Extract from the book

Change? What Change?

by Geoffrey Hackett

It’s rather strange, isn’t it, that humanity, otherwise naturally inquisitive, tends not to welcome change and can even fear it to the point of paranoia, though often, when forced, it will find a change of great benefit. Even stranger is why the fear of change develops in the first place. There are theories that we don’t like change because we are lazy or we do not have the skill, or because we are creatures of habit, are afraid, or because we are simply control freaks. Actually, I think it is less sinister and more basic. It is about comfort and peace of mind.

There are four types of event that affect our lives and thus, how we see change. The first type of change is the most radical. It involves the first appearance of anything and I call this fundamental change. For example the invention of the steam engine created a radical and permanent shift in the way we live, as did medical developments like the discovery of penicillin and the invention of the pace maker. This takes us to the second type of change which is the further development of something we already use or have available to us, an improvement on what already exists. I call this analytical change; somebody analyses what exists and improves it.

The third type of change is transient change, so-called as they lead on to other things. This includes political changes brought about by law makers, warmongers and those ‘who know what’s good for us’ as well as natural events. All these may have an enormous impact on our lives for a period of time. The fourth type of change I call enlightenment change and it is tricky to manage or to cope with. No physical change happens at all, only a change in the way an individual or group sees something. This is an awesome change to the individual or group who experiences it but it is of little or no consequence to the rest of us who either pass it off as some aberration or ignorance in those undergoing the change.

Listing the four types of change:


gives us a mnemonic to remember them by – FATE - and that is sometimes how we accept change in our lives, as fate, the inevitable, the prediction, that we will have to live with this or you will have to live with that. It is all fate. But when change occurs, as we will see later in the book you have choice, and that means the opportunity to do something about it rather than accept it as fate. Meanwhile, let’s take a closer look at these four categories, see how they fit together and how we can recognise them.

On the face of it, fundamental change may seem to be the most radical and daunting type of change, usually met with all sorts of questioning. For example, when trains first carried passengers the ladies need smelling salts to prevent them fainting because the speed, about 16 miles an hour. When cars were developed, law makers insisted a man with a red flag had to walk in front of them to prevent them injuring any one; now we slow them down by putting them on the M25. When Christiaan Barnard carried out the first heart transplant, various groups accused him of interfering with the natural order, etc. Likewise, the computer has, since its invention, been accused of everything from taking all our jobs away, rendering us unhealthy, damaging our eyesight and making our brains redundant. In fact, it is these major changes which are the most predictable, the most manageable and ultimately the least disruptive to us.

Fundamental changes often take a long time to develop, are often written about years in advance, experimented with, forgotten, rediscovered and then, finally, a very poor performing prototype is produced and tested. Then development starts with a useable model before the marketable version arrives. You should therefore not be surprised by fundamental change. As an example the aeroplane, very much the invention of the twentieth century, was talked about, drawn and written about by Leonard da Vinci in the fifteenth century. Balloons supported manned flight in the eighteenth century, and in the Napoleonic Wars observers directed ground bombardments from balloons.

Likewise, the computer, our modern agent of change the instrument of torture that frightens people every day, the revolution of the 1980s and ‘90s, was born in the 1940s. To warn us of its oncoming power Alan Turing even called it ‘Baby’. Should we have been surprised they were writing about the computer 200 years earlier and that, in fact, if the British government had been able to afford the money, Charles Babbage would have built a mechanical computer, more than a hundred years before Bill Gates was born. Imagine - we could have had the internet before the car and the plane. What a difference that might have made.

Change is not fast if you have an open mind about things. It is not life-changing if you are adaptable and it is not unpredictable if you are knowledgeable. It is very slow like a tortoise if you are trying to drive it, but like a supersonic jet fighter if you are trying to stop it. Change is actually all things to all people but strangely, to most it is perceived as all the wrong things. So, if we could change the way we see things, could we get change working for us?

I say yes - how about you?

e-mailyour thoughts or contributions


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