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Human behavior and prophecy

Reader comment on item: Musing on History
in response to reader comment: plenty of positives

Submitted by Michael S (United States), Sep 1, 2015 at 03:30

Hi, Waz. You said,

That's hyperbole. A computer cannot possibly 'know' what you're thinking - besides - it has no brain/machine interface. And a search engine is even ore crippled. How can a search engine possibly know the very next question I will ask it? Observe your own interaction with google - you don't have any idea what your next question will be - or what will trigger it. It could be 'number of juvenile white rhinoceros in US zoos' - or 'formula for radius of circle inscrbed in equilateral triangle'.

I did not come up with this notion. It was said in all seriousness, by experts in the field. You asked how this could happen. It's a matter of statistics: Humans are incredibly predictable; so much so, that it would amaze you if you realized it. For instance, the state Department of Transportation has no idea what you plan to do when you get into your motorcar; but it can accurately plan around traffic patterns calculated by mathematical probabilities of when and where the "average person" will be driving at any given time.

What's even more significant, is the fact that once the DOT has engineered highways around established traffic patterns, it actually forces drivers to continue in those patterns. They might find in a study, for instance, that there is a great deal of traffic between Sydney and Newcastle. Once they have paved and widened the highway between those two cities, however, that traffic flow will actually increase because drivers will gravitate toward the better roads.

Search engines such as Google make ample use of this phenomenon. Searchers for a certain product, for instance, might gravitate towards brands A, B and C. Google might then cause A, B and C to come up first in searches for that product. Not surprisingly, this will delight most searchers because they would have wanted to go to those sites anyway; and Google will have "served" them by getting them there as quickly as possible. It would be as though Google could "read their minds". Meanwhile, those contrary searchers who wanted brands E, F and G will be frustrated because they cannot find what they were looking for; but they will be in the minority. Ultimately, they will find it expedient to be satisfied with A, B and C; and their preferences will become more "normal".

Statistics is used in Chemistry. It is the basis of Molecular Orbital Theory. Nobody knows where an electron is and where it is headed at the same time; but extremely precise predictions can be made about the probability of its present location. Using your example, you might make consecutive searches for 'number of juvenile white rhinoceros in US zoos' , then 'formula for radius of circle inscrbed in equilateral triangle'; but you are far more likely to make consecutive searches for things you are intererested in. This is such a compelling rule, that has led companies are to invest large sums of money in targeted advertizing on the search engines based on it.

You continued,

I can see how you think that - but we are creating the future each day. It hasn't 'happened' yet - it is a product of what we do collectively each moment.

As individuals, we have the illusion of free choice, though in reality we usually only have the "choice" of the lesser of two evils. In the last US Presidential election, for instance, I favored several Republican candidates, none of which was George Romney. By the time I got to vote in the Oregon Primary, however, my practical choices boiled down to 1) Romney and 2) "no". Not surprizingly, Romney won the Oregon Republican Primary by a landslide.

Yes, we have free choice. Jesus faced the choice of either confessing that he was a liar or going to the cross. He chose the cross; and if he hadn't risen from the dead, we would not have heard any more of him or of the things he had to say. There are few who would have chosen as he did, for obvious reasons. Some have chosen a martyr's death rather than recanting: Men like John Hus and William Tyndale; but they are in the extreme minority.

You continued,

"Would you rather pound a rock with a sledgehammer - or jackhammer? Use a candle or Led light?"

Frankly, I have never used a jackhammer; but I took out my sidewalk a few years back using a 16 pound sledge. The candle/ LED example is more salient: We have many candles around the house, and have been known to use them when we didn't need to; but we light our sidewalk with a motion-activated LED lamp. In each case, it's obviously a matter of cost vs. benefit; and cost can be driven by availability. Most people in the US use motorcars instead of horses; but that's because the country has been engineered around motorcars. If we didn't have a modern highway system, horses would be much more popular -- as they are, for instance, in the hinterlands of Northern California's "Lost Coast".

"...certainly peoples' expectations of the world they lived in were very different in 1937 than they were in 1941."

Indeed -- especially for Jews. Good point. You went on,

"This brings us to the question - if anyone ever has succesfully predicted the future - then the future must have already happened. If it has already happened - how much of a part does personal responsibility and volition play? No matter how much or how little you do - the outcome is fixed."

The outcome is highly predicatble for the masses; and yes, humans have an amazing way of repeating history. Jesus said,

Luke 6:
[26] Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

and

John 16:
[2] They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

The leopard can't change his own spots; neither can Godless humanity keep itself from destruction. What the Bible says about this world will surely come to pass; but those who trust in God are not of this world.

Shalom shalom :-)

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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