will happen globally in the future. I think they’re less in the form of discrete, isolated beliefs and events than larger operating principles. So, for example, I tend to believe that genuine changes in the character of nations are extremely rare. Russia will remain Russia; China will remain China; the United States will continue to be the United States.

Occasionally, there are real turning points in history in which a nation will turn away from its past. The French Revolution may have been one such although, as Mao Tse Tung noted, it’s too early to tell. Contrariwise I don’t think the Russian Revolution really changed Russia nor do I think that, however hard they may have tried, the Chinese Communists have changed China’s essential character.

I invite commenters to share their own official futures. Serious answers preferred!

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. tom p says:

    the United States will continue to be the United States.

    I always kinda thought of the US revolution as “a turning point in history”, but as to:

    It is essentially a compilation of assumptions usually based on extending current trends into the future in a linear way.

    I think that is almost a default position of the human psyche because the unknown is always scary, so we tend make assumptions based upon what we know.

    I think they’re less in the form of discrete, isolated beliefs and events than larger operating principles.

    is about as close to the truth of it as one gets and leads to tuff questions to answer.

    I invite commenters to share their own official futures.

    Here’s one of mine Dave, and it is a personal one: I am a carpenter, been one most of my adult life (25 yrs +) I cannot imagine being anything else. Over the yrs I have seen good years and I have seen bad yrs. In the good times I always stash as much money as I can to tide me over the bad times because I know they are coming(I saw this recession coming a yr ago)(I was not prescient, the signs were there for all). But these times…. There is such a glut of housing on the market, and it is growing every day, I have to wonder, will I make it thru it? If I don’t, what will I become?

    And truth be told, I can’t even see the other side of that equation.

  2. tom p says:

    On the not so personal side, Israel-Palestine. Israeli’s will always be Jews, first and foremost, and Palestinians will always be the bastard children of the Middle East that nobody wants, but everybody uses.

  3. Brett says:

    I think it’s a good point – that things can come along and knock you upside the head, because you didn’t see the trees for the forest. Mexico becoming a failed state is one of them, although I question that possibility – what is more likely is that the government will eventually reach an “accommodation” with the drug cartels, that if they lay off the kidnapping and extortions the Mexican government will do little to nothing about the drug trade (although the US would be screaming).

    But then, that could be me literally thinking again. The “Coming Anarchy” person could be right, and you shouldn’t discount that scenario. For all we know, one of the gangs could assassinate Felipe Calderon tomorrow, causing a complete collapse in the will to enforce the war on drugs down there if follow-up assassinations of other key officials came next. At which point the Mexican government would be in complete disarray, and would effectively lose control of several states in addition to the ones they’ve already lost (like Sinaloa).

    If that caused a mass panic and a collapse in Mexico’s economy, then you would have major movement northward, coupled with open rebellion from some of Mexico’s northern states. For all we know, Obama’s major foreign policy issue in 2011 won’t be finishing up in Iraq – it will be stabilizing Mexico with the help of the nearly defunct Mexican government.

    That’s extremely pessimistic, and I think it is unlikely – but you don’t know. It would certainly be extremely dangerous for trade worldwide, since one of the US’s possible major reactions would be to clamp down heavily on all immigration.

  4. Brett says:

    Sorry, didn’t answer your question, Dave!

    I guess my official future is that

    A)China won’t fall apart into anarchy and chaos in the wake of economic disaster, even though it fell into warlordism as late as the late 19th century/early 20th century, if I recall correctly from the biography I read of Mao Tse-Tung.

    B)Russia won’t further fragment into smaller pieces – something which a Russian I’ve corresponded with said was a real possibility back in the early to mid 1990s, with the first suppression of Chechnya being such a fiasco.

    C)The United Kingdom probably won’t fragment into a Republic of Scotland and an England with a restless Wales attachment.

    D)Mexico won’t completely collapse, leading to warfare, violence, disease, and poverty unseen in that country since the Revolution of 1910 (which led to the death of over 10% of the population), and immigration completely unprecedented to the US (not to mention a major US reaction, probably including a military intervention).

    E)Pakistan probably won’t implode completely and fall under the control of the Waziristanis, leading India to nuke the country out of existence in order to prevent its nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of jihadists.

    F)Jihadists probably won’t overthrow the government of Saudi Arabia, leading to devastation on the oil markets. This is one that I’ve heard talked about by several authors, including Robert Baer, and one of the founding guys of Delta Force (who said in one of his books back in 2005 that CIA reports said that the Royal regime in Saudi Arabia probably wouldn’t survive the next five years).

    G)The super-volcano under Yellowstone probably won’t have a full-blown eruption causing a serious cooldown and the virtual death of half of the United States.

  5. rodney dill says:

    Expect change to continue