I threw a question wondered in my head for sometimes which I cannot prove specifically.

The titled question I guess is every where every time and even across the culture.

To be detailed: In some times person who can predict some natural events or particular occasion could have lot of credits like scientist, or religious head, or the king presidents or anybody who is the leader.

I do know that scientist tells the story about events like the solar eclipse when and where it will happen by using their knowledge of natural laws, and the leader or whom has the ability to be a leader predicts some serious event that has not occurred.

I read summary about Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and so on, In my case I understood the books related to perceiving that perception is impossible without any data or formed data on one's head.

So, in conclusion, people who did predict the future just did it by chance similar to throwing a dice which had no method?

  • 3
    Not clear... prediction based on scientifc laws and theories are perfectly rational. See Dirac prediction of positron and Higgs boson. They are not "made by chance" nor the scientists had "magical powers". Dec 17, 2017 at 13:27
  • If it is impossible to predict the future, how can there be something that comes closest to doing the impossible ?
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Dec 29, 2017 at 10:20
  • If I understand correctly, your question is not about scientific predictions, but more about prophecies, storytelling of the future based on magic or revelation ?
    – armand
    Jun 29, 2022 at 9:42
  • An excellent quest. I can only say that if anyone says "there's something mighty fishy going on here!", I'd havta, with a heavy heart, agree.
    – Hudjefa
    Jun 5, 2023 at 8:11
  • Mathematics. But you need a lot of formulae.
    – RodolfoAP
    Nov 6, 2023 at 16:11

10 Answers 10


The first part of this question is not entirely correct; but I can break it down from a physics perspective to show why.

What is true is that we can only 'remember' in one direction of time. This is because of the ONLY law of physics that seems to be dependent on time as an axis; the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, commonly known as the Law of Entropy (In any closed system, the internal stated moves from more ordered to less ordered over time).

But wait you say; if I have MORE memories over time, then my brain is MORE ordered over time, is it not? True. But, the order in the universe is ever so slightly less because laying down those memories release a lot of heat into the environment (this is why wearing a beanie in a snowfield actually helps you stay warm). In other words, your brain is not a closed system; the universe is generating higher local order at the price of lower global order.

BUT, scientists believe we can predict not only the future, but those parts of the past we've never had the capacity to see. At least, on the universal scale. We have the Big Bang Theory for instance, a wealth of evidence for Evolution, and we are pretty sure we know how the earth will die as the sun expands, and how the universe will eventually end.

Why is this? Determinism.

We've seen enough of how the physical world works over time to determine certain laws like Special and General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and even Entropy. If these laws are 'true', then it means that the universe runs as an algorithm.

Algorithms are a special branch of mathematics that basically relate to complex sets of rules that if applied to a starting condition, will result in a known end condition. If the universe is algorithmic by nature, that means that if we perfectly know the state of the universe at any point in time, we can predict every other point (forward or backward) simply by applying the algorithm to the known data state.

This is how we know the Big Bang happened. It's also how we know that the universe is heading to a 'cold death' in the very distant future.

The problem here is that if we can perfectly 'predict' the future, it means that our future can also be perfectly predicted, because we are part of the universe. That means that everything we're about to do is already set. No free will.

So mathematicians like Roger Penrose postulate that the universe is non-algorithmic in nature, and that by expanding that definition, our free will can be restored by proving that the human mind and our consciousness operates in a non-algorithmic manner. This model means that the universe is mostly-deterministic; all the normal physical rules we've already discovered apply (because most of the universe operates algorithmically still) but it's also a blank canvas that we can change at will.

Let's assume for a moment that Penrose is right; it would seem to imply that the universe itself can still be predicted (especially into the past for things like the Big Bang) but that we can't be predicted, because we operate in a non-deterministic way. The problem with that theory is that if it's true, it means that the universe can no longer be predicted into the future because one day we might have the technology to change the universe on its own scale; at least change enough of it (say this galaxy) to preserve our lives in some manner.

