So, what’s the big deal about paradigm shifts?
After all, they are simply changes that produce culture shocks of different magnitude. You don’t have to participate in these changes, you can always choose to slide further into the background and watch from a safe distance. If fact, there are people living in the United States today who don’t have electric lighting, telephone service, running water or automobiles. They vote and participate in the American culture, but rarely make any major contribution to civilization.
There are many more who have accepted paradigm shifts only after they have gone mainstream. These are the people who are over on the right side of the Technology Adoption Life Cycle that I mentioned in an earlier post.
These are the people who use telephones, but not email. They will only buy computers when they are completely hidden as in the new car they purchase. These people keep things going instead of innovating. The revere traditional values and they contribute significantly to the economy.
Then there are the people like you, who like to be aware of what is coming down the road even if you don’t feel that you need to participate now. You may not desire a cellphone that takes pictures, but you would probably buy one if you had a task for it. You are also aware that some disturbing trends are occurring in our society and you would like to have a better understanding of their origins.
One of the lesser known attributes of paradigm shifts is that they may take decades before they are recognized and adopted by mainstream “authorities”. This is often referred to as a cultural lag.
Here is a telling example:
Ignaz Semmelweis demonstrated in the 1840s that hand washing prevented the spread of childbirth fever. At the time (early 19th century) doctors would deliver babies without first washing their hands and, worse, would do so after performing autopsies on patients who had died from childbirth fever.
It wasn’t until the 1860s when Joseph Lister connected and applied Semmelweis’ and Pasteur’s work to develop and popularize the chemical inhibition of infection during surgery. Lister is considered to be the father of antiseptic surgery.
It took twenty years for doctors to believe that washing their hands before surgery could have any positive effect. This was just one minor paradigm shift, but it affects the lives of millions every year.
Paradigm shifts change cultures in large and small ways. If you are prepared for this, you will probably feel less threatened when the next one comes along.
Paradigm shifts you may not have experienced yet
There were some interesting discoveries made in the past 60 years that have just begun to surface in mainstream society. Almost uniformly, these discoveries were attacked as arrant nonsense by “mainstream authorities” so you may still have negative opinions absorbed from the Reader’s Digest and other popular media outlets. What ever opinions you may have, there are two paradigm shifts that are sure to create some cultural shocks down the road.
As early as 1900, quantum mechanics surfaced as a concept. It has been the subject of intense study since then and has served to confirm the vision of many science fiction writers that alternate universes and teleportation are more than fiction. This IBM research paper on Quantum Teleportation is well worth reading.
For those who want more believable applications of Quantum mechanics, you need to read about the breakthroughs in superconductors and superfluids which scooped the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Another recent breakthough was announced in Britian. Quantum cryptography keys encoded in photons of light have been transmitted more than 23 kilometres through air. They say this is an important step towards a global communications system that is completely secure.
In the 1950s, the matter of personal, spiritual immortality was confirmed and the tools were made available for anyone to verify this for themselves. Since this also involved the whole matter of contacting and making use of data from past lives, this was immediately ridiculed by those who had a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they are.
What is most interesting to me is that much of the world has been very comfortable for thousands of years with the idea of living before, and presumably after, this life. Whether they accepted this on faith or by direct experience makes little difference. What was confirmed in the Fifties with Dianetics, was later applied with hypnosis, and is currently used in regression therapy. As this phenomena becomes more widely experienced in the United States, there will undoubtedly be cultural changes that result.
Matters that were once the sole province of belief systems assume an entirely different aspect when directly experienced. When a person contacts past lives or has an out-of-body experience while awake and not under the influence of drugs, it is difficult to convince him that he is only his body. He understands for the first time that there may be some truth to the phrase, “the spirit is immortal.”
As I said in a previous post, these shifts are easily be recognized after they have occurred, but are often dismissed even while they are creating irreversable changes in the way people live and act. We may not accept personal immortality or quantum mechanics as a reality, but they will both have an impact on us eventually.