Change is something we live with, in large part because when it happens we tend not to notice.
In the 16th century, a philosopher of diverse interests astutely observed change as a relative concept which as an observer in motion makes it difficult to observe. Change, when observed ultimately tests our understanding of time and I suggest adds meaning to much of our actions.
Change we make happen feels different than change that merely happens independent of our actions. What we make possible now becomes different than what’s expected and predictable.
Ever intentionally stare at something that over time gets closer or farther away? You know the object travels distance, yet it’s difficult to perceive or notice its movement. We perceive and understand change similarly, once we notice a difference we know change happened but unable to sense as it happens.
Traveling relative to moving fascinated Einstein too. December marked the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s publication of his theory of general relativity. Naming, and then expressing the idea, requires different capabilities than understanding or theorizing the concept.
Ever try to make someone else understand something you know? Did you only use language? Or did you also use pictures, gestures? Analogy, metaphor and story all help others understand what you know, but until you actually do what you describe your understanding won’t be sufficient.
Scientists experiment in order to test out an idea they think works. In business, customers test the worthiness, or value of what the business offers. In both Science and business, it takes more than knowledge to be willing to test the idea. That extra ingredient I lump into a category I call readiness and its inextricably linked to change.
Change, often defined as the difference between one point and another.
Point A Point B
Take a look, how do you perceive change? General relativity explains that space and time both move, not exactly together, but relatively which like change makes the concept difficult to grasp, let alone measure.
Time keeping, now standardized, makes everything we do on earth measurable by contrasting it to the standard of time. Knowing the amount of waiting time helps us manage our attention by creating an expectation. Standardizing time, allows us to plan and coordinate what we do for ourselves and with others.
For example, few people literally watch while waiting for a kettle of water to boil. The temperature of the water begins to change in the presence of heat. Reaching the boiling point proves to be a relative and meaningful change. Conversely, if the boiled water was used to brew tea or coffee, knowing that without sustained heat, the same water will cool.
We experience waiting, not as the transitional changes in the water’s temperature, but the time difference between the thresholds. Placing a thermometer in the water allows us to observe moment-to moment change in temperature but does little to change what we do while waiting. Similarly, the increasing number of installed sensors in the physical world make it possible to observe the invisible moment-to-moment changes occurring around us. Smart meters measure the amount of energy being consumed in a location, smart phones track distance traveled in greater detail than a car’s odometer.
What value does additional tracking offer? Traveling, or consuming energy doesn’t happen because we measure them, nor does the rate in which change happens once measured.
Ever smile? This change we make in our outward expression isn’t always a conscious action and yet we may first discover by observing the reaction chain our smile produces in others.
If you want to understand change, try thinking about it with respect to time. Actively trying to make a change happen helps us focus and notice the amount of time needed before the desired effect happens. Ever notice how long before others react to your smile, or until you feel water getting cold or getting warm? Feeling the change in sensation doesn’t require quantification, or precision. Time too seems irrelevant, beyond our ability to recall.
When describing invention, as in the mother of necessity, what does this imply about our needs and our existing capabilities?