Chuck Klosterman’s “But What If We’re Wrong?” comes as close to explaining 2016 as anything I’ve seen. Klosterman starts from the premise that we think the future will be like today, just slightly different. We’re limited by our current image of reality. In fact, history shows us that the world changes in dramatic and unpredictable ways that we could never foresee, which only seems natural in retrospect. The future isn’t just opposite of what we expected, it’s totally unimaginable.
So if we accept that kind of future, how should we live now? Klosterman argues that we should stop clinging to this notion that we are always right. We accept that we’re probably wrong about things in the abstract, but when it comes to an individual belief we hold, it’s hard to think that we could be wrong right now. But when history shows us that pretty much everything will eventually turn out to be wrong, it’s arrogant and detrimental to be self-righteous. It also just makes society less pleasant, Klosterman says, when everyone acts like the other is wrong. Everything turns into a political fight.
Probably my biggest takeaway from this book is a realization of how little we question ourselves and our reality. We just accept our surroundings and information as the natural order of things. But this hasn’t always been the natural order of things, and probably won’t be in the future. So don’t get too attached.
Overall, this message is very disorienting. The whole book makes you doubt, question, maybe even despair. But Klosterman surprisingly ends on an optimistic note. Not knowing the future, he says, is exactly the POINT. If we’re always right and we can predict the future, we’re just robots (which may actually be the case, as Klosterman details in one chapter). But being open to a future which will change, and then change again, and will surprise us, should fill us with a sense of wonder. I hope it will, but I can’t predict the future.