The future is commonly understood to contain all events that have yet to occur. It is the opposite of the past, and is the time after the present. Organized efforts to predict or forecast the future may have derived from observations by early man of heavenly objects. In the Occidental view, which uses a linear conception of time, the future is the portion of the projected time line that is anticipated to occur. In special relativity the future is considered as absolute future or the future light cone. In physics, time is considered to be a fourth dimension.
In the philosophy of time, presentism is the belief that only the present exists and the future and the past are unreal. Religions consider the future when they address issues such as karma, life after death, and eschatologies that study what the end of time and the end of the world will be. Religious figures have claimed to see into the future, such as prophets and diviners.
Future studies or futurology is the science, art and practice of postulating possible futures. Modern practitioners stress the importance of alternative and plural futures, rather than one monolithic future, and the limitations of prediction and probability, versus the creation of possible and preferable futures.
In art and culture, the future was explored in several art movements and genres. The futurism art movement at the beginning of the 20th century explored every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, poetry, theatre, music, architecture and even gastronomy. Futurists had passionate loathing of ideas from the past, especially political and artistic traditions. Instead, they espoused a love of speed, technology, and violence. Futuristic music involved homage to, inclusion of, or imitation of machines. Futurism expanded to encompass other artistic domains and ultimately included industrial design, textiles, and architecture. Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein defines sci-fi as " realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method." More generally, science fiction is a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculations based on current or future science or technology.
Prediction is a similar, but more general term. Both can refer to estimation of time series, cross-sectional or longitudinal data. Econometric forecasting methods use the assumption that it is possible to identify the underlying factors that might influence the variable that is being forecast. If the causes are understood, projections of the influencing variables can be made and used in the forecast.Judgemental forecasting methods incorporate intuitive judgements, opinions and probability estimates, as in the case of the Delphi method, scenario building, and simulations. Forecasting is applied in many areas, including weather forecasting, earthquake prediction,transport planning, and labour market planning.
Despite the development of cognitive instruments for the comprehension of future, the stochastic nature of many natural and social processes has made precise forecasting of the future elusive. Modern efforts such as future studies attempt to predict social trends, while more ancient practices, such as weather forecasting, have benefited from scientific and causal modelling.
Futures is an interdisciplinary field, studying yesterday's and today's changes, and aggregating and analyzing both lay and professional strategies, and opinions with respect to tomorrow. It includes analyzing the sources, patterns, and causes of change and stability in the attempt to develop foresight and to map possible futures. Modern practitioners stress the importance of alternative and plural futures, rather than one monolithic future, and the limitations of prediction and probability, versus the creation of possible and preferable futures.
Three factors usually distinguish futures studies from the research conducted by other disciplines (although all disciplines overlap, to differing degrees). First, futures studies often examines not only possible but also probable, preferable, and "wild card" futures. Second, futures studies typically attempts to gain a holistic or systemic view based on insights from a range of different disciplines. Third, futures studies challenges and unpacks the assumptions behind dominant and contending views of the future. The future thus is not empty but fraught with hidden assumptions.
Futures studies does not generally include the work of economists who forecast movements of interest rates over the next business cycle, or of managers or investors with short-term time horizons. Most strategic planning, which develops operational plans for preferred futures with time horizons of one to three years, is also not considered futures. But plans and strategies with longer time horizons that specifically attempt to anticipate and be robust to possible future events, are part of a major subdiscipline of futures studies called strategic foresight.
The futures field also excludes those who make future predictions through professed supernatural means. At the same time, it does seek to understand the models such groups use and the interpretations they give to these models.
The physicist who advised the makers of the fictional time-travel film Déjà Vu claims that a person could hypothetically travel into the future if they had a spaceship that could travel at the speed of light. After a voyage on this ship, if a person returned to Earth, millions of years would have passed in Earth time. Some physicists claim that by using a wormhole to connect two regions of space-time a person could theoretically travel in time. Physicist Michio Kaku points out that to power this hypothetical time machine and "punch a hole into the fabric of space-time", it would require the energy of a star. Another theory is that a person could travel in time with cosmic strings, which are hypothetical "narrow tubes of energy stretched across the entire length of the ever-expanding universe."
Presentism is compatible with Galilean relativity, in which time is independent of space but is probably incompatible with Lorentzian/Einsteinian relativity in conjunction with certain other philosophical theses which many find uncontroversial. Saint Augustine proposed that the present is a knife edge between the past and the future and could not contain any extended period of time.
