Got A Revolution

Look what’s happening out in the streets
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Hey I’m dancing down the streets
Got a revolution Got to revolution
Ain’t it amazing all the people I meet
Got a revolution Got to revolution 

– Jefferson Airplane – “Volunteers”

 

 

When the members of Jefferson Airplane recorded their song “Volunteers” back in 1969, they couldn’t have conceived of the scenes around the world the night Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election.

With the optimism of youth, they might have imagined a time when a black American could become President of the United States. After all, in 1964 Irving Wallace published his popular novel “The Man,” about a senator who through a series of freak events becomes America’s first black president. Given the state of race relations in the late ‘60s it might have seemed a stretch to imagine an African American winning a presidential election – as opposed to landing in the office through the obscure laws of succession. But it was still within the realm of imagination.

The phenomena of people around the globe reacting to such an event at the same instant, on the other hand, was unimaginable for most people back in 1969. Telstar, the precursor for all of the communications satellites that make global television transmissions possible today, had been launched only 7 years earlier. There were not yet such things as the World Wide Web or cell phones, and only the extremely techy had email. And while some people were beginning to talk about a “Global Village,” nobody really had a good idea what that would look like.

And yet, thanks to breath-taking advances in technology over the past forty years, we find ourselves in that Global Village. Not only do people around the world now know – in the same instant – the results of an American presidential election. They now also know, in great detail, about many of the events leading up to that election. In addition, they are very aware of how an election in a distant land can have a profound affect on their personal lives. And occasionally they can become so invested in that election’s outcome that they will joyfully stream out into the streets to celebrate its results.

**********

There was a lot of talk about revolution back in the ‘60s. But it was generally viewed as something to be done to the establishment’s institutions by brave idealists, or something to be resisted by defenders of the status quo. Revolution was a matter of personal intention. As Jefferson Airplane sang: “Tear down the walls – won’t you try?”

These days we find ourselves in a world overflowing with revolutionary change. But it’s not the change 60’s radicals imagined or pursued, and it’s not the change defenders of the status quo feared and opposed. Instead, it crept up on us while we were transfixed by the so-called cultural wars. While everyone was fighting over political and cultural revolutions, the world was upended by a revolution in technology.

The primary casualty of this revolution is our understanding about how the world works. In countless areas, from big stuff like economics, politics and international relations, to more personal stuff like everyday life, people tend to have the disturbing sense that the rules have somehow changed. The common question has become: what are the rules now?

Actually, we are not the first to ask this question. One hundred years ago, as the field of physics was undergoing a similar revolution in its understanding of how the world worked, Werner Heisenberg observed:

The violent reaction on the recent development of modern physics can only be understood when one realizes that here the foundations of physics have started moving; and that this motion has caused the feeling that the ground would be cut from science.

And yet eventually scientists moved beyond this feeling of disorientation, became more familiar and comfortable with the new rules of modern physics, and began the work that released the tsunami of new technology that overwhelms us today. They not only adapted to a revolution in their world; they thrived in it, transforming our world in countless ways that not too long ago were unimaginable.

If it was possible for them, why shouldn’t it be possible for us? Is it impossible to believe that there are new and creative ways for us to confront the problems we face in the world around us?

The key to understanding our world today is to realize that we really must let go of our outdated preconceptions about how things work. The reason why many familiar institutions and beliefs are failing now is precisely because they are operating under a failing mindset.

Albert Einstein once said: “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.”

Many of those people and organizations that are thriving today – and they are out there – are doing so because they have learned to “see the world anew.” Whether they are conscious of it or not, they are using ideas based in modern science to change the way they work and the way they approach problems.

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About Dave Higgins

I've been interested in current events since at least the mid 1960's, and in ideas from modern science since the early 1990's. My website Quantum Age, which has been online since 1996, presents a basic framework for applying ideas from modern science to today's world. In this blog I discuss current events in the context of that framework.
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