For a second, consider of all our major public thinkers today. They do the opposite, constantly telling how sure they are of their beliefs and criticizing their “opponents” for changing their minds. Changing your mind is a good thing, Montaigne would say. It means you’ve resisted the impulse to think you’re infallible. He wrote that as part of his profession of getting to know himself he found such “boundless depths and variety that [his] apprenticeship bears no other fruit than to make me know much there remains to learn.” If only we could internalize that attitude—instead of feeling cocky when we learn something, acknowledge that it really just taught us how much more we need to learn. (here)While I often use this blog to vent frustration, propose new ways of looking at problems and possible unintended consequence of our actions, this does not mean that my ideas and opinions are as fixed once published. Indeed, if I look back at some of the opinions I held some years back I can imagine a heated debate between current me and previous me.
For example, for a period of time, I had a fixation about peak oil and what it meant for society. I thought in a linear manner, ascribing a reduction in total economic production possible to a reduction in technically possible rates of oil extraction, without thinking of behavioural responses and adaptations likely to take place including a renewed demand for alternative resources. My last post clearly shows that I have edged away from that view to a more reasoned and 'systems' view of economic behaviour.
I used to be passionate about ‘sustainable’ living (whatever that means). If we could only all do our little bit our environment, in the holistic sense rather than just the trees and animals sense, would be a better place to live. However, with more research into the matter it appears that while my own choices are the only ones within my control, there are offsetting effects from the actions of others that may render my personal actions ineffective.
While my ideas evolve slowly as I seek evidence one way or another, I can’t help but marvel at how quickly strongly held beliefs can change in a time of crisis, even when evidence for the new idea is as sparse as the one previously held.