Analyzing the most promising breakthroughs beginning to flourish in our highly permissive ecosystem
In writing about the transformation of current market trends, one can be forgiven for coming through as frantic, perhaps even neurotic about the road ahead. A certain uneasiness comes as a natural by-product of understanding todays developments and the implications they carry, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. As Andrew Grove from Intel says, only the paranoid survive; we must be able to see the pitfalls to avoid the pitfalls.
But as intimidating as they may be, the new frontier technologies and scientific breakthroughs of today are also radically expanding our spectrum possibilities and, in doing so, truly empowering us to answer the biggest global demands of our times. If our future ahead is not intimidating, it is most certainly exiting. This is as true for current technology as it is for the scientific discoveries which are, likewise, radically growing in power and reach; from particle accelerators to galaxy telescopes and the discovery new organic molecules around distant starts, expanding our understanding of the very origin of life. We seem to be escalating both our abilities to understand nature and to bend nature itself.
Yet such change is not welcome by all. The success of one novel solution comes often at the expense of another, and the same innovations that are for some offering new opportunities into market or mainstream recognition, are for others removing the very market entry barriers and status they have enjoyed for decades. And since incumbent institutions are, by definition, the established leaders of today, resistance to change is generally the rule and not the exception. Indeed, as mentioned in one of our introductory posts, most breakthroughs today are far from a purely meritocratic undertaking. With time individuals, organizations and with them entire societies become heavily vested in the existing paradigms; full lines of products and services, of studies, indeed entire carriers and even industries may be founded on the principles of specific assumptions and – perhaps most importantly – financially vested to the current state of affairs. If identified, understanding and shedding light on such external factors would serve as a roadmap for avoiding such biases in our future.
Any such endeavor would be limited in its effect without acknowledging a deeper layer still behind the current state of affairs. A foundational layer over which today’s enterprises has been constructed and sustained, in what Yuval Harari describes as our intersubjective reality: the believes held collectively by homo sapiens. Today’s world of accelerating change does not only mean that existing products, services, organizations, systems and theories become outdated with increasing speed. Underpinning these developments are outdated mental models which serve perhaps as the biggest hurdles for the flourishing of new solutions and new understandings. Their subconscious and subjective nature, and the fact they are buffered from the more objective and tangible elements we usually pay attention to in our day to day, only increase their repercussions.
As an example, take the resistance met by the very innovators who have shaped our world. The full copernican revolution from Copernicus to Newton took nearly 150 years to finally break in (1543 – 1687) and endless new discoveries, from the atom to evolution to continental drift, encountered massive resistance by the world’s prime specialists of their time. The irony, as mentioned in my opening post about paradigm shifts, is that no matter how many times the cycle is repeated, every moment of history, including the one we are in now, has its incumbent “paradigm gatekeepers”, convinced that their perspective, their paradigm, is the best (or only) solution to the challenge at hand.
Is there a way in which we can identify that we’re artificially sustaining an obsolete paradigm and holding back on promising breakthroughs? A way to pinpoint that the very assumptions, beliefs and habits that have allowed us to develop and flourish are now holding us back from the reaching new discoveries and the next required level of development, and that could serve as a tool to indicate that a new mindset or even a new paradigm is required? How do we develop a mindset which will allow us to to keep up with the forces we are unleashing, and allow new initiatives – more in tune with current global demands – to flourish?
Any analyses of the current breakthroughs, innovations and discoveries would thus require at least two spectrums through which to be evaluated. One, through the standing capitalist, political and scientific spectrum of today, and to be sure, there is an ocean of very promising developments here from which to extract invaluable lessons, and inspiration. Yet we should also include another spectrum for judging frontier advancements and discoveries, one that is aligned not with the world as it exists today but the world we would like to bring forth tomorrow. Just because certain initiatives do not flourish under our current ecosystem does not mean it is not in our interests to see them reach fruition. At times, such developments will require a shift in paradigms that will invariably contradict even the most established solutions and beliefs of our time, yet it is here where our flexibility, open-mindedness and our true scientific spirit of enquiry will be truly tested.
With this in mind, we may begin our search for the disruptive technologies, social movements and business models, for advances in personal development, spiritual teachings, cutting edge scientific research and the new theories and understandings that bring promising breakthroughs in addressing the most pressing challenges of out times. Hopefully, such breakthroughs are not simply switching our metrics of success from one haphazard target to another, but collectively and sequentially moving us towards the higher echelon of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, towards a sense of self-realization, of purpose, and of a much needed equilibrium and serenity within ourselves and our surrounding ecosystem.