In case you didn’t notice, but our knowledge has changed, and along with that, some very widely-held notions of how people are.
We have gained new understandings in the idea of networks – how elements interact together in a system, and how some elements, by virtue of their position, can have disproportionate impact on the entire system. We have gained new understandings in complex phenomenon, of how simple laws can lead to phenomena thought too complex to be understood.
These new understandings apply to both human and non-human systems, from biology, to cellular organization, to the behaviour of ants and bees, or the flocks of birds and the schools of fish.
We have gained new understandings into ourselves. Fields related to the cognition and the processes of the mind are creating a different conception of the human being, one that suggests the human mind is more complex than we have ever thought before. The human mind at birth is not a blank slate, nor is it infinitely plastic. The brain/mind question is not a simple hardware/software issue.
Our logic is flawed, and shaped by the millennia of selection processes, and cognitive biases are sometimes, manifestation of those processes, sometimes ill-suited to present circumstances. We are only beginning to understand the conception of creativity and how human structures either undermine creativity or allow it to flourish.
We are beginning to realize that monetary incentives will not always motivate people towards desirable behaviour, and how intrinsic motivations are often more powerful than material, extrinsic ones. We are beginning to realize, and look seriously again at the meaning of happiness and how we might arrive there, and how to shape the economic, social and political systems toward that end.
We are only beginning to tap the potential of the very small to the very large and everywhere in between. We are exploring the manipulation of atoms and the individual forces; we are tapping into the potential of microbes for the human ends, to fulfill human needs, of energy, and food. We are continually asking the biggest questions – what is the universe, and we are getting better at asking those questions.
We live in exciting times.