The nature of the scientific career I chose to pursue meant that earning my livelihood depended not only on my developing “new” ideas, but further required that I successfully “sell” their merits in the industrial market place. This latter requirement, I soon discovered, was a far greater challenge than the former. While meeting this challenge I came to realize that, in general, people are highly resistant to making the “changes” implied by the acceptance of any new ideas. The status quo is far too ingrained and comfortable. I found this to be true not only for the scientific ideas that I promoted as a consultant and the use of the new technology instruments I developed, but also for those problem-solving approaches I explored in community activities, some of which I have recounted in this book.
The significance, then, of the basic ideas presented earlier and the future “changes” they imply will no doubt also be widely received with comparable skepticism. This epilogue offers a summary which hopefully will challenge skeptics to think more deeply.
The concept of how evolutionary progress occurs is my starting point. As I set forth in the book, such progress has happened slowly in a step-wise manner whereby something “different” periodically comes into existence that triggers a change in the “theme”. This change becomes the dominant driving force for the next evolutionary theme period. Since the Big Bang, this progression has produced the advances that made possible the development of our species and now accounts for its ongoing evolution.
The occurrence of such theme changes are, in human terms, rare phenomena. However, scientific knowledge and the historical record inform that they do actually occur. Thus, logically, they will recur into the future. It fits well with contemporary happenings that we could now be experiencing the commencement of just such a theme change.
Appealing to the important scientific attribute – a willingness to disbelieve – suggests the need for a desirable suspension in a belief that current economic and social/political practices are basically sound – a willingness, that is, to consider they actually may be deeply flawed.
The outcomes of current conventional approaches employed in business development and by governments as they seek for the social betterment of their people, have had the unintended consequence of ensuring an economy structured so as to be incapable of fully utilizing the skills and productivity of all its citizens; of failing to inclusively and adequately educate and train all of its citizens to successfully meet the opportunities and challenges offered by a now rapidly changing social milieu; of also failing to provide the efficient medical system that would ensure a maximally healthy and thus maximally productive citizenry. All these outcomes have consequentially deprived far too many citizens of a decent standard of living.
And perhaps most importantly these approaches have totally failed to seriously address in any significant way the truly fundamental questions concerning the evolutionary success of our species, as witness the ravages of global poverty, global internecine warfare, and global environmental degradation.
I suggest in the book that the scientific revolution commencing in the early 17th century initiated a new evolutionary period that continues to this day. Economies of size became the necessary means to exploit the scientific and technical advances of this new theme period. This inevitably produced the structures of modern societies and the nature of their economies, dominated by large corporations and large governments. This “largeness” and much that consequentially became accepted as normal practice in support of this largeness, have led inevitably to a total inability to effectively address the cited defects in our society as observed today.
The spectacular advances in computer-based technologies of the past half century have, through computer programming, transformed business practices and opportunities for scientific enquiry. They have, via the internet, produced worldwide instant communication and via the world-wide web, at the click of a mouse, provided an infinitude of information on every subject matter imaginable. They are further bringing widespread, inexpensive robotics to the brink of reality. These technical advances collectively represent the “changes” that make possible a new evolutionary theme period. These changes have, at an ever-accelerating pace, been eliminating factors that previously contributed to the logic of “economies of size”. This “change” means that largeness is rapidly ceasing to be the necessity that past circumstances demanded.
The transition from largeness to an optimization of size focused on the substantial potential benefits of “smallness” is now conceivable and implied by the book’s content and title, Escaping an Evolutionary Dead-End.
The main thesis of the book as introduced and supported by the stories presented, is that this transition will see both private and public enterprises come to conduct their affairs by formulating plans explicitly as “experiments”. These will be formulated in accordance with the concepts established by the practices emanating from the scientific revolution. That is, they will be based on “scientific thinking” as described in this book. A conspicuous change will be the primacy then given to the proper “measurements” to define planning outcomes as the means to discover whether predicted outcomes are in fact achieved. This will allow the widespread acknowledgement of any failures, currently obscured and suppressed by the lack of any agreed upon outcome measurements. Such acknowledgements will in turn focus attention on the need for rethinking and re-planning rather than perpetuating the consequences of unacknowledged failures, as is currently the norm.
Two additional changes are necessary to accelerate the proposed transition. National and State governments need to discriminate between legitimate legal questions where legislative solutions can be successfully formulated and difficult social problems where efforts should be focused not on legislating ostensible solutions, but rather seeking to create and support environments that will encourage individuals to actively explore societal problem-solving within the local communities where they reside and work. This will introduce the pluralism of effort, which linked with the application of scientific thinking as a norm, will provide the proven means by which to accelerate societal progress.
Secondly the federal government will need to formulate the experiments whereby the money supply feeding the national economy is to be provided directly by the government rather than indirectly by the private banking sector through the fractional reserve system. Only in this way is it conceptually possible for an economy to be able to employ all the skills and productive energy of all its citizenry all of the time.
A final point to stress is that shifting our evolutionary path in the direction suggested in this book is to be initiated largely by the acts of individuals, not by political action through national or state governments.
At any time, individual entrepreneurs can decide to pursue their business development aspirations along the small business path that I have described, rather than the public corporation path. The educational assist to encourage such a decision is already available through a unique online small business training program developed by a colleague and myself and offered by the Vermont Small Business Training Center (vtsbtc.com). As the popularity of this new entrepreneurial path increases, a concurrent development will be that of the small business private infrastructure that I have described.
At any time, individual citizens can choose to follow the local community path that I have introduced, to pursue their societal/political aspirations or beliefs. The natural consequence will be a steady improvement in community problem-solving, creating a greater degree of community cohesiveness and sense of empowerment. Cumulatively it would change the face of governance to our enormous benefit.
No slogan-chanting crowds seeking to create national consensus are required to set the above scenarios in motion. Individuals functioning in a new way could actually begin a process to remake their societies.
Once started, this could extend the ideals of the American Revolution to not only banish the evils of absolute power but to greatly diminish the influence of power throughout society. This would reduce the corrupting temptations that attend the acquisition of power, and thus diminish the level of corruption in society that has been enhanced by the growth and dominance of “largeness”.
We need to stop asking others to solve societies’ problems. It will be more effective – and far more fun – for each of us ourselves to locally engage in societal problem-solving. From such beginnings, bringing into play the concepts of scientific thinking, pluralism, and minimization of scale, much that will surprise and benefit can be expected. In this manner the transition I describe could be initiated, thus setting us on a path to escape from the evolutionary dead-end that currently confronts us.