Concepts for the Future
In a linear conception of time, the future is the portion of the timeline that is still to occur, i.e. the place in space-time where lie all events that still have not occurred. In this sense the future is opposed to the past (the set of moments and events that have already occurred before) and the present (the set of events that are occurring now).
The future always had a very special place in philosophy and, in general, in the human mind because a huge part of human life needs at least a forecast of events that are to occur.
It is perhaps possible to argue that the evolution of the human brain is in great part an evolution in cognitive abilities necessary to forecast the future, i.e. abstract imagination, logic and induction. The earliest cave paintings depicting the hunting for animals did not depict the past, they allowed to anticipate the future, as only a man can do. Inferring what is to come from what is here is what our ancestors did and what we do with futurology. Knowing the future, imagining it, predicting it is in the nature of humans.
Apocryphology the study of fictitional worlds that may on the surface be a work of future theory but is actually just an attempt at daydreaming, and is classified as escape literature rather than interpretative or practical literature. Theorizing about the future is not mere daydreaming, nor the work of much of science fiction such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and StarCraft, to name a few. A discipline has evolved from humanity's need to feel secure about the coming of the future, and search for hope and improvement in the quality of life manifested in many of the world's religions. That said, the end-of-the-world scenarios that have been revealed through religions, and which is more concerned with symbolism and rewarding the good, also fall under this class of future theory.
By contrast, futurology is an analytical, reasoned-out prediction of the future, and is what this site is concerned with. This takes the form of forecasts by company analysts, trends in oil prices and fashion design, etc. Though many different versions of the future abound, the study is much more difficult to master and its general principles must be learned through study.
Futures studies is the discipline of exploring possible ends that the beginnings of today and yesterday will transform into. It is a rapidly expanding area of research that has ever increasing impacts on success, both for organizations and individuals, due to the fact that society is so rapidly changing. Many predictions have been turned into reality. Science fiction authors have made many technological preductions, both correct and incorrect, starting with Jules Verne, Herbert Wells and Alexander Belyaev.
Predicting the future is by no means an easy task, and requires considerable erudition, creativity, wisdom, and insight. This is because the future will certainly not be the same as it is today, and if we use what we see around us today to predict the future we will not add into play components from both the past and the future. No one predicted the power of a nuclear explosion before Einstein, who knew his physics. Likewise, no contemporary of Volta predicted the impact of electricity. The amount by which the world can change in just a few decades is beyond comprehension, and clearly beyond prediction. However, part of the joy of forecasting is the process of exploring the possibilities and of searching for future truths.
Points of Divergence
Points of Divergence are particular, specific changes that have far-reaching consequences. Examples include the Schrödinger Equation, the Manhattan Project, and 95 Theses, to name a few. These points of divergence should be labelled in any theory, primarily because they are not likely to happen yet are necessary for the remainder of the theory to be supported. Note that certain events--such as Quantum Theory, which came from the Schrödinger Equation; the bombing of Hiroshima, which came from the Manhattan Project; and the Diet of Worms, which came from the 95 Theses--are NOT points of divergence because they follow logically from the parent event which WAS a point of divergence. Points of divergence are direct causes for alternate timelines, as explained below.
Timelines are chronologies of a duration event (such as World War 2) and consist of a string of events that occur within a particular time, place, or topic frame. Timelines generally diverge from particular changes, or points of divergence, such as the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Because there are so many possible points of divergence, and because each one acts as a watershed that splits a future into two separate futures, the sheer number of timelines quickly becomes lengthy, and form groups based on how late into the future the point of divergence occurs. One way to deal with this is to establish a Time Tree, in which the one present splits into a few foreseeable near futures and multitudes of marginally foreseeable far futures. In this Wikia, this can be done by establishing the Points of Divergence as disambigulation pages that serve as a "fork in the road".
The Standard Timeline
In order to establish a view on the future, we must first establish a common timeline which will reasonably follow from past experience and current events. In this way, we will be able to formulate a forecast that is both reliable and specific, instead of prematurely branching off into scenarios. This article will be devoted to establishing such a central timeline.
From the Standard Timeline, we may branch off into various scenarios through the use of Points of Divergence. The first branches will be the most likely, though not as likely as the Standard Timeline, to occur; the subsequent branches off those branches will be even less likely. In this way, the probability of certain events occurring in the future will splinter and become more specific.