Imagine a distant future where we've learned to mine black holes for exotic materials and energy. Imagine that we can alter the gravitational constant, bringing the universe either into a stable size (or even bringing it back in a bit first, to make interstellar travel easier). Imagine that we can put a whole bunch of mass together, split it apart into hydrogen, then compress it on solar scales to make our own stars and solar systems.

In such a future, we've now altered the universe beyond its deterministic constraints.

Even worse, if the human mind isn't deterministic, it means it's possible that the universe isn't either. That means everything we know about the beginning of the universe onwards might be wrong.

So; my take on all this is that we can either have the penny or the bun; either the universe (including us) is deterministic, meaning we can predict the future (although not remember it) but we lose all hope of free will being possible; OR the universe is NOT deterministic, meaning that our free will may not be an illusion, but the price is that we lose any certainty around being able to predict our past, let alone our future. Adding in even the smallest 'random' element, when you're going back 14.5 Billion years, may well be enough to make the Big Bang wrong, not to mention all of the physical laws we currently understand. (The probabilistic nature of Quantum Theory is not non-deterministic per se and has a special application whose description is out of scope of this answer)

Ultimately, until we have conclusive evidence one way or the other, it's up to us to choose what we believe; the math or our own experience. Trust me when I say that's not an easy choice.

  • 1
    It's only our choice if we already have free will, if we don't we'd believe it anyway ;)
    – haxor789
    May 2, 2023 at 10:22

According to Peano arithmetic, every natural number has a successor and no two natural numbers have the same successor. Natural numbers are some of the ordinal numbers. We could invent the ordinal number ω to exceed all the finite ordinal numbers. You have to define the ordinal number 0 first which is the empty set. Then you can defime the ordinal number 1 which is the set {0}. Then you could define the ordinal number 2 which is the set {0, 1}. 5 minute patches of life kind of function like ordinal numbers in your awareness maybe. You don't have awareness of the process of the how in this one. You have it in the previous one. I kind of live month long chapters or something like that maybe. A month is much longer than 5 minutes so I have not only awreness of earlier ones but also of this one. When it's about this one, it is about thinking in the thing I'm doing and not about asking what it is I'm doing. But my awareness of the next one is very nil. I know that just because it's as though it doesn't exist doesn't mean it's truly never coming, and when it does come, I will think independently from scratch and adapt to it and the true joys of it.

You're actually thinking in it and feeling it. However, this is the result of the science which produces a physical brain. I believe there was a beginning of time. And all this can be explained by the arrow of time. There is an explanation for it. This is kind of a repetition of what I said in my answer to https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/235511/what-is-time-does-it-flow-and-if-so-what-defines-its-direction but I'll say it again here. The heptagonal tiling is a tiling of the hyperbolic plane with heptagons where 3 heptagons meet at each point. Let's call one heptagon the origin. Let's say you start at the origin and then random walk. It will always be random which of the adjacent heptagons you will be at next given which one you are at not. However, it is never random which one you were at previously given which one you are at now.


Reason is limited: we cannot know everything. Our capability of knowledge is limited. The future is just part of what we can't know, as we can't know how many atoms there are on the moon, or what is happening behind your back.

But there are two possible methods to know the future:

  1. Learn the rules of nature. Not easy to do, but many natural rules are knowable, and can help predicting the future. Better yet, multiple rules can be expressed and explored by means of mathematics. However, many facts can't be expressed with mathematics, or worse, possibly can't be described by mathematics. For example, to know what is happening behind you, use a mirror: science shows that light, that carries information, can be reflected by mirrors.

  2. Be God.


To predict the future is easy. Just make a prediction. Done.

The hard part is to ACCURATELY predict the future. Also what even is "the future"? Like if you were to write down what happens to each atom at each second from now to eternity you'd run out of paper pretty immediately because you'd need gazillion atoms of books for each elemental particle. Which is pretty much impossible by definition.

