When, in 1991, a list was drawn up by an assortment of heavy weight problem solvers to focus on important social and scientific topics receiving prominent play in media over the prior years. Behavior, psychology nor its related sub fields were mentioned.
Other areas were listed… molecular biology, artificial intelligence, chaos theory, massive parallelism, neural nets, fractals, complex adaptive systems, superstrings, biodiversity, nanotechnology, the human genome, expert systems, punctuated equilibrium, cellular automata, fuzzy logic, space biospheres, the Gaia hypothesis, virtual reality, and cyberspace, to mention a significant few, but no psychology… Other important disciplines besides psychology were also absent: 3D printed body parts, immunology, pluripotent stem cells, chemistry, epigenetics, climate change, internet of everything, etc.
Things have changed since 1991…
The world is rocking in a way not envisioned by Led Zeppelin or Van Halen. The “rocking” I am referring to core changes that involve every aspect of our existence. Over the last twenty-five years or so, all the rules, ideals, principles, and codes, etc., have been changing faster and faster and we now are experiencing the collective impact of those changes.
For many, that is a very good thing.
For the world, because all those rules, mores, traditions, ideals, values are ALL changing AND, all at the same time, it is more than an unsettling variation. No, no one has acceptable ways to understand, predict, or control the changes, their paths, consequences or implications.
More than metaphorically, we have a world out of balance that is worse off that it might otherwise be if we collectively understood it was, indeed, out of whack. Most in the world doesn’t understand or they double down so they don’t have to deal with it. Of course, they are clueless about how to deal with it. Thus, entities keep digging in deeper to keep the old rules ’cause that has mostly how it worked in the past in times of uncertainty. Hard to give up on making buggy whips when the horse carriages have gone away.
You can observe it everywhere. People, groups and agencies hanging on to the last vestiges of the past by their mental fingernails in efforts to hold on to what was once comforting. The carcasses of ideals, dichotomies, castes, simplistic explanations are hard to ignore. But many keep trying to do just that. No one wants to say out loud in front of the lords of celebrity and the kings of political unions that the jobs of 1990 aren’t coming back (different ones are emerging but…), equality is available if one values it, aristocracy over citizens is weak, and Jacksonian statements from “The Lottery,” “we’ve always done it that way” are more impotent than ever.
Today, 2016, we want to understand ISIS, rulers of in Iran, North Korea, Washington, DC, teachers, parents, babies and ourselves.
A more objective objective is needed. An objective that is liberated enough to abandon the almost endless marginal disputes of quarrelsome mundane dogmas in order to affect the survival of everybody on the planet, all on the way to figuring out what the heck is going on. We might want to study behavior. We might be ready.
Unlike some smokestack disciplines still protecting ancient edifices or intellectual self-indulgence, the empirical study of behavior viewed as a horizontal set of endeavors has solutions rather than the regurgitations of irrelevant quackery. This proposal is based on very pragmatic understanding that there is no time left to dally and psychology’s past has run out of runway to contribute to even the simplest solutions necessary to be of value to Earth.
Some think another and perhaps bigger gun, Lightsaber, a deity with new super powers, yoga schools, another pill, repression of the weird ones, stricter laws, election of a benevolent bully, or the return to fundamental values from another era would bring back order, old forms of rule, hierarchies and such.
Haven’t we heard all that before? Hello…!
Who knows how to change behavior?
JHBryant – Lone Star College – Conroe, Texas