“The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” —Albert Einstein
As an engineer, I smile whenever I hear someone use the cliché "go back to the drawing board." This phrase literal means that when design errors are discovered in production or manufacturing one would need to return to a mechanical drawing or drafting board to revise the engineering drawings, but figuratively the phrase means to rethink our paradigms or opinions about something altogether.
As we age many of our paradigms and opinions of things change over the years because of our experiences, observations, perceptions, and learning. In other words, we don’t look at the world the same way we did when we were younger.
As we consider the issues and problems we face today in our world, country, states, and cities, I’m reminded of the famous quote by Albert Einstein, “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” For the most part, we all pretty much agree on the issues and problems we face; what we disagree on is the importance of the issues and problems and how best to solve them.
Ideologues on the left and the right are totally married to their solutions, and it’s hard for them to admit that their solutions have failed to solve our significant problems. This is understandable. No one wants to admit when they’re wrong. But what we’ve been doing over the past 40 to 50 years to solve our political, social, economic, national security, and general welfare problems is no longer working today and many people, especially the poor and middle class, are systematically being disenfranchised politically and economically.
Our constitution, democracy, republic, political system, economic system, trade agreements, tax laws, bankruptcy laws, criminal laws, and social welfare system have all been seriously abused. Crony capitalism runs rampant; special interest groups have gained disproportionate power; free markets are a fallacy; and fair markets are a pipe dream. We should look to the past at what has and hasn’t worked; we should look around the world to learn best practices; and we shouldn’t be beholden to political and economic ideologies.
Like a failed engineering design, our country needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink our paradigms and opinions about how best to solve the significant problems we face today. Otherwise, nothing is going to get better and it may take another economic disaster like we experienced in 2008 to wake people up to the need for reform.