14. Resilient adaptations

Summary: The book ends with a review of creativity research, learning, resiliency theory as well as individual cases where severe disabilities have been overcome. The findings are that while creativity is essential to avoiding this trap, it cannot be generated under direct pressure. Resiliency theory indicates that steps forward cannot be taken without temporarily sacrificing some productivity. The conclusion is that a frame of mind that avoids the stalemate brought about by overspecialization can indeed be nurtured over the long term.


    We may not all be as gifted as Lincoln or Beethoven, but as Pinker and Boden suggest, each of us can come up with extraordinarily good ideas. As a global community, our reserve of skills, our long evolution and our modern rejection of isolation all point toward a positive solution...

    Temple Grandin
    In individuals and societies there are remarkable abilities for finding or creating alternatives when systems fail. Dr. John Ratey in A Users Guide to the Brain, describes how a young woman named Temple Grandin overcame an aspect of her autism that prevented her from stopping her brisk walk when she met someone, and from socializing generally. She devised a training routine on her own in which involved stopping herself from walking into a sliding door. According to Ratey, the young woman realized that approaching a person and stopping politely was a lot like walking unhurriedly up to the sliding doors at a supermarket. So her training routine involved walking calmly towards the sliding door, and attempting to stop before she collided with it. Temple Grandin would practice this for hours on end, inviting curiosity from onlookers. Eventually she mastered the technique, and used the same skill upon approaching people. She wrestled with the many negative aspects of her autistic savant handicap, allowing her positive skills to shine. Grandin subsequently earned a doctorate in animal sciences and later became a renowned animal handling expert...

    A good idea
    On these creative notes, I close the argument that we need not fall victim to response inertia when our environment is overtaxed. Alas, there is no direct, short-term escape from the progress trap. One must be forgiven for thinking that there might be, given the urgency of ecological warnings, the fear of dire straits ahead, and the ‘eleventh hour’ sense of panic. Many factors can contribute to a stalemate brought about by overdevelopment, and they can remain active for long periods of time. There are numerous ways in which we can be vigilant against this kind of impasse, and there are ways of emerging from it. Creative solutions can be devised for problems that develop if we falter. Taking note of the resiliency theory, which points out that changes can be favorable to diversity and unfavorable to productivity, we must prepare to make some sacrifices, knowing that taking a step back will allow us to move forward. The ingenuity of tomorrow will call for inspirations as brilliant and adventurous as any that occurred in the past. For that we will need patience, education and a conviction that the future will be successful.