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Society is Change: From Chaos to Progress

By Taylor Gray, Ph.D. on November, 3 2020

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Taylor Gray, Ph.D.

The world is a better place when companies are good corporate citizens. I remain focused on developing meaningful and actionable insights from empirical data in pursuit of a better world.

Our greatest responsibility is to make informed decisions. The world as we live it is the result of the decisions we make. Our social landscape comes to life from the interactions of the intended, the unintended, and the unanticipated consequences of our, and of everybody else’s, decisions.

In this sense, there can be little certainty of what is to come beyond knowing that it stands to be different from what has already come. Change is perpetual and is critically important to making the world a better place. Progress is change--change from what is to what could be. Human society is, and has always been, a project of change.

"Progress--or our shared efforts in making the world a better place--grows from our ability to guide change."

 

Understanding Society: Culture and Technology

Sometimes, to better understand something, especially something as complex as human society, it helps to explore how it is different from other seemingly similar things. In this sense, human society is often differentiated from that of all other animals. Although exactly how and why we are different remains hotly discussed (see here and here), few argue with what is now broadly accepted as fact: human society is different from all other animal societies. Plenty of other animals have developed societies, such as chimpanzees, dolphins, and bees, to name but a few, so what makes human society so special?

What truly differentiates us, and hence serves as the fundamental pillar of human society, is our ability to manage change. All other societies have an ability, to varying degrees, to adapt to change, but few can actually manage change at scale. Our ability stems from the intertwined attributes of culture and technology, of which both are more developed in human society than others.

"Human society is a project in change."

Culture is the ability for society to pass knowledge from one individual to another and from one generation to another across time and space. In this way the knowledge we create today builds upon the centuries of knowledge which have come before us—each new generation is not relegated to rediscovering stone tools and first principles of agriculture. Culture permits us to compound upon knowledge indefinitely and rapidly--an attribute in scope and scale unique to humans.

Intertwined with culture, technology is the application of knowledge toward a practical purpose. In technology, we can develop products and processes to cause transformation—most notably, we can transform our environment to fit our needs and desires, and to continue these transformations as our needs and desires change. We can adapt to our surroundings or we can adapt our surroundings to us as we deploy technology as a multiplier of our human forces.

"The hallmark of human society is that of compounding transformations."

 

Change and Progress

If culture is the compounding of knowledge and if technology is the application of knowledge toward transformation, then it reasons that the hallmark of human society is that of compounding transformations. In this sense, what differentiates human society is our ability to catalyze and manage continuous and iterative change.

Progress--or our shared efforts in making the world a better place--grows from our ability to guide change. This means our greatest responsibility is not only in making informed decisions for ourselves but also in making informed decisions which also support others to make equally informed decisions--for this is the compounding nature of human culture which can transform change from being a chaotic force into a purposeful force directed toward making the world a better place. 

Human society is a project in change--progress comes from guiding change.

 


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