We can predict the speed of the wind, the height of the surf and the time it will take for a comet to come past the earth (or hit us, its real this time, we are all gonna die) I think this is all amazing, we have learnt so much about our environment that we are able to predict the future with relatively high accuracy. With our current knowledge and formulas we have perfected over centuries we are able to simulate the look of the sky in 100 years, I believe this is beyond amazing, we are telling the future with science. If we could predict anything, the entire world then maybe we could use this to predict the future.
Now if you launch an identical program on two different computers under the exact same environment (files, connected devices, time) then you will produce an identical result, the exact same processes and decisions are being made, the program defines what actions to take and what responses should be to the environment, so identical environment, identical result. Even random number generators use formulas which generate not true random numbers but instead a number pattern, the exact time in which the program runs is used as a seed, which causes a new pattern to be generated each time. But in theory, if two computers had the exact, to the microsecond same time then they would both generate the same random numbers.
Computers are somewhat easy to predict, if we click on Word (assuming the computer is turned on, correctly configured and within reasonable operating temperatures) it is safe to say that within a few seconds (the precise time can be calculated for any given machine) a page will be on the screen, blank with a blinking cursor on the top of the page. This is because computer programs are a fixed set of instructions. It is easy to know, if I click Internet Explorer that after approximately 5 hours (again, this can be precisely calculated) the Ninemsn homepage will be up on the screen (and probably somewhat broken looking)
Taking the next step up, to nature. If two identical scenes exist, both with a cliff and all environmental factors are identical. If the wind blows hard enough on one rock and it falls off the cliff, strikes a rock and splits into two halves. It is logical to assume in both scenes or worlds the same rock has been split in exactly the same way, with the same fracture lines and even the exact same weight for both sides of the rock. It would be illogical to believe that nature can be random, if the forces acting upon the rock and attributes contributing to the splitting of it are all identical (the force of gravity, the strength of the material, the height of the cliff, the speed and direction of the wind, etc) then the exact same even will occur. I’m not crazy yet right?
Now imagine this, there is a single setup as described before, the cliff, wind and rock. But instead of playing it out measurements are taken of everything. The size and structure of every rock, the slope of every single tiny area in the whole vast landscape. While we don’t have the current knowledge to calculate the result of the situation we are getting there, we can calculate the forces against the rock taking in to account the surface area of the rock and the speed and direction of the wind. We can calculate the exact speed the rock will hit the ground, taking into account the measurements of gravity in that area, all aspects of the rock and external wind, thickness of the air and hundreds of other factors which, while only having small impacts still impact on the results. Eventually, given all information we will be able to predict even the weight down to the hundredth of a gram of each split segment of the rock.
Heres where I start to question things a little, are we the same as computers and rocks? If there were two worlds, identical in every aspect would they play out exactly the same? Would people make the exact same decisions. I believe they would, right down the colour tie worn to work. I believe we are just as imprisoned by cause and effect as a rock is. If we encounter the same event, in the same environment, with the same mindset, same memories we will take the same paths.
So what if, with time, we are able to predict human reactions, given all environmental attributes (Both external factors and factors relating to the human themselves: Memories, illness, how hungry they are. You get the point). If everything is predictable with enough information then in theory, it is possible to predict the names of my great great grandchildren, by predicting, exactly the environmental changes throughout time, including the actions of people.
So smart people out there, then will we be able to accurately predict the future and when will I get my time machine.