Adaptation and Innovation Through Unpredictability    by    Ruth Utnage

This global crisis we’re experiencing has created much uncertainty in our lives. Unpredictability. We humans aren’t very good at coping with that. Unpredictability creates worry and stress, it triggers our amygdala to assess for danger and threat, making it harder to connect to our group, to each other. This is where humanistic differences come into play. When unpredictability and uncertainty present themselves to us, some of us learn to adapt and it sparks innovation.

For instance, restaurants are closed. Business owners are now faced with uncertainty due to an unpredictable circumstance. Some have reacted to this news by dwelling on a likely outcome, shutting the business down entirely. Some have chosen to innovate new ways of creating dining experiences. Adapting to the changing landscape. This can be said for many. Schooling. Manufacturing. Home medicine. Social networking. The list goes on and on.

Another area we can point to is mental creation. That’s right, creating solutions mentally. Case in point, one night I was watching a repeat of a show called Cosmos on National Geographic. They were talking about a subject that both confounds me and excites me, light. I once worked for an optical lab in prison making eye glasses, which depend on light theories to work properly. We had to learn about the two prevailing light travel theories, neither of which are proven, so we understood why glasses work. Why each curve is crucial, every nanometer of perfection we could achieve in our creation was important. But it also troubled me. We were using a technology, as a species, that we don’t fully understand.

Light behaves in a way that defies the laws of physics. This led to conversation about dimensions. We understand a few dimensions, like 2-d and 3-d. We can theoretically understand 1-d and 0-d as well, but 4-d? How does that world work? If we know there is a 2-d and 3-d, it stands to reason that a 4th, 5th, and 6th dimension must also be possible, but how and what does it look like? This is where innovation and adaptation in uncertainty come in.

I spent half the night trying to mentally conceptualize what a 4th dimension might look like. If we take a 3-d box, which we can create from clay or conceptualize through drawing, how then do we transform it into a 4-d box? All kinds of possibilities emerge in my mind, which leads to me wanting to understand mathematics more so I can mathematically understand the mental images I’m creating, like we can with a simple 3-d box, we can understand its space, its dimensions. The end result? I’m excited to go to work today not because I solved some problem, I did nothing of the sort, but because I am thinking and it feels good.

The point of all this? Think…That’s all. Just think. Because trying to understand our world is healthy and it prepares us as humans to adapt to future unpredictability. The more mindless our day-to-day activities, the more we should be imaging solutions to things we don’t understand. Throw convention out the window and think about your own solutions, your own ideas.

Oh, and enjoy. I may not have figured out quantum physics overnight, but it sure led to a few cool drawings that look sorta like a boxes with wormholes that connect to opposing sides in one and in another I imagined a box with each edge connected through a tubular space that converges in the exact center of the box.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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“A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, then by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” (“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire )