“I won’t work”

People like to declare certain things won’t work like it’s some incontrovertible truth.

In a 1995 Newsweek article titled “Why the Web Won’t Be Nirvana”, Clifford Stoll wrote, ‘Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change how the government works.”

In his book Men, Machines, and Modern Times, Elting Morison describes three stages of people’s resistance to change that have withstood the test of time. First people ignore the technology, then once it becomes impossible to ignore they’ll explain why it can’t work, and then finally — as a last resort — the existing power structures that be will do everything in their power so the technology doesn’t work.

Complex problems and opposition are baked into the process of change.

Sometimes the complex problems will prove unsolvable (for now); sometimes the opposition will be proven right.

But the only way to find out is to have the audacity to believe that there can be a different way of doing something.

That’s why we play the game of building things — because while it doesn’t guarantee that we will change anything, it gives us the chance to.

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William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)