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Arrival fallacy

Refers to the erroneous belief that a particular problem will be resolved by the occurrence of a factually unrelated or rather unlikely event.

For example:

In the future, medical research will certainly make great progress.
Surely they will find a simple treatment for lung cancer before too long.
Therefore, I don’t need to worry about my smoking habit.

If there is no or only little factual justification for the expected event to ever occur or having the expected result – as is the case in the above example – but rather is based more on wishful thinking, it is clarly fallacious.

Other names

  • Expectation fallacy


There are indeed many problems that just get resolved by themselves, and for which “wait and see” can actually be a good strategy.

However, there are many other problems for which this is not a good approach, and instead taking action is required, because otherwise they only pile up and get harder and harder to resolve later – not least, these often become problems that others have to resolve, which also brings moral implications that are outside of the scope of this article, but nevertheless add up to the issues.

Glorification of the future

The arrival fallacy can also be understood as a form of glorification argument, in particular, as a form of glorification of the future, in the same sense that nostalgia is a form of glorification of the past.


The way of thinking described here is not fallacious, if if the expectation is formed on the basis of knowledge about specific situations or developments that can be reasonably believed to change the underlying conditions in such a way that the problem indeed resolves itself, or will indeed be no longer relevant in the future.


“Second Earth”

The situation at the outset is that the excessive exploitation of resources, as well as the progressive destruction of our planet’s environment, poses a threat that it will be rendered all but inhabitable in a few years’ time, especially not for a world population that continues to grow, with ever-increasing demands on lifestyle.

Here some seem to get the idea that by exploring and soon colonizing other planets one could escape the ecological collapse on Earth, and use the progress of planetary exploration as a justification to stop working too hard for the preservation of this planet.

Yet, first of all, it is extremely unlikely that we will even be able to discover, let alone reach, a planet suitable for human habitation in the foreseeable future.

Even in the rather unlikely event that we managed to make a planet habitable within reachable distance (i.e., within our solar system), the problem of resettling a significant portion of the world’s population there is likely to pose an insurmountable logistical and technical challenge.

The only sensible approach is to make better use of our planet’s resources and to stop the destruction of the natural foundations of life. There is no “Second Earth”.

“Happily ever after”

In anticipation of an important, possibly life-changing event – such as a promotion or a wedding – some people tend to lose all sight of events that come after it.

This is very nicely portrayed in fairy tales, in which no mention is made of the time after the end of the story – all you need to know is that the protagonists lived on “happily ever after” once they have reached their goal. Yet, at least in this abbreviated simplicity, this is certainly no more believable than the existence of gingerbread houses or talking cats.

In real life, this form of a misguided expectation can lead to the point where a feeling of emptiness – even depression – can arise after a long-awaited goal, that previously offered a purpose in life, has been reached.

See also

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