Quotations about   prediction

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I do so wish sometimes, that I could just pop home for an hour or two as easily in the flesh as in the spirit. No doubt the explorers of 2015, if there is anything left to explore, will not only carry their pocket wireless telephones fitted with wireless telescopes but will also receive their nourishment and warmth by wireless means & also their power to drive their motor sledges, but, of course, there will be an aerial daily excursion to both Poles then & it will be the bottom of the Atlantic, if not the centre of the earth, that will form the goal in those days.

Thomas Orde-Lees (1877-1948) British naval officer, arctic explorer, mountaineer, writer
Diary entry, HMS Endurance (10 Jan 1915)

Written while the ship was trapped in the ice during Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Some versions of the quotation refer to "2012," rather than 2015.

While the reference to "pocket wireless telephones" makes this quotation suspect, Orde-Lees has extensive diary material published, and this appears to be genuine.
Added on 13-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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After titanic studies he was satisfied that a thorough knowledge of the past could lead a profound scholar to predict the future course of history with greater accuracy, provided that it did not turn out quite differently.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
The Ramayana (1954)
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Added on 9-Sep-20 | Last updated 10-Sep-20
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Intelligence recognizes what has happened. Genius recognizes what will happen.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
(Attributed)
Added on 10-Jun-20 | Last updated 10-Jun-20
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Men of all degrees should form this prudent habit:
Never serve a rabbit stew before you catch the rabbit.

James Thurber (1894-1961) American cartoonist and writer
“Ivory, Apes, and People,” Further Fables for Our Time (1956)
Added on 24-Apr-20 | Last updated 24-Apr-20
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Prudent men are in the habit of saying — and not by chance or without basis — that he who wishes to see what is to come should observe what has already happened, because all the affairs of the world, in every age, have their individual counterparts in ancient times. The reason for this is that since they are carried on by men, who have and always have had the same passions, of necessity the same results appear.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Discourses on Livy, Book 3, ch. 43 (1517) [tr. Gilbert (1958)]
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Alt. trans.: "The wise are wont to say, and not without reason or at random, that he who would forecast what is about to happen should look to what has been; since all human events, whether present or to come, have their exact counterpart in the past. And this, because these events are brought about by men, whose passions and dispositions remaining in all ages the same naturally give rise to the same effects." [tr. Thomson]
Added on 27-Jan-20 | Last updated 27-Jan-20
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The future always arrives too fast — and in the wrong order.

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) American writer and futurist
(Attributed)
Added on 24-Jan-20 | Last updated 24-Jan-20
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Believe me, wise men don’t say “I shall live to do that,”
Tomorrow’s life is too late; live today.

[Non est, crede mihi, sapientis dicere “Vivam”:
Sera nimis vita est crastina: vive hodie.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 1, Epigram 15 [tr. Bohn (1871)]
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Variant translations:
  • "I'll live tomorrow," will a wise man say? Tomorrow is too late, then live today. [tr. Hay]
  • No sage will e'er "I'll live tomorrow" say: Tomorrow is too late: live thou today. [tr. WSB]
  • It sorts not, believe me, with wisdom to say "I shall live." Too late is tomorrow's life; live thou today. [tr. Ker (1919)]
  • "I'll live to-morrow," 'tis not wise to say: 'Twill be too late to-morrow -- live to-day.
  • Tomorrow will I live, the fool does say; Today itself's too late; the wise lived yesterday.
Added on 16-Aug-17 | Last updated 16-Aug-17
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How many things have been denied one day, only to become realities the next!

