This is an age old question, with many examples of conventional wisdom on both sides of the debate. Can people change? Or are facets of their personality fixed forever?
On one hand, cautionary tales abound. If your spouse cheats on you, they will do so again in the future. Addicts will use again. A convicted criminal will re-offend. A liar will continue to lie. Because people don’t change.
Conversely, stories of redemption are some of the most powerful stories of all. Everyone deserves a second chance, as the saying goes. Someone who learns from a mistake and takes steps to correct it is a hero.
How you view this issue may influence how you view the criminal justice system. Is it about punishment for doing wrong, or a chance to redeem yourself as a member of society? Does someone who serves out a prison sentence deserve the benefit of the doubt? In addition, does it matter what the offense was?
If you think it is possible for a person to change, how can any improvement be shown? In other words, at what point do we accept that a lesson has been learned, or that someone is truly remorseful?
Furthermore, what about change for the worse? Someone who has previously been kind and generous and thoughtful can do something selfish or mean. At what point does it become a change in personality? Is a nice person always nice, even if they do some things that are definitely not nice?
Usually, change is the one fixture in our lives. As we age, our body goes through physical changes: we get grey hairs, wrinkles around the eyes, gain some weight. But does our personality go through similar changes? Or do we have some traits that remain constant?
Related questions: What is time? What is necessary to change your mind? How have we changed? How have you changed?
There are a number of things in life that we might find uncomfortable. Discomfort can be found all around us, in both our personal and professional lives.
These can range from something relatively innocuous (say, an itchy sweater) to something more serious (like an inappropriate joke at work). For the most part, we experience discomfort for a reason. Typically, it is an indication that something is wrong.
Sometimes, however, a feeling of discomfort can be prelude to an improvement of some sort. Most people like things that are stable, and events or people that upset that stability, even in the process of making an improvement, can be disruptive. Change is uncomfortable.
Over the last decade or so, disruption has even become a buzzword in the business (and tech) world. AirBNB has disrupted the hotel industry. Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi industry. Used in this way, the word “disruption” suggests a change introduced that may cause chaos to an established industry or service, but ultimately leads to a better product for the consumer.
What are some other examples of something that starts out being awkward or difficult, but ultimately lead to positive change or growth? What is uncomfortable but rewarding? How can we tell “positive” discomfort from the “negative”?
Related questions: When is a lie justified? When is it useful to fail? Why do we put up with unhappiness? When is doubt helpful?
The word “technology” refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. Examples are all around us. Whether you’re reading this question on a desktop, laptop, or a smartphone you are, of course, using technology.
Cameras are an example, from the early devices called daguerreotypes to today’s digital cameras. Are each of these devices neutral, their value only determined by their use? For example, cameras can be used positively or negatively. You might capture a loved family portrait or stalk celebrities as an over-zealous paparazzi.
In addition, what about technology being used on a grander scale? For instance, the science of splitting the atom is used to produce electricity from nuclear reactors as well as to build potentially population-erasing bombs. Are these technologies neutral or do they have inherent value?
Simply asking if nuclear energy is “clean,” or do its waste stockpiles serve as a danger for current and countless future generations implies value, doesn’t it?
Do nuclear bombs make us less safe due to their destructive capacity? Or alternately, do they make us safer because of the deterrence their existence creates?
This debate is a long-standing one. Critics claim that technology is used/built for a reason — reasons that carry inherent positive or negative values — while the other side posits that it is simply a process or tool that derives value solely from its use by the user.
Where do you stand on this issue? Is technology neutral?
Related questions: Are science and religion compatible? What role does technology play in your life? What do you get out of social media?
The U.S. Global Change Research Program just delivered “The Fourth National Climate Assessment” to Congress and the President. While the report does not present a pretty picture, it concludes with tangible actions that Americans can collectively — nationally, regionally, and locally — take to mitigate our situation as well as adapt to changes that are already certain to happen.
The report begins: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”
With us already seeing the impacts of climate change, what is keeping us from taking action to sustain the planet? We are experiencing more intense forest fires and hurricanes, disappearing coastlines, and changing climate zones. If not for the sake of the planet, what about for current younger generations who must live on a less hospitable globe?
What! What will it take?
Related questions: Now or Later? What Do You Revere? What Are You Doing to Make the World a Better Place? How Can You Help? What Are Our Responsibilities to Others? What Is the Greatest Problem Facing Humanity?
It’s not a stretch to say that each one of wants to live in a better world. We want to see an improvement to our current circumstance.
Perhaps that means better for you personally, with a better job or a better house. Maybe you want better for your family and loved ones. Or maybe you hope for a better world for humanity in general, with longer life spans and better overall health.
However, things don’t get better unless someone drives that improvement. You can hope that you are the beneficiary of the work of someone else, but to see change, positive change, in your life you have to work at it.
Maybe that means that you need to ask your boss for a raise. Or perhaps you attend a march for a cause you believe in. You might attend a city council meeting, or donate money to a charity.
There are lots of ways to affect change, but first you need to know what improvement you want to see. Then you must take some action if you really want things to get better. Be the change you want to see in the world.
So what do you do? What actions do you take, what conversations are you a part of, what organizations do you join? What do you do to make the world a better place?
Related questions: How can we turn ideas into actions? What are our responsibilities to others? How do you define success? What are you optimistic about? Is it a cruel world?