The past is always with us

The past is always with us

The past is always with us


Sometimes people mistake the future for the absence of the past. As if all the things we have created in each age disappear at the dawn of a new one.

We know this is not the case.

If the future is here but not evenly distributed, then the gaps in its distribution are filled with pieces of the past, decaying at different rates.

Though perhaps it is just a trick of modern perspective, it seems like the older something is, the longer it takes to decay. Ideas particularly, like religion and magic.

This flyer came through my door last night. Offering solutions to pretty much any problem.

It seems comical to many of us, and perhaps surprising. But it isn’t that out of the ordinary.

Over eighty percent of the world’s population associates with a religion of one kind or another, according to the Pew Research Centre*. Most faiths offer stories just as fantastical as the promises in this flyer, even if modern interpretations of their teachings aren’t quite so literal as ‘pray and ye shall receive’.

Some aspects of these historical teachings can’t decay fast enough. Religious figures continue to claim their interpretations of texts as reason to limit the rights and freedoms of others — particularly women.

In America this week a Christian author claimed that female “masturbation is a direct path to Satan” and that sex toys are used in demonic rituals.

While in Saudi Arabia a Muslim cleric suggested that relaxing the country’s driving ban for women could ‘expose them to evil’.

Whatever their religious persuasion, most people would accept that these claims are no less ridiculous than magical marriage interventions or mystical business development.

They are anachronisms. Ideas that have been too slow to decay.

When thinking about the future we often focus on the things that will change, and change fast. But it’s important to recognise that the rate of change is not consistent across different fields. What is possible will always be bound by what is deemed acceptable.

Often, this will not change what happens. But it has a huge effect on when it happens.

*This is a question of culture as much as faith as the latter as hard to ascertain. 84% of people associate themselves with a religious group but when you look at the number who actually attend any religious service, the proportion falls dramatically. Only a minority believe you have to have faith to be a moral person.


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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Futurism series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Futurism page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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