thought for the day: on the tension between experience and innovation

Old vs. Newi give tremendous respect and deference to individuals with experience and longevity in a particular discipline. those who do things for a long time are, on average, far better equipped and knowledgeable about a particular subject than those who are newcomers to a particular discipline. as a scholar, i respect experience and precedent.

that said, just because someone has been doing something or arguing the same thing for a very long time doesn’t make that person’s technique or theory correct. tradition is not truth, and ‘proof’ is never the last word, it is only the best word thus far.

i am always surprised to hear that classic line, ‘i’ve been doing this since before you were born.’ such a comment is the banter of the uneducated. claiming that experience trumps all new research is a desperate grasp at authority, and reeks of pride disguising insecurity.

the last time i heard the line ‘i’ve been doing this since before you were born’ was in my blue collar home town of fresno, ca, where two shop workers were arguing over the proper way to change the oil. it is not an effective line because it betrays the possibility that someone has been doing or thinking about something incorrectly for a long, long time.

if an established technique or theory is correct, it will easily withstand new and innovative approaches. if it is not, it will gradually erode and be replaced by the new theory or the more efficient technique. simply arguing that the way we’ve always done or understood something is better because those doing or thinking it have done so ‘since before you were born’ may be worthy of acknowledgment, but certainly does not make it the best.

have a nice day.

One Response

  1. It all comes back to the saying ” I can do it better than you.” Most people don’t like to admit that they might actually be wrong. We call it “Progress” and most people call it”Change”,and change is a hard thing for most people. So really it’s a good thing there is more than one way to do things otherwise “Progress” would be just “Incomplete.”

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