Are you for turning?
Are you for turning?
In her famous speech defending the vigorous economic and social stance she took to bring the unions under control in 1980, Margaret Thatcher said “The lady’s not for turning”. It declared her strategy as perseverance. Some thought it ruthless, others said it was consistent. Judgments of politicians’ performances usually reflect our deeply held political biases which in turn sometimes simply declare our own interests.
Turning is often necessary. The espionage business is built on it. Spy and counterspy work ceaselessly to ‘turn’ their opposite numbers until their identity can become obscure even to themselves. For most of us a certain predictability of behaviour and opinion is what we regard as a steady life. Being able to forecast another’s response is comforting.
Three things make this not the most desirable pattern for life.
First, whatever our habits they get more pronounced as we get older. A quirky teenager grows into a middle-aged minor irritant and then becomes an old age pain. To avoid this we are on the alert to amusing habits starting to turn into prejudices and cynicism. But avoiding a trend only happens when we positively take a different turn – or when we are turned.
Second, you don’t need reminding that the world is changing very fast all around us. Our basic standards may remain intact but new technologies demand how we interpret them. Developing social attitudes, reflecting a growing brain and intellect, require us to adjust our behaviour without demanding that we abandon any deeply-held beliefs.
Third, we are learning until the moment of death. How we do so is largely up to us. To be able to turn our skills to new needs and our minds to new questions is a benefit both to society and to ourselves. Anyone over the age of 20 must now actively seek the answer to the impact of artificial intelligence and robots on humanity if the species is to survive.
Can we tell when experience is turning into prejudice? A simple questionnaire will give us some good clues if not a definitive answer. Do we know how to fit the jigsaw of new technology to the canvas of our own life? Assessing our understanding of issues raised by the changes and the questions we must answer or seek guidance on is a matter of creative perception. We leverage our finances; do we leverage our brains? Not nearly enough.
Ask yourself the following questions:
– How is my long-held belief about the reason for and restrictions on humanity affected by approaching immortality?
– When will technology replace science – and how will that affect what I do?
– What are my sources of information both regular and casual?
– How systematically do I draw on them? How have they changed in the last three years?
– If I was asked to train a small, intelligent creature with an outsize brain to join human society what are the five things I would teach it first apart from personal hygiene?
– Looking at my answers to these six questions do I think I need my attention ‘turning’ if I am to make a success of the rest of my life?
A good helmsman frequently glances at his compass to make sure he is on track. We, too, can easily stray from our path. Or our route can simply run out.
When these things happen we need turning.