Defending change (or the status quo)

The easy argument to make is that the thing we have now is better than the new thing that’s on offer.

All one has to do is take the thing we have now as a given (ignoring its real costs) and then challenge the defects and question the benefits of the new thing, while also maximizing the potential risk.

“A hand-written letter is more thoughtful, more likely to be a keepsake, and a more permanent record than a simple email.”

On the other hand, the technophile defending change simply has to list all the new features and ignore the benefits we’re used to.

“An email is far faster, cheaper and easier to track than a letter. It is more likely to be saved, and it can be sorted and searched. Not to mention copied and forwarded with no problem.”

What’s truly difficult is being a fair arbiter. I fall into this trap all the time. We begin to develop a point of view, usually around defending the status quo, but sometimes around overturning it, and then the arguments become more and more concrete. While we might pretend to be evenhanded, it’s very hard to do.

Sometimes, we end up simply arguing for or against a given status quo, instead of the issue that’s actually at hand.

And the danger is pretending you’re being fair, when you’re not. In this silly article from the Times, the author (and their editors) are wondering if oat milk and pea milk are a “scam.”

This is a classic case of defending the status quo. Here’s a simple way to tell if that’s what you’re doing: imagine for a second that milk was a new product, designed to take on existing beverages made from hemp, oats or nuts. Defending oat milk against the incursion of cow milk is pretty easy.

The author could point out the often horrific conditions used to create cow milk. “Wait, you’re going to do what to that cow?” They could write about the biological difficulty many people have drinking it. Or they could focus on the significant environmental impact, not to mention how easily it spoils, etc.

Or imagine that solar power was everywhere, and someone invented kerosene, gasoline or whale oil. You get the idea…

There are endless arguments to be had when new ideas arrive. The challenge is in being clear that we’re about to take a side, and to do it on the effects, not on our emotional connection to the change that’s involved.




Seth’s Blog

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