Resistance to Change that is Inevitable

The change that will be resisted the most is the one that is inevitable, as it is the one that is the consequence of removing a blind spot, i.e. something people have been collectively unable to see, but that is self-evident once it has been pointed out. Indeed it was inevitable that someone would discover the Earth was a sphere since it is a sphere. In a similar way, it was inevitable that someone would discover better ways of doing things because it was possible. Such change is inevitable as someone is bound to discover it eventually, yet at the same time equally bound to be resented and resisted because of an unwillingness to admit to having been in the wrong. Psychologists call this phenomenon cognitive dissonance, where we effectively protect our ego by not taking on board evidence that is in conflict with our beliefs.

The scientific revolution was a success in its initial phase because it was a method of overcoming cognitive dissonance by removing the ego from the process of forming beliefs. At the heart of scientific methods is the aim to establish objective knowledge, which if attained ought to be ego-free. Hence, it is meant to be beliefs about how the world works that are founded on rationality rather than emotion, and therefore should be easier to let go of. Whilst that is true in principle, reality is different because not all succeed in the admirable task of separating the self from the beliefs that they hold. The number of disputes would be significantly lower if people had invested less of their egos in their ideas and were able to look at the evidence more objectively without any attempt for self-justification.

The purpose of a journey of discovery is not to flatter the ego for having been the chosen one to have discovered something that was waiting to be discovered, but the thrill of the discovery itself, i.e. what is often referred to as curiosity-driven research. To most researchers today this will sound like a romantic past, and no longer a reality in research, where the methods used to encourage greater effort are all focussed on flattering the ego rather than taking joy in the journey of discovery. But let us note that some changes are bound to happen because they are inevitable. Most researcher would still agree that intrinsic motivations and the love of discovery are the best drives in research and this is why the change that is already happening in companies like Google giving researcher more autonomy and time to play with ideas is inevitable, since it achieves more optimal outcomes, and hence will drive out bad practices of treating research as if it were production of baked beans that can be planned to deliver like a machine in a factory.

However, such change is often delayed due to a blind spot that makes us cling to the mast when the wind is blowing, instead of letting go and let the wind fill the sails to take us on a new adventure. We do so, not because we are happy with the present, but because of fear of the future. As John Ruskin put it:
`One of the prevailing sources of misery and crime is the generally accepted assumption, that because things have been wrong a long time, it is impossible they will ever be right.’

What is holding us back today is what has always held societies back, namely a blind spot. Whilst progress is inevitable it requires a pair of fresh new eyes being able to spot it and remove the veil that has prevented us from seeing it.

Whilst most people have not seen it yet, and those who have seen it have not been able to make it public enough for it to have become commonly recognised to be there, the inevitability of change is already happening in society. But rather than being research driven it is experience driven. It is evolution at work that is gradually making us remove the blind spot of our time because firms and people find that there are better ways of living and better ways of doing things. Sometimes such personal evolution can be a rather painful experience as a way out of depression. I was very touched both by the story of John Purkiss and Andrea Moretti Adimari, who have both found help in Eastern philosophy which is based on surrendering the ego. Apart from the benefits that this can bring in general, it does also achieve the objectivity to overcome cognitive dissonance, since the former has to do with protecting the ego. Once we get out of the subjective perception of the world, we can also look at the world around us more objectively, and laugh once we realise we were wrong, because we are no longer attached to what we thought we knew but can look at the world with no need for self-justification.

So what is then the blind spot of our time? I can give a hint. The main reason for why we do not lead lives that are more in tune with life is because we tend to treat phenomena we do not yet understand in derogatory terms, instead of realising that the main insight from Charles Darwin was not that what he could not explain with his theory was not important, such as aesthetics, music and our soul, but that their importance was yet to be discovered by a humble soul. Mother Nature was no fool, and the veil is about to be removed and reveal the blind spot that has put us on an unsustainable path of escalating waste and depression.

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