If prostitution wins the title of the oldest profession, it’s only because its closest rival probably appears less titillating. And yet, people have been making a profession out of predicting the future even longer than they’ve been paying someone for the next 30 minutes of it. The Ancients used everything from tea leaves and entrails to sun spots and dice. Our yearning need for certainty is frankly just as compelling as it is for satisfaction.
But how to find it in a topsy-turvy world…? Whereas most of our religions promise the certitude of some combination of reward & punishment , Shakespeare scorns the very idea: “Life is a tale told by a fool full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
As soon as humanity discovered the zero, numbers began to fall neatly into place with the sort of precision and predictability unknown before. Mathematics was soon said to be the song of the gods, and today algorithms the Mozart of mathematics. An algorithm is a precise step-by-step, computer-science formula crunching numbers in order to project a precise result. Whatever the hell that actually means, it seems to mean I can see my future!
Most of us are no more equipped to fathom this numerical wizardry than our ancestors were to understand the soothsayers of their times. But one thing’s for certain. Anyone who can peer into our future is quickly held in awe, addressed with a mix of fear and respect.
While the child in us craves to see what the next card is, the adult in us frets about the Joker or the Ace of Spades that may be hiding in the pack. We’re a peculiar audience. We want to know what’s up ahead, but if it’s all the same to you, just the good stuff. Most of us weary adults have been on a bad streak ever since the day we heard the one about Santa. That was a real back-breaker, know what I mean…!
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