Posts tagged change
“We live in an era of great turbulence, with economic decline running in paradoxical tandem with technological advance. It is only to be expected that our antiquated institutions haven’t been able to keep up, and our nation states, political parties and supranational bodies are starting to unravel. Politicians now seem perennially in the business of chaos management, and the suspicion must be that this process has only just begun. The inevitable chorus of voices crying out for “a period of stability” sadly misses the point: we aren’t at that place in our history, and trying to impose inertia on those fluid times may only be inviting further discord.”
–Irvine Welsh,The beauty beneath Brexit’s bedwetting.
“We must make our freedom by cutting holes in the fabric of this reality, by forging new realities which will, in turn, fashion us. Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the inertia of habit, custom, law, or prejudice—and it is up to you to create these situations Freedom only exists in the moment of revolution. And those moments are not as rare as you think. Change, revolutionary change, is going on constantly and everywhere—and everyone plays a part in it, consciously or not”
Our foundation of Earth knowledge, largely derived from historically observed patterns, has been central to society’s progress. Early cultures kept track of nature’s ebb and flow, passing improved knowledge about hunting and agriculture to each new generation. Science has accelerated this learning process through advanced observation methods and pattern discovery techniques. These allow us to anticipate the future with a consistency unimaginable to our ancestors. But as Earth warms, our historical understanding will turn obsolete faster than we can replace it with new knowledge. Some patterns will change significantly; others will be largely unaffected, though it will be difficult to say what will change, by how much, and when.
“Amnesia leads to despair in many ways. The status quo would like you to believe it is immutable, inevitable and invulnerable, and lack of memory of a dynamically changing world reinforces this view. In other words, when you don’t know how much things have changed, you don’t see that they are changing or that they can change.”
Rebecca Solnit, ‘Hope is an embrace of the unknown’ (2016)
People in the innovation-obsessed present tend to overstate the impact of technology not only in the future, but also the present. We tend to imagine we are living in a world that could scarcely have been imagined a few decades ago. It is not uncommon to read assertions like: “Someone would have been unable at the beginning of the 20th century to even dream of what transportation would look like a half a century later.” And yet zeppelins were flying in 1900; a year before, in New York City, the first pedestrian had already been killed by an automobile. Was the notion of air travel, or the thought that the car was going to change life on the street, really so beyond envisioning—or is it merely the chauvinism of the present, peering with faint condescension at our hopelessly primitive predecessors? The historian Lawrence Samuel has called social progress the “Achilles heel” of futurism. He argues that people forget the injunction of the historian and philosopher Arnold Toynbee: Ideas, not technology, have driven the biggest historical changes. When technology changes people, it is often not in the ways one might expect: Mobile technology, for example, did not augur the “death of distance,” but actually strengthened the power of urbanism. The washing machine freed women from labor, and, as the social psychologists Nina Hansen and Tom Postmes note, could have sparked a revolution in gender roles and relations. But, “instead of fueling feminism,” they write, “technology adoption (at least in the first instance) enabled the emergence of the new role of housewife: middle-class women did not take advantage of the freed-up time … to rebel against structures or even to capitalize on their independence.” Instead, the authors argue, the women simply assumed the jobs once held by their servants.
Vanderbilt’s premise is: “We are strangers to our tastes.” He doesn’t mean that we don’t really like what we say we like. He means that we don’t know why. Our intuition that tastes are intuitive, that they are just “our tastes,” and spring from our own personal genome, has been disproved repeatedly by psychologists and market researchers. But where tastes do come from is extremely difficult to pin down. Taste is not congenital: we don’t inherit it. And it’s not consistent. We come to like things we thought we hated (or actually did hate), and we are very poor predictors of what we are likely to like in the future.
As someone who cares deeply about social change and personal transformation, that was exciting to me. Larps were said to let players experience particular emotions, to step into each other’s perspective, possibly even explore artistic and political visions for new forms of society.
The Osborne 1 among the Mujahideen
In an era of breathtaking, earth-changing engineering projects, this has been billed as the biggest of them all. Three times as long and almost twice as deep as its rival in Panama, Nicaragua’s channel will require the removal of more than 4.5bn cubic metres of earth – enough to bury the entire island of Manhattan up to the 21st floor of the Empire State Building. It will also swamp the economy, society and environment of one of Latin America’s poorest and most sparsely populated countries. Senior officials compare the scale of change to that brought by the arrival of the first colonisers.
“It’s like when the Spanish came here, they brought a new culture. The same is coming with the canal,” said Manuel Coronel Kautz, the garrulous head of the canal authority. “It is very difficult to see what will happen later – just as it was difficult for the indigenous people to imagine what would happen when they saw the first [European] boats.”
For the native Americans, of course, that first glimpse of Spanish caravels was the beginning of an apocalypse. Columbus’s ships were soon followed by waves of conquistadores whose feuding, disease and hunger for gold and slaves led to the annihilation of many indigenous populations.”
Examples of catastrophic and systemic changes have been gathering in a variety of fields, typically in specialized contexts with little cross-connection. Only recently have we begun to look for generic patterns in the web of linked causes and effects that puts disparate events into a common framework—a framework that operates on a sufficiently high level to include geologic climate shifts, epileptic seizures, market and fishery crashes, and rapid shifts from healthy ecosystems to biological deserts. The main themes of this framework are twofold: First, they are all complex systems of interconnected and interdependent parts. Second, they are nonlinear, non-equilibrium systems that can undergo rapid and drastic state changes.
Kindle Book 23. Oliver Burkeman’s Help!: How To Be Slightly Happier and Get A Bit More Done.
The following kinds of stories were formerly weird, but they now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: