Living with Uncertainty: commentary


Absolutes don’t exist in nature. Franklin made exceptions for death and taxes, and the tax part is man-made. So maybe death is the only absolute in nature, but there are scientists and theologians who question even that.

I found this thoughtful paragraph in a white paper from Deloitte’ UK offices:

We should avoid placing too much weight on the latest fevered headline or market moves. Just because something is in the news doesn’t mean it is important – and vice versa. Media old and new do not necessarily give prominence to what shapes our lives. Looking at the hard data yourself, rather than relying on someone else’s conclusions, helps. Thinking against the crowd, in a contrarian way, provides new perspectives. But perhaps the best antidote for short-termism is simply to read more history.(1)

That may be simplistic. History isn’t destined to repeat itself.  Science is confident that there will be a time when all life on this planet ends, and that’s never happened before (to out knowledge). So history is on a course that may appear to repeat in short intervals, but not indefinitely.

Some people take refuge from uncertainty in one faith or another.  We want to believe that if we don’t know the future, someone does.  That may or may not be true.

Some take refuge in power, guns, money or military might.  The more they think they have, the safer they feel.  Amusingly, that’s like the gunslingers of the old American West.  There’s always someone sneakier or with a faster gun.  Power like religion is intangible.  You can’t know when you really have it, but you certainly know when you don’t.  Even the most powerful fall — Robespierre and Hitler come readily to mind.  And nobody wins a nuclear war.

Another option is to recognize that nothing is certain — not your life, your health, your job or your relationships. You have what you have today, but there is no certainty that you’ll have it tomorrow. So hitch up your belt and deal with it.

Does that change what matters to you? How you think about yourself? How you deal with others? How you use your time? How you view your politicians?


  1. Ian Stewart, “Thoughts on Living with Uncertainty,” Deloitte.

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