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
From the Earth to the Moon (1865)
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Added on 12-Aug-16 | Last updated 12-Aug-16
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Yes, but water decomposed into its primitive elements … and decomposed doubtless, by electricity, which will then have become a powerful and manageable force, for all great discoveries, by some inexplicable law, appear to agree and become complete at the same time. Yes, my friends, I believe that water will one day be employed as fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen which constitute it, used singly or together, will furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, of an intensity of which coal is not capable. Some day the coalrooms of steamers and the tenders of locomotives will, instead of coal, be stored with these two condensed gases, which will burn in the furnaces with enormous calorific power. There is, therefore, nothing to fear. As long as the earth is inhabited it will supply the wants of its inhabitants, and there will be no want of either light or heat as long as the productions of the vegetable, mineral or animal kingdoms do not fail us. I believe, then, that when the deposits of coal are exhausted we shall heat and warm ourselves with water. Water will be the coal of the future!

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
The Mysterious Island, Part 2, ch. 11 (1874)
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Added on 6-May-16 | Last updated 6-May-16
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Solutions nearly always come from the direction you least expect, which means there’s no point trying to look in that direction because it won’t be coming from there.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
Added on 29-Jun-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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We know nothing of what will happen in future, but by the analogy of experience.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech on the Sub-Treasury (26 Dec 1839)
Added on 24-Apr-15 | Last updated 24-Apr-15
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Economists are very good at saying that something cannot go on forever, but not so good at saying when it will stop.

Herb Stein (1916-1999) American economist
(Attributed)
Added on 27-Mar-15 | Last updated 27-Mar-15
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We have two classes of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who know they don’t know.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
(Attributed)

Variants:
  • There are two classes of people who tell what is going to happen in the future: Those who don't know, and those who don't know they don't know.
  • You can divide the world into those who don't know and those who don't know they don't know.
  • There are those who don't know, and there are those who don't know they don't know.
  • We have two kinds of forecasters: Those who don't know ... and those who don't know they don't know.
  • There are two kinds of economists: those who don't know the future, and those who don't know they don't know.
Added on 12-Mar-15 | Last updated 12-Mar-15
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You have no lease of your lives, and death is not bound to give you warning before it gives you that deadly blow that will send you to everlasting misery or everlasting felicity.

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) English Puritan divine, writer
The Hypocrite Detected, Anatomized (1650)
Added on 31-Dec-14 | Last updated 31-Dec-14
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Science is as yet in its infancy, and we can foretell little of the future save that the thing that has not been is the thing that shall be; that no beliefs, no values, no institutions are safe. So far from being an isolated phenomenon the late war is only an example of the disruptive result that we may constantly expect from the progress of science. The future will be no primrose path. It will have its own problems. Some will be the secular problems of the past, giant flowers of evil blossoming at last to their own destruction. Others will be wholly new. Whether in the end man will survive his ascensions of power we cannot tell. But the problem is no new one. It is the old paradox of freedom re-enacted with mankind for actor and the earth for stage.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist [John Burden Sanderson Haldane]
“Daedalus, or Science and the Future,” speech, Cambridge (24 Feb 1923)
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Added on 5-Dec-14 | Last updated 5-Dec-14
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You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.

Henry Ford (1863-1947) American industrialist
(Attributed)
Added on 24-Jul-13 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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Power-worship blurs political judgment because it leads almost unavoidably to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem invincible.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution” (May 1946)
Added on 24-Sep-12 | Last updated 24-Jan-17
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Forecast: To observe that which has passed, and guess it will happen again; to anticipate the future by guessing at the past; to predict that an event will happen, if it does, by basing calculations on events that have already happened, if they did.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary (1914)
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Added on 18-Apr-12 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle. In this sense one should understand Napoleon’s saying: “I have never had a plan of operations.” Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.

Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891) Prussian soldier
“On Strategy” (1871)

Translated in Daniel J. Hughes, Harry Bell, Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993).

Paraphrases / variants:
  • "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
  • "No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy."
Added on 15-Jan-10 | Last updated 20-Dec-19
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But this long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task, if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us, that when the storm is long past, the ocean is flat again.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
A Tract on Monetary Reform, ch. 3 (1923)
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Added on 1-Oct-07 | Last updated 4-Jun-20
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An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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