Contrary to Saint Augustine, some philosophers propose that conscious experience is extended in time. For instance, William James said that time is "the short duration of which we are immediately and incessantly sensible". Augustine proposed that God is outside of time and present for all times, in eternity. Other early philosophers who were presentists include the Buddhists (in the tradition of Indian Buddhism). A leading scholar from the modern era on Buddhist philosophy is Stcherbatsky, who has written extensively on Buddhist presentism: "Everything past is unreal, everything future is unreal, everything imagined, absent, mental... is unreal... Ultimately real is only the present moment of physical efficiency [i.e., causation].
While ethologists consider animal behavior to be largely based on fixed action patterns or other learned traits in an animal's past, human behavior is known to encompass an anticipation of the future. Anticipatory behavior can be the result of a psychological outlook toward the future, for examples optimism, pessimism, and hope.
Optimism is an outlook on life such that one maintains a view of the world as a positive place. People would say that optimism is seeing the glass "half full" of water as opposed to half empty. It is the philosophical opposite of pessimism. Optimists generally believe that people and events are inherently good, so that most situations work out in the end for the best.Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Hope implies a certain amount of despair, wanting, wishing, suffering or perseverance — i.e., believing that a better or positive outcome is possible even when there is some evidence to the contrary. "Hopefulness" is somewhat different from optimism in that hope is an emotional state, whereas optimism is a conclusion reached through a deliberate thought pattern that leads to a positive attitude.
Some believe the afterlife includes some form of preparation for the soul to be transferred to another body (reincarnation). The major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. There are those who are skeptical of the existence of the afterlife, or believe that it is absolutely impossible, such as the materialist-reductionists, who state that the topic is supernatural, therefore does not really exist or is unknowable. In metaphysical models, theists generally believe some sort of afterlife awaits people when they die. Atheists generally believe that there is not a life after death. Members of some generally non-theistic religions such as Buddhism, tend to believe in an afterlife like reincarnation but without reference to God.
Agnostics generally hold the position that like the existence of God, the existence of supernatural phenomena, such as souls or life after death, is unverifiable and therefore unknowable. Some philosophies (i.e. posthumanism, Humanism, and often empiricism) generally hold that there is not an afterlife. Many religions, whether they believe in the soul’s existence in another world like Christianity, Islam and many pagan belief systems, or in reincarnation like many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, believe that one’s status in the afterlife is a reward or punishment for their conduct during life.
Eschatology is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world. While in mysticism the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine, in many traditional religions it is taught as an actual future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age, the end time, and the end of days.
One of the many 20th century classical movements in music was one which involved homage to, inclusion of, or imitation of machines. Closely identified with the central Italian Futurist movement were brother composers Luigi Russolo and Antonio Russolo, who used instruments known as "intonarumori", which were essentially sound boxes used to create music out of noise. Luigi Russolo's futurist manifesto, The Art of Noises, is considered to be one of the most important and influential texts in 20th century musical aesthetics. Other examples of futurist music include Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231, which imitates the sound of a steam locomotive, Prokofiev's "The Steel Step", and the experiments of Edgard Varèse.
Literary futurism made its debut with F.T. Marinetti's Manifesto of Futurism (1909). Futurist poetry used unexpected combinations of images and hyper-conciseness (not to be confused with the actual length of the poem). Futurist theater works have scenes that are few sentences long, and which use nonsensical humor and which attempt to discredit the deep-rooted dramatic traditions with parody. The longer forms of literature, such as the novel, had no place in the Futurist aesthetic, which was obsessed with speed and compression.
Futurism expanded to encompass other artistic domains and ultimately included painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, theatre design, textiles, drama, literature, music and architecture. In architecture, it was characterized by a distinctive thrust towards rationalism and modernism through the use of advanced building materials. The ideals of futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture. Futurism has produced several reactions, including the 1980s-era literary genre of cyberpunk — in which technology was often treated with a critical eye.
Some science fiction authors construct a postulated history of the future called a "future history" which serves as a common background for their fiction. Sometimes the author publishes a timeline of events in their history, while other times the reader can reconstruct the order of the stories from information provided therein. Some works were published which constituted "future history" in a more literal sense - i.e., stories or whole books purporting to be excerpts of a history book from the future and which are written in the form of a history book - i.e., having no personal protagonists but rather describing the development of nations and societies over decades and centuries. Examples include H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come (1933), which was written in the form of a history book published in the year 2106 and - in the manner of a real history book - containing numerous footnotes and references to the works of (mostly fictitious) prominent historians of the 20th and 21st centuries.