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Curated Quote #34
“The greatest difficulty lies not in persuading people to accept new ideas but in persuading them to abandon old ones”
-John Maynard Keynes [English Economist 1883-1946]
Keynes was one of the most influential economists of the 20th Century. During the 1930s, when there was a global depression, he helped to revolutionize economics. He believed that pure market supply and demand would not always self-correct in times of recessions and the Depression. By the end of the 1930s and into the 1960s, many capitalistic countries incorporated his ideas into national policies that defined the post-WWII world.
By the latter part of the 20th century, Keynes's influence had greatly diminished due to the stagflation of the 1970s and the growing influence of monetarists such as Milton Friedman. In the years after the Great Recession of this century, Keynes’s theories were once again in vogue.
TIME magazine, when naming Keynes as one of the “Most Important People of 20th Century in 1999, stated that “his radical idea that governments should spend money they don’t have may have saved capitalism”
Why do I like this quote relative to the future?
People often tell me that they don’t like change. It is one of the most common statements made to this futurist. One of the reasons they don’t like change is the great degree to which “reality” means the way things are now, for me, in my life. Not that reality doesn’t exist in other forms and places, just that what one thinks of reality is what they are used to, what they have come to expect, day in and day out. Life is known, not unknown. Today should be like yesterday and tomorrow will be the same as today.
Back in 2012, I was writing my book “Entering the Shift Age”. It had several big ideas about the Shift Age and what the changes would be in many areas of society, economics and culture over the 20 years ahead from that year To me there were a number of ideas that, while insightful, were not these big concepts but important nevertheless.
One of these was the concept of Legacy Thinking. Post-publication of the book, this concept seemed to have much more resonance than I had expected.
In the years right after the publication of “Entering the Shift Age” I participated in a number of corporate offsite retreats. The reason they had me come in was to help initiate fundamental change. The majority of these companies told me six months after the retreat, when I was doing a post-mortem, all said that they were trying to let go of legacy thinking to make the changes. Necessary.
Another example was at the Ringling College of Art + Design, where I was Futurist in Residence and Guest Lecturer. The most popular course in Liberal Arts was one called “Dangerous Ideas”, taught by Doug Chismar, the head of the department. He recruited me to guest lecture one session of the course because he felt that “ the Collapse of Legacy Thinking” was a dangerous idea. I argued for other ideas I had put forth in the book, but he was clear that this was what he wanted to include in the course. Well, okay it’s your course.
So, the quote from Keynes fits exactly in tothis idea of the collapse of legacy thinking.
As I wrote eleven years ago:
“Humans have a unique way of looking at the present through the concepts of the past. This is legacy thinking. It is hard to avoid. We experience something, are taught something, or learn something in the past and it then becomes the filter through which we look at and see the world….. we are now going through a major collapse of legacy thinking with a speed that is unparalleled in human history. We are about to go through major shifts that will render obsolete many of the thought structures of the last 200 years. Welcome to the Shift Age.”
“Legacy thinking is viewing the present and future through thoughts from the past. A simple metaphor for this would be the act of rowing a boat. You are looking back to where you have been with your back facing where you are going. You are backing into the future, looking at the past”
Then, in an entire chapter devoted to “The Collapse of Legacy Thinking” I listed some of the big concepts that were soon going to be areas of legacy thinking collapse. They were/are:
-Governmental structures and political parties
-Healthcare and Medicine
-Education at all levels
-Energy and energy use
So, this great quote from Keynes is so true as there must be the letting go of old ideas so that there is room for new ones. The deep comfort of the certainty of old ideas is hard to let go.
What comfort do you have by holding on to thoughts from the past? It is a comfort that looks to the past, not the future. Time to abandon your old ideas