The More Things Change, the More we Stay the Same

Change over timeWith all the befits technology affords us, we are increasingly facing a challenge on the human side of the equation — the rate of change is outpacing our ability to adjust to it. The title of this post may not be entirely accurate, but it does bring to the fore how our challenge grows harder as the force of exponential technological growth puts pressure on organizations to keep pace. The rate of change also puts pressure on independent thought.

Before we can change something, we need to understand its nature and impact. Rather than trying to change the game, we should work on understanding the game we're in, then shape direction from there by creating better habits.

In On Living in a Revolution, a collection of essays on social and political problems raised by the war, distinguished British scientist Julian Huxley says [via Peter Tunjic]:

“Whereas at the beginning of this period (300 years ago ) the rate of new discovery and invention was such that the digestion of a major change extended over the better part of a century, it has steadily increased until the process of digestion must now be accomplished within a decade. 

This is something new in history.  The better part of a century is a long human life-time, and within that span, adjustment both personal and social is comparatively easy.  When the time available for digestion of a change is reduced to a single generation, then, though individual adjustment is more of a problem, social adjustment is still not too difficult. 

But once the rate of major change has overtaken the rate of social reproduction, and is down to a half or a third of a generation, a new and formidable problem is introduced.  The individual himself is asked to recast his ideas and his attitudes once or even twice within the space of his active working life.”

The book was published in 1944.


[image via Scott Brinker]