Certainly we are in unprecedented times. Certainly no one has ever faced the dilemmas and problems we face today. Certainly tomorrow is uncharted.
Well, yes. And no.
Do we know precisely what tomorrow holds? No. Should we be imprisoned by the past and kiss innovation goodbye? No. Yet there is much to learn from what has gone before. We can even [learn how to fix a broken economy from days gone by](http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=224262&title=elizabeth-warren-pt.-2).
Given the upheavals of the current economy and its effects on publishing, does the past have much to offer us? What worked five years ago or even a year ago may not work now. We’ve never had digital publishing before. We don’t have anything to compare that to, do we?
Even if that were so, we can’t escape the past. We have no other choice than to [publish and see what happens](http://andyunedited.ivpress.com/2007/06/market_research_by_publishing.php#more). Then what do we do? We evaluate the results which gives us a “new past” on which to make decisions about the future–whether to publish something similar or not next year. So the past still ends up being one of our best windows into the not yet.
I offer you some of the wisest words on this subject that I know. Winston Churchill with zenlike sagacity says:
**”The further backward you can look, the further forward you can see.”**
T. S. Eliot offers us a literary perspective:
**”Someone said, ‘The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.’ Precisely, and they are that which we know.”**
Steve Turner sharpens [George Santayana](http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Santayana) with wit:
**”History repeats itself.
Finally, Leszek Kolakowski tells us that the past is about so much more than what we know:
**”We must absorb history . . . to know who we are and how we should act.”**