Change from society’s view has tended in the Western world to equate to “progress.” Two components of the path of progress are:
- Institutional knowledge passed down through generations, and
- “Progress” as a social goal.
Early in the civilizing process, institutional knowledge began to displace instinctive behavior. This knowledge was passed on by the family unit or village. Now, with family and village fragmented, what will replace those traditions? The primary shared philosophical expression today may be a focus on “making progress” with no clear intent as to what results should be forthcoming. Progress follows the path of least resistance, to the easiest rewards. Today, that often means new ways of doing things.
However, creativity is not a substitute for wisdom. Progress without direction is a prelude to unanticipated problems. By failing to define explicit goals, we exercise the implicit assumption that "competing interests will resolve into overall progress;" but as society grows more complex, the danger of spiraling into a chaos of unfettered opportunism increases.
A free society that retains a reasonable level of efficiency requires ongoing efforts to balance individual and societal rights. The future will be managed. That is, a future in which the values we now hold dear still have currency will be arrived at by deliberate collective actions, not the product of fortuitous outcomes in technology, political leadership, or national economic prowess. The world cannot continue to unfold at random, in our favor. We have real problems to confront, not just work around.