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Is there a knowledge of the future?


Is there a knowledge of the future? This is a rhetorical question, for there is no knowledge of the future. There cannot be a knowledge of the future, as the future is not yet there, it does not exist when we think about it now, in this moment.

Yet, we who work in development (and I guess most of our economy) try  to navigate the future, we try to read into the future, to define the future  through vision statements, goals, objectives.  We think had about measurable indicators. Quantitative and qualitative sign posts and vie point that tell us ‘yes, you are on the right path, your are not lost.’    That is what drives our efforts to reduce poverty, bring more kids into school, have better hospitals in the poor and not so poor countries in the world. But is that all (a collective) wishful thinking?  A way to reassure ourselves that we have some degree of control on what can’t be controlled? After all, the future does not exist when we speak about it. And when it does exists, it has changed nature and has become the here and now. One (complex) combination, amongst many many many possibilities.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was born around 1895 (there are some disputes about the exact date) in the small town of Madanapalle in Madras Presidency (today’s Andhra Pradesh) in India. He came from a family of Brahmins and his father was employed as an official of the British colonial administration. His mother died when he was ten. As Wikipedia puts it, ‘he was a was an Indian speaker and writer on philosophical and spiritual subjects.’

He has something interesting to say about the knowledge of tomorrow:

‘Observation implies no accumulation of knowledge, even though knowledge is obviously necessary at a certain level: knowledge as a doctor, knowledge as a scientist, knowledge of history, of all the things that have been. After all, that is knowledge: information about the things that have been. There is no knowledge of tomorrow, only conjecture as to what might happen tomorrow, based on your knowledge of what has been. A mind that observes with knowledge is incapable of following swiftly the stream of thought. It is only by observing without the screen of knowledge that you begin to see the whole structure of your own thinking. And as you observe, which is not to condemn or accept, but simply to watch, you will find that thought comes to an end. Casually to observe an occasional thought leads nowhere, but if you observe the process of thinking and do not become an observer apart from the observed,if you see the whole movement of thought without accepting or condemning it,then that very observation puts an end immediately to thought, and therefore the mind is compassionate, it is in a state of constant mutation.’

Can there be that freedom when we plan, implement and evaluate (policy research) projects? if so, how would that fit in the current way of working and thinking?

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