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Change and its Opposite

  • Starting at least with the industrial revolution, "change" has become an inherent part of society. Every society lives in a world that is different from the world of the previous generation. Change has accelerated in the post-industrial society, triggered by the increased "productivity" of the digital devices.
  • I feel that this "change" is largely the result of the forces of "marketing", not an inherent human instinct. We need to spend huge sums of money to convince people to adopt a new appliance or watch a new movie. The post-industrial world has created an addiction to novelty but has to be kept alive with a constant injection of marketing campaigns.
  • However, humans have always had a passion for change.
  • Animals protect themselves from change. They fear change. Animals can survive only in their environment. Humans instead cause change, and most of them are thrilled by the idea of moving to a new environment. They are in fact thrilled by anything new in their life (a new job, a new neighbor, a new car, a new home).
  • Firstly, we value originality. We tend to think of original thinkers and artists as superior people. What is the biological value of originality?
  • Secondly, humans value exploration and innovation, which are just different facets of originality. What is the survival advantage of new things? Wouldn't it be safer to stick to the old?
  • However, there is also an undercurrent in human societies that pulls in the exact opposite direction. Humans have always been puzzled by change: everything changes all the time (matter), but something does not change (form). You never enter the same river twice.
  • The evolution of human society from the caves of the stone age to today's apartments has been a project to reduce change. Life used to be unpredictable in the savannah. Life in the city is very predictable. Change meant danger. Reducing change makes life easier and safer.
  • Human civilization is, ultimately, about things that do not change: building immortal things (whether a piece of furniture or a building or a road).
  • Therefore, unlike natural environments, human civilization requires continuous maintenance.
  • The ultimate products of human civilization, that defy change, are the cultural artifacts (books, photographs, films).
  • Human civilization is a project to create a world in which nothing changes, neither form nor matter. At one level human society generates continuous change. At another level it is trying to abolish change: to create permanence.
  • The opposition to "climate change" is simply an aspect of this process. Climate has changed for millions of years. We exist because of that climate change. I exist because countless events (including deforestation, irrigation, cities of concrete and asphalt) have devastated the environment and created the conditions for me to survive on this planet. Thus we implicitly assume that past climate change (the cooling and formation of the Earth, the end of the ice age, the events that caused the extinction of species that may have killed the human race) was good. However, we explicitly assume that future climate change is bad. Once we are born, we want no more change in the world.
  • The truth is that, whatever we are, we owe it to previous "changes". If we think we are "superior", we owe that superiority to "change". By fighting against change, we are fighting against the possibility that a superior race appears on this planet.