The Nature and Pace of Change We are looking here at change as a variable, not just a phenomenon. So once more, it is the process that interests us and not just the effect.
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We are looking here at change as a variable, not just a phenomenon. So once more, it is the process that interests us and not just the effect.
Historically speaking change is a relatively new phenomenon, and most of our ancestors did not expect or anticipate change other than disasters. The word “progress” would have meant nothing to a European in the Middle Ages. The Manchu Emperors sat beneath a sign saying “Change Nothing.”
"Why is it that all our institutions seem to be going through a simultaneous crisis? Why is it that the health system's in crisis, the justice system's in crisis, the education system's in crisis, the value system's in crisis -- you name it -- why? There must be something that cuts across all of these. ... And why is it happening in Tokyo and London and Italy and so forth? Why is there a political crisis throughout all the political countries? The answer is that we have sets of institutions that were designed either for agrarian life ... as parliaments were, or ... the Industrial Age, but no longer meet the requirements of today. And the problem used to be -- it took what? Three months for a message to get from Ohio to Washington? And vice versa? And the idea was the Senate would be a chamber for leisurely deliberation for the major issues. Well, come on! Nobody has two minutes of uninterrupted time. So the external conditions are radically changed. So the question is how flexible are the existing institutions themselves. We're fortunate, the Americans are lucky, because our system is generally more flexible and certainly more decentralized than the other industrial states. Which gives us a better shot. But I don't believe that the system can continue in its present form." Alvin Toffler 1996
There are two types of change, and it is difficult to define them exactly, but there is incremental change, which means that things change within an existing broad order, and there is a paradigm shift in which change occurs that fundamentally alters the basic rules. In politics you could think of the emergence of liberal democracy within a social order, and contrast that with the Russian Revolution, which totally overturned the social order (though it came back after 70 years!)
There is a problem, however, that no-one can accurately predict change, and there is always the wild card of technology. Consider the case of the Rev. Malthus and the question “was he wrong?”
Can we ever account for technology? If we say that the forecasters were always wrong because of this, the danger is we construct technology as an act of faith, saying “don’t worry something will come along to save us, like the Green Revolution did.”