How to Predict Your Future with One Question


If you could ask a question of yourself, 20 years in the future, what would it be?

It sounds like one of those stupid party games, right? In the same ballpark as “which 10 albums would you take with you to a desert island?” It’s an entertaining conundrum when you’ve had too many cocktails, but in a sober moment, who cares?

Well, you might not think that after watching this 4-minute teaser for a new documentary (yet to be completed) called Later That Same Life.Here’s the basic premise: In 1977, a 18-year-old guy named Peter Emshwiller filmed himself asking a bunch of questions of his future self. Almost four decades later, an older and ostensibly wiser Emshwiller finally responds.

The younger him asks some unsurprising questions, like “Are you exceedingly rich?” Exactly what you’d think an 18-year-old would want to know.

Future Self

But then comes a moment that’s like a sucker punch to the heart, when the young Emshwiller asks about his parents.

“I don’t know what I should tell you,” the elder Emshwiller says, his face grimacing. “You should spend as much time as you can with them, okay? Spend more time with Dad.”

If you’ve lost a parent, this exchange is especially difficult to watch. Because there’s probably a part of you that wishes you could go back in time, find the younger you, and tell him, “Stop being such a self-obsessed asshole and call your damn dad!”

But of course you can’t. And neither can you interview your future self and ask him, “What should I be preparing for? Should I start hoarding canned goods? Is the next 20 years going to be awesome or awful?”

“One of the biggest sources of anxiety in life is uncertainty about the future,” says Art Markman, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of Smart Change. “We want to know that things will work out for us. I often say that the narrative of our lives is only clear looking back on it.”