We humans like predictability. We like planning. We appreciate being able to plan. We don’t like feeling like we’re not in control, nor do we like randomness or sudden change. For much of our lives we try to develop simplification systems, sometimes these will be provided for us, whilst in other instances we develop generalisations that we use to navigate the world faster. The advent of the internet and smartphones has seduced us toward believing that information is the same as knowledge (it’s not) or that being able to see how something is done is the same as knowing how to do something (it’s not) or perhaps that our opinion is of value, even if we haven’t spent time learning about a subject or issue in detail and can do it ourselves (it’s not.)
When, after years of dumbification, we come up against some complexity, sudden changes that come about due to unpredictable events if we have not been able to maintain the sharpness of our tools to deal with such eventualities by virtue of the fact that we haven’t needed them then it can be quite a shock to our systems to suddenly have to switch these systems on and think in the most effective way to navigate that given situation or set of circumstances.
It comes to my attention that people that have lived in transition economies, or economies facing massive structural changes are at a massive advantage when it comes to having the adaptability required to face up to the challenges of rapid, unforewarned change. The mental sharpness and access to our natural survival instinct is far greater because it has been required and not numbed by years of comfort and stability.
In times of complexity and rapid unpredictable change it makes sense to consider what we would do if the unimaginable would happen, just because the clarity we gain through such an exercise may inform us about the real way we feel about our lives, what we are doing and what we feel that we should be doing. The illusion of security is being eroded for millions around the world and some of us may already feel that more acutely than others. There is no reason to be concerned by this because change had been a constant forever even if we like to believe that it hasn’t been. In fact that speed of change has accelerated in recent times to such an extent that we find many things in our lives being challenged. The only logical response to this is to work out how we can be sharp if something should happen.