Present and Future Ideas

Idea’ is a funny word. It’s not till you start looking up dictionary definitions that you realise that we use idea in two fundamentally different time frames, and we use them interchangeably.

There are ‘present’ ideas and ‘future’ ideas.

Present ideas

Present ideas are thoughts, concepts, impressions or notions relating to now, as in ’she has some strange ideas on bringing up children’, or ‘the idea that Trump is speaking for America….’, or ‘the idea of Behavioural Economics has caught on’.

Future ideas

Future ideas, on the other hand, are thoughts or suggestions as to a possible course of action, as in, ‘we’ve had the idea of starting a separate digital agency’, or ‘the idea is to use Amal Clooney as our spokesperson’.

But nothing is straightforward. Take a phrase like ‘she’s always full of new ideas’, which is a commentary on an ongoing (present) situation that also looks to the future.

From a background in advertising, it comes naturally to me to look to future ideas, which are also the ones that innovators and inventors are seeking to come up with. I called the book The Very Idea in an allusion to how complicated and confusing ideas are, and how the world of ideas is dramatically unstraightforward.

I could say, ‘my ideas on ideas are likely to be controversial’, and believe I was talking about future ideas. Whereas a critic could pick up a synopsis of the book, and say, ‘Wethey’s ideas about ideas are so predictable’, so dismissing my ideas as tired old present ideas. The very idea, indeed!