We think and live biased by an imperceptible inertia, inherited from our past culture and imprinted in our minds by our education. We are not used to investigating the factors that determine our condition, and in many ways, even when we push the limits of self-awareness, we are still missing essential matters.
One of the frames we are taught about through our lives, is the time required for any process. Measuring the duration of events, is at the root of planning your day, your activities, your life. We might be familiar with some of these time frames, but as for many others, we haven’t got the least idea. These ones, need to be discovered, studied, verified, checked again and finally, made knowledge. From this point on, that knowledge can be then transmitted to others.
Working in Architecture and Design, one of the first things a client will ask you in any given project, is how long it will take. From the perspective of a professional exercise, you will easily give a first approach to the programme and a feasible date of completion, with a considerable degree of certainty. When medical doctors are requested about how long a recovery will take after a surgery, based on own past statistics, and previous studied cases, they will be able to tell the patient the days or weeks needed. Even in natural events, if you study enough you will be able to know, not only the frequency with which a comet will visit our system, but predict when a phenomenon, like collision of asteroids, is due to occur.
We take time into account every day, at every time. We have time inserted in our mobile phones, in our PC screens, on boards on the street. Thus, there are different timelines, which happen to be “natural” or at least, predictable according to different scales of events. Well, this is an utter fallacy. We start losing control and capacity to predict times when approaching more complex issues, like when will the Republicans hold power again, or if and for how long will the European Union last.
We also know how easy it is to consider timelines in retrospective and draw conclusions, i.e.: how we could have imagined 15 years ago, that we would be able to access Internet, our email, much of our stuff, make photographs, videos, play games, all through a handset not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Who could have predicted the Ipad, 20 years ago? Please realize that we are talking about decades, not centuries.
Take a glance, if you haven’t done yet, at the timeline that illustrates this post. Pay some attention to it for it’s completely inaccurate* (I’m being ironic…): due to the revolution that took place in tools innovation, and the amount of devices developed and produced in the past two decades, the 6 years between 2004 and 2010 span for more than a 1/4 of the whole graphic, almost the same than the first million years when oral language, maths and graphic art were developed by our ancestors.
Here are my questions:
Given the acceleration social processes are suffering (or enjoying) in so many ways thanks to Information Technology, considering the impact IT is having in the way we study, work, live, relate, communicate, decide and act, why are we so convinced that changes in Society, in terms of reforming democracy at its roots, should necessarily take “too long”?
What experience do we have, or who is expert enough in this matter, to assert such thing as “democracies change slowly”.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: changes in our societies don’t take place faster not because they are difficult to implement, but because those changes would be inconvenient to some. The other reason why we react accepting as a fact, that social processes take time, is that we are comfortable with that notion. We don’t really need Society to change at a different pace. But let’s be honest again: if we truly believe so, we are fooling ourselves.
So what should we do? Should we foster change? Should we demand equal speed of change in restructuring our democratic systems, as in any other field of our lives, say … 3D movies or TV? Should we demand more referendums? Should we start preparing new sets of strategies and platforms on our own?
I don’t know the answer, and I started this blog precisely because this issue has been hitting my head for the past 5 years or so.
But what I do know is that we need to be ready. We need to be open minded for the changes ahead, so the future will be already familiar to us, and we will be able to take advantage of those changes, instead of reacting overwhelmed and shocked.
We need to sharpen our tools, broaden our minds, exercise our imagination, be ready for action.
We have to conceive the inconceivable, in advance to the facts.
Otherwise, we will be outsmarted, once again.
* I would like to apologize with the author of the graphic for I realized the expression “completely inaccurate” could easily be misunderstood. It was not my intention to say it’s not correct, but only to stress the fact that the acceleration of devices and Technology tools development, has been extraordinarily exponential in the past 20 years, in comparison to the first million years and that forced the author to “distort” the timescale. I thought this might be obvious.