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Waiting for your opponents to die

Creativity and Innovation

Max Planck knew how to change the world.

His ideas around quantisation of energy completely revolutionised how we think about physics, the world around us, and how small things can become.

But he also knew that you cannot convince everyone that your new ideas are true. Some people will continue to resist new information, and actively hold back progress.

So this is why I love his blunt view on what it takes for a new consensus to build around radically new, creative ideas:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. . . .

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul.

What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.
— Max Planck, Scientific autobiography, 1950, p. 33, 97

Not every idea needs to wait until the previous generation has completely died out.

Sometimes, the old guard just needs to see the benefits which the idea brought to other people.

But often, it takes time for the younger generation to get into a position where the ideas they believe in can be pushed into the forefront, and become the predominant view.

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