We Are Not Doomed…

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle the respected venture capitalist Vinod Khosla asserts that:

Anything that requires people to change their habits has a low probability of success.

He goes on to say that his assertion has “been proven over and over again” and that it is now an accepted truth in the modern industrial society “that people don’t inconvenience themselves.”

Sadly, I must agree with part of Mr. Khosla’s argument. Each day I observe those around me doing everything they can to avoid inconvenience … so much that I will often see someone actually doing some truly harmful things to the environment simply to avoid “inconveniencing” themselves.

The part of Khosla’s argument that I cannot conscionably agree with is that the members of our society are so self-centered that they are incapable of adopting “change” in behavior that might require a reassessmet of “convenience” and require adaptation to a changing environment.

I must disagree with Khosla because the societies of the world are full of examples where our people have willingly and often agressively altered course in the process of adapting to better seurvive and to better live in a changing world. Such adaptations were seen with the move from agricultural society to industrial society and from an industrial economy to a service economy.

Throughout our history, mankind has demonstrated a knack for adaptation. We have moved from typewriters to keyboards and are now beginning a transition to microcomputing. Of course, there will always be those niches where technology does not assert itself. We should not look down upon such people. We should celebrate the diversity that results in the innovative and creative productions seen in all cultures.

I think that if something is truly a matter of human will and human interest it can be done. Japan has a number of examples in their history. In addition to their purposeful transition from an auto based transport economy to one of rail, they were also the only nation state to ever purposefully remove the technology of the gun from their military society.

During the 19th century, the Japanese reverted from the gun to the sword. They made this painful transition because they reasoned that the introduction of the gun had ultimately begun the destruction of their heirarchical culture of the samurai. The distance and separateness of killing with a gun allowed combatants to kill each other without ever coming face to face and exchanging formalities … it also drastically altered the skill required to kill an enemy combatant in such a way that the prowess of the samurai was sacrificed.

Japanese society reached their conclusion during their war with the Koreans. They had a passion for maintaining their traditions and their social norms … they gave up the “high” technology of the gun.

Examples such as the above are the reasons I must disagree with Khosla’s assessment of the future of our societies. I wholeheartedl believe that if the people with the power to change also have a passionate reason for adaptation … then they will find a solution … and things will change. And unlike the trickle down theory in the financial terms … with adaptation, a trickle down of ideas will absolutely occur.

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