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Developing New Ways of Thinking

headshot of Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Do you know the Einstein quote about how we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them? I looked it up the other day because I wanted the exact wording. But I kept finding indications that the quote is mis-attributed. Apparently there’s no evidence that Albert Einstein actually said this.

Einstein’s Urgent Call for New Ways of Thinking

However, there are other documents that Einstein wrote or signed that do call for a new way of thinking. One is the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, urging the nations of the world to abandon war as a means of resolving conflict. This document was drafted during the build-up of nuclear weapons in the Cold War. By that time, we’d created bombs that were 2500 times more powerful than the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima. We were way past destroying cities—we’d developed the capability of wiping out all life on earth.

We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.
We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties? ~ Russell-Einstein Manifesto, 1955 (signed by Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and 9 others)

And here’s an excerpt from Einstein’s 1948 message to intellectuals:

Our situation is not comparable to anything in the past. It is impossible, therefore, to apply methods and measures which at an earlier age might have been sufficient. We must revolutionize our thinking, revolutionize our actions, and must have the courage to revolutionize relations among nations of the world. Clichés of yesterday will no longer do today, and will, no doubt, be hopelessly out of date tomorrow. ~ Einstein, A. (1948). A Message to the World Congress of Intellectuals. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 4(10), 295–299.

Tackling the Problems of Today

Today our problems are even more complex and intertwined. And just as urgent. We’ve listened to one narrative for far too long—that growth is good, that progress means exploiting resources for economic gain, that self-interest and material wealth are the driving motivators for human behavior.

We need a new narrative.

What if we learned to live with our environment rather than exploit it?

What if we focused on well-being rather than growth?

For instance, what would it take to make sure everyone in our town, our city had permanent housing? What kinds of agreements would we need? What resources would we need? How would we need to restructure the system? How would we need to change our thinking? We say the market determines housing prices. But who created the market? Was it not us? Are we not imaginative enough to come up with a way to make sure all our neighbors have a place to live? We’d do it in a catastrophe. Why wait?

We need new ways of thinking. We need new perspectives, new alternatives. In some cases this will be very old ways of thinking that have been ignored and sidelined in this society. How do we bring these perspectives to the table? What could happen if we actually listen to one another? How do we bring all these views together to forge solutions that work for everyone?

That’s what we’re aiming to find out.

What new ways of thinking are you encountering? What new perspectives have you discovered recently? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Let’s see what possibilities we can create for our future.

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