It's just too much data. So what science does with all that data is to search for "simple" patterns that could reproduce that data. So let's say you've measured idk concentration of some gas and your data looks like this:

  • f(sunday) = 2
  • f(monday) = 3
  • f(thuesday) = 4

then you might argue that this could be described by a linear function like f(t) = 2 + t. So you if you argue that sunday is day 0 it's f(0) = 2 + 0 = 2 fits. If you input monday = day 1 it's f(1) = 2 + 1 = 3 also fits. Now predictions would be anything before or after the data points that you have so let's say Wednesday would be day 3 f(3) = 2+3 = 5. Which is yet to be measured to confirm the trend.

So instead of writing down the data points for every day you'd now have a formula f(t) = 2 + t which takes up significantly less space and given a starting point, let's you compute the value for any other day. You might even reformulate it to f(t) = f(0) + t to get rid of the magic number and instead ask for the measurement on day 0 or to f(t) = f(t-1) + 1, so that you don't even need an absolute starting day but just the measurement from today and tomorrow it will start with the formula.

Now obviously this whole attempt hinges upon the assumption that the future will be a continuation of past trends. On the idea that there are cause and effect relations between past and presence and from that between presence and future and that the interaction between objects can be modeled by sufficiently simply interaction patterns. And if that would be perfectly possible it would require "pre-determinism". Something like a movie, where you have past, presence and future in the sense of a progression of frames, but where the entire story is already written before the 1st frame is shown.

Now proving or disproving that is not only practically out of reach but even theoretically as we face a number of problems. Like the original Laplacian demon conjectured that if you had the location and momentum of any particle in the universe (problem of magnitude) and assume it's all about bouncing, then you could determine the state of the universe at every time frame. The problem is it's physically impossible to measure these quantities at the same time with infinite precession. They are coupled in a way so that if you hold one fixed the other will become random and vice versa, so the accuracy with which we can measure is limited. So it doesn't just fail in terms of magnitude or technological shortcomings of measurement devices, but already in terms of principles. On the other hand with do know that these kind of interactions still matter, so we can't simply discard them either. So at least from our perspective things aren't predetermined. That is we are not able to predetermine them.

Now from our perspective we can't see the entire movie and can't know if there is ONE to begin with or whether it's many. Now what about the next few frames? Well kinda.

The thing is if the future is near enough the assumption of the future as a continuation of the presence more often than not holds up, so when we play catch we can anticipate where the ball will be in a few second in order for us to adjust our arm and hand position. We are even able to predict complex systems like the weather with "reasonable accuracy" (at least for a few days up to a week).

Now what does "reasonable accuracy" mean? Well, as said the assumption of a simple formula/model describing reality rested on several assumptions, the continuation of the past and so on are already covered, but we've even more fundamental problems like the fact that we can't even measure with infinite accuracy. So our starting data are already "corrupted". So idk if you take a ruler and let 100 people measure an object chances are you're not getting 1 value but rather a distribution of values so rather than 20cm it's more like 20cm +- 1.5cm. And likewise your results with come with a margin of error reflecting that uncertainty. So your results won't be neat little points but rather regions where you expect the result to be and regions where you're suspicious. The problem is, that the more wiggle room you have, the more functions are able to fit the data points. So you want lots of data and/or measurements with high accuracy, which are then used to create models, which then let you predict future events, which are then measured and compared with the prediction to grade the model or revamp it entirely.

So TL;DR while it's not possible to predict "the future" it's often still possible to give educated guess for particular events in the "near future".

Now for king/presidents it's a little bit of cheating because they aren't actually "predicting" the future, but they are influencing the future as actors. So if it's about something like "in 30 days there will be war between our country and X" then it's not really a prediction by an observer, but they might as well MAKE that prediction true by declaring war at that date. While for other events like "this policy will create a positive economic output" it's a lot harder to predict because the outcome relies on a lot more factors of which the particular actor might not have any control.

So there's a difference between a spectators prediction and an actors prediction, but ultimately the theoretical limit applies to both of them.


