It’s time again to throw my ideas together quickly. That’s one thing I like about the Daily Prompt. I try to answer them as quickly as possible. I wrote this in just under an hour.
What is a single day worth? I’ve wasted a lot of days, and I don’t regret that. To spend a few is a small price.
When I say that I’ve wasted days, I don’t mean I’ve spent them goofing off reading a book, watching movies and playing games. That’s hardly a waste. That’s enjoying the simple pleasures. That’s living. I certainly don’t regret that kind of waste. I wouldn’t live without it. I have let some days slip away without anything to show for it, not even the pleasure of spending that time as I see fit. It happens. Oddly enough, I don’t regret those days either. There are people who believe that time is precious and you shouldn’t let any of it get away. Be passionate and fill every day. That’s terrible. I hate to see a life wasted. I would hate to see a year or a month or even a single week lost. But a day? Anyone striving to make every day matter has a passion of a desperate variety. If you live only fifty years, you will still have over eighteen thousand days of life. Even a short life has enough days that you can allow a few to escape. Besides, there will be some days of your life that you’ll lose only because the world takes them from you. Spend a long time in a waiting room at the doctor’s office and then get a flat tire, and there’s not much time left for you to use.
So I won’t worry about a few days lost. That’s a small price to pay if the future is worth it. That’s an entirely different question though, and a much more interesting one than the value of a single day.
The trade off is of far less concern to me than the question about how the precognition works. If seeing the future tells you about something unalterable, then why use it at all? If the future is set, and you are doomed to follow through on what you see, then the future isn’t worth the smallest price. Not even a single day of life. Who cares about seeing the future if there’s nothing you can do about it? A deterministic universe voids the value of the foresight, but it also voids the value of a day of life. Of every day of life. There are no questions in a universe that is set from beginning to end.
“Any road followed precisely to its end leads precisely nowhere. Climb the mountain just a little bit to test that it’s a mountain. From the top of the mountain, you can not see that it’s a mountain.” – Frank Herbert
Yes, Frank knew his stuff. Here’s another quote from him that’s a bit clearer though.
“To know the future absolutely is to be trapped into that future absolutely. It collapses time. Present becomes future. I need more freedom than that.”
That’s speaking about the future in its entirety though, but I believe it applies just as well to a single moment. If you can see a moment and know exactly what will pass, then every moment between now and then is immutable. That would be tragic.
Of course, that extreme probably isn’t what the question has in mind. If the ability to see the future comes at a price, that implies that the foresight has some value. So, I suppose for these purposes, the future isn’t set rigidly. That means I have to ask how accurate the foresight is. If the future isn’t entirely set, then foresight can’t be absolutely accurate. If the probability of a future vision coming to pass is only ten percent, then why bother? On the other hand, if by seeing the future, you make that future more likely, say eighty percent or more, then the paltry cost of a single day is well worth it. If you know how to use it.
That’s another interesting question. If you can see the future, but only occasionally, then what do you use it for? I’ve already said that I’d be happy to drop a few days of life, but only a few. A day, even a few days, are worth losing, but not many. So if my power is limited, even by my own choice, then I have to know what I’m using it for.
There’s a third quote from Frank Herbert that I wanted at this point, but I couldn’t find it. Rather than waste a day or even an hour searching for something I don’t need, I’ll just paraphrase as best I remember. That costs me the authority of quotation marks, but it’s worth it. Anyway, Herbert’s books also tell us that people don’t actually want to know the future. They want to know where the buried treasure is.
Is buried treasure worth a day of my life? That depends on how much treasure we’re talking about. I don’t want to dig if I can avoid it, so I’ll just buy a lottery ticket. If I can see the winning numbers the day before, then I can have tens of millions of dollars overnight. That’s worth one day. If the foresight fails me once, then I’ll do it again.
That’s not greed. It may seem so, but I don’t want the money because I’m obsessed with wealth. I want what the money can buy. Specifically, I want more days of my life that can be spent any way I want. If I had that kind of money, I would have more days to use as I see fit. That’s quite a worthy investment, a day or two, or even three would grant me thousands of days to spend any way I please.
That’s one thing to use it for. It’s kind of obvious though. Is there another purpose? One that might be both more interesting and more valuable than lottery winnings? Yes. The question that was posed did not impose any limit to the foresight. It only asked if seeing the future was worth a day of life. If I can use it to see my life years in the future, to know the details that might come to pass, let me stress that again, details that might come to pass, then I can act on them. If the future holds happiness of certain kinds, even just potential happiness, then I can be better prepared to achieve that happiness. If there are potential losses or tragedies that I might prevent, then knowing that is worth a day. If I could, I would look in on my future about once every year or two years. The better years that would follow that would be well worth the investment of the single days spent to acquire them.