Compare and contrast our approach to knowledge about the past with our approach to knowledge about the future. Our approach to the past will be based on what evidence is available in the present. Our knowledge of the future is based on what we can infer about the past. It is important to recognise that neither knowledge of the past nor future will be certain. Knowledge form the past, history, is seen in forms such as newspapers, diaries, personal accounts, pictures, other forms of documentation, and artefacts. However there is no avoiding bias with any type of documentation.
When a person documents the past, they choose what they are documenting is, the opinions and information will be biased. The job of a historian is to compile history, using information from many resources in order to provide a balanced interpretation of the past. Good historians will use several sources from all sides of the same thing we are able to gather more impartial information, but the gaps in his evidence will be left to his analysis and interpretation, which also brings bias. Historians are also going to only include significant events, which is also a form of bias as to what they consider significant.
There exist artefacts of the past, such as dinosaur fossils. Our knowledge of dinosaurs are bases on their bone structure (physical evidence) and what in the present show similar characteristics. Some dinosaurs are assumed to have reptilian characteristics, because of their similarities in structure. But we are incapable of conceiving that they could be completely unalike anything on earth now. Therefore our knowledge of the present almost undoubtedly affects our approach to knowledge of the past. Similarly, our approach to the future is based on our knowledge of the past and the present.
“History repeats itself” a common phrase, as it is well known that what happened the past tends to happen again. However it is not completely true since you cannot have the exact same situation, and people again. However our future predictions and understanding of the present are based on similarities of causes and effects in the past. The reason for this is because the study of history brings a greater scope of understanding of human nature. The current economy crisis has taken many lessons from the crisis in 1929.
In that time laissez-faire policy was used, which was a complete flop, and led the world into depression. This time round, the world has acted fast with it fiscal policy and the world is looking a lot more optimistically to the future. Predicting the future also often results in self-fulfilling prophecies. Economic predictions are notorious for it. If you tell people your “prediction” that the stock market is going to crash, then people will panic and sell their shares fast and so the stock market ends up crashing, fulfilling the prediction.
However, since the future has yet to occur, there is no certainty in whether the same consequence will take place. This could be due to an introduction of new unknown variables. What if tomorrow the sun doesn’t rise, because a huge asteroid hit it out of our solar system so fast that we didn’t notice? What if aliens settled on earth? What if a huge black hole ate up our solar system so that everything suddenly becomes nothing? Our theories of the future are based on the past and present.
Since we haven’t had aliens settle on earth before, or our solar system eaten by a black hole recently, these ideas of the future seem more unrealistic than another ice age, or something that has happened in the past. The “what if” theories can be called imaginative, just because they haven’t been made sense by the past. Until it happens, something unpredictable and unknown is unconceivable, because wouldn’t have an explanation for it yet. Our recent past and present is based a lot on information in the media. We all know that 9/11 happened, because we’ve all seen it on the news.
Most our knowledge of the recent future is based on secondary sources. However, Very large news companies such as CNN and the BBC, which dominate the source of information in the world. The only way to be certain of the truth is to be there yourself, which is not very practical. So there will be certain untruths in our knowledge of the present as well. So to conclude, our past is based on what sources of information are available in the present, and our approach to knowledge of the future is based on our past and present. Neither are completely certain, because to a certain degree the present isn’t so certain either.