Foresight of Hindsight

Right now I am standing at a crossroads with my research. Many possible routes are in front of me. I have chosen my general direction, so now I need to figure out exactly which path to take and what mode of transportation to take.

Several options seem very promising. While still a bit hazy, they are beginning to take shape in mind. At this point I am focusing on foresight. 20/20 vision is not enough, I’m using binoculars. My intent is it anticipate my hindsight one year from now.

I have run various simulations in my mind of experiments, looking for areas of interest and possible problems I might encounter. I’m trying to preempt things that would cause me to think “If only I had thought of this last year” next year.

In my most recent mental simulation I found a buried pirate treasure map while conducting a field experiment with fir trees. The map led me to the coast of Mexico, where I found several million dollars in gold coins and seeds from a previously unknown fir species that is resistant to pests and pathogens, tolerant of flooding and environmental stresses, has excellent needle retention, and grows to six feet in height within three years. But I forgot to take sunblock on my excursion and got a mild sunburn.

The lesson: don’t forget sunblock, no matter how interesting your research gets.

In all seriousness, it is sobering to realize how important some of the decisions I make in the next month will be to my dissertation pursuit. When dealing with literal directions it is relatively easy to pick out the most direct route to a target. In research it is not so easy. Here’s to a well-aimed, briskly-paced, insight-providing 2010 growing season with no regrets.


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