If you know the complete state of the universe right now, and if you could perform 100% perfect calculations, then you could predict the future. Except there may be free will, and an entity with free will cannot be predicted. And there is quantum mechanics, which tells us that the time when a radioactive atom decays is in principle unpredictable. And of course we cannot record the current state of the universe precisely

Once we start with imprecise information, some situations will develop in a chaotic way, where differences between two possible states grow larger fast. In other situations differences become smaller. Place a ball inside a bowl and kick it, eventually it will come to rest at the bottom of the bowl. Put the bowl upside down and a ball on the top of it, the slightest deviation will make it roll down in an unpredictable direction.

Weather cannot be predicted reliably for a week. The course of all planets in the solar system, their moons, and the largest 100 or so planetoids is predicted for about the next 25 million years. Human affairs are somewhere in between.

Another completely different argument applies if you are part of the prediction. If your prediction of the future shows that you will die in a car crash in a week's time, then you do what you can to prevent this from coming true.


We all predict the future constantly, sometimes even with success. For instance, I let go of a vase, and I predict it will drop to the ground and shatter. The weatherman predicts rain tomorrow. Climate-change scientists predict the world will get hotter, on average. It wouldn't be possible to even navigate through an ordinary day without the ability to make predictions.

Some things are easier to predict than others. The weatherman is frequently wrong. Others are vulnerable to unpredictable events. If the cat dives under the vase at exactly the right moment, maybe it won't shatter, after all. I can be fairly confident the sun will continue to rise and set (at least apparently) for millions of years, but I can't predict with confidence the details of my own life even five years out, or for that matter, the fate of the human race.

What you are talking about are cases where someone had knowledge that other people did not, which allowed them to make accurate predictions the people around them couldn't make. Was it chance that the eclipse happened when predicted? No. It obeyed knowable scientific laws not understood by everyone.


There are many ways of determining future. Future can be predicted using mathematical formulas. This is possible by identifying different entities involved in the predictive theory and by recognising different laws and their relationships which are applicable on the entities involved. This works fairly well for traditional and modern scientific subjects.

But there are other methods of predictions which are borne out of unity in consciousness. For example - law of karma. If someone steals the money from the bank then police will follow. Here not only physics or physicality is involved but also consciousness. Another example is -Law of good work. If you sacrifice for others then you will have the power of being in peace under difficult situations.

Essentially all predictions are conditionals. If this happens then that happens. This is true even in the realm of consciousness.


It may be worth noting that very many theories predict the future, but what is truly remarkable about sicentific progress is how it makes novel predictions, and that these can be tested. It's not enough to just account for regularities (whoop de doop the sun rose again), a good idea makes new predictions (an otherwise unexpected eclipse).

Asking about infallability and magick only confuses me. In our own mental lives we make abductive and inductive inferences and find gaps for new knowledge, but none of this comes close to the successes of of our mature sciences. Here's a pic from CERN

enter image description here


Why is it impossible to predict or foresee the future but, if we could, what is the closest method to do so.

It's not impossible. Every gambler in a Casino predicts a future. Its a localized future with strict parameters but it is a future. Winners predict the future accurately.

On average, in a coin flip universe, the next future event can be correctly predicted 50% of the time. The more complex the system, the harder to predict.

Anyone who attempts a complex prediction of the future runs the risk of the extrapolation fallacy.



As far as my knowledge of the world if you can mathematically model the world deterministically then you can determine a future state from the present state.

Chaos theory is a method of modelling the dynamical systems of the world, such as the weather. These models are deterministic and are sensitive to initial conditions such as present states. Small perturbations in measurement between reality and what is measured leads to vast differences in the outcome of the model to what happens in reality. The problem arises in measuring quantum mechanical events because of the principle of uncertainty. The more you know about the certainty of the location of a particle, the more uncertain you are of its momentum. Using these uncertain measurement as values in the model would lead to vast differences in what the model predicts to what happens in reality

My knowledge may be outdated, however it illustrates to some degree the difficulty of using mathematics and physics in predicting the future.

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