Surfing or Drowning in an Ocean of Change?

Thor May
Adelaide, 2015


Image result for rubik's cube


Preface: This is a discussion paper, not a researched academic document. The reading list at the end is mostly a collection of contemporary links from the Internet and pretty accidental, not edited for quality. Where a topic is of broad general interest comes up with friends, I have adopted the practice of posting discussion starters like the present one on in the hope that others might also find them worth thinking about.








1. Introduction


If you type “managing change” into Google, it will claim to have 362,000,000 results. No doubt that is the usual Google hyperbole, but it does suggest that the phenomenon of change has captured some attention. Indeed, apparently also has around 83,000 book titles on the topic. After some further digging however, it emerges that “change”, and especially managing change, is sharply in focus for commercial and professional interests, and for governments, but only of intermittent concern for individuals. For individuals, change applies to particular things at particular times, often as a matter of dumb luck. There is little popular interest in change as a category of continuing experience which needs to be part of life preparation and education, or built into the planning as we anticipate careers, developing communities and countries themselves.


2. Professional change management


The main focus of these notes is the ocean of societal change that we are all swimming in, but hardly notice as something distinctive (it  is hard to see the water you are swimming in). However, we cannot avoid taking some account of the specialized change management which has become so common in commercial environments. By far the largest number of the indexed Google links on “managing change” refer to changing the culture of commercial companies. Changing markets, changing technologies, a continual flux of businesses coming into being, expanding, contracting, or re-focusing all mean that the people who work in organizational environments now tend to be faced throughout their careers with demands to modify their own habits, plans and professional roles.

The leaders in such demands for adaptation are usually managers of various kinds, most notably those involved in  so-called HR (human resources) management. Demands for change are rarely popular. The efficiency of human performance in occupational roles broadly depends upon well  established routines and habits. If I have to rethink how to re-tie my shoe laces each morning, then much time will be wasted. It is not surprising therefore that demands for change are typically resisted, and that the agents delivering those demands become widely despised. Thus "managing change" is often interpreted as a semi religious slogan in the HR lexicon of fraud. The question then arises for management about how to “manage” the psychology of uncooperative human employees. (Of course, managers themselves are amongst the most reluctant to question their own way of doing things). Whole consultancy businesses are built on voodoo promises to change the cultures of client companies. Ashkenas (Harvard Business Review 2013) proposes that that the 60-70% failure rate of attempts to initiate change business practices is mostly not about the desirability of the changes themselves, but the lack of psychological preparation and commitment amongst human change agents, notably managers. It might not be unreasonable to expect a similar resistance and psychological failure to adapt when general populations face major demands for change.

On the wider national canvas, politicians and their parties do have an interest in manipulating the outlook of electors, though this is generally more about creating the impression that current chaos is indeed being managed by the best possible leaders. On the surface, the political contest is only occasionally about bringing a population to accept that the world has changed and that they must somehow change their habits as well in a managed way. The looming challenge of climate change may be one instance of where there is a need for the careful management of the general population’s understanding.

3. Nudge Theory – a contemporary tool for change management

Professional influencers in the media, advertising, industry and government have an intense interest in the mechanics of managing change. They even have various sets of tools to help them. One of these sets of tools is broadly called Nudge Theory. Whole government divisions and corporate departments are focused on this stuff. I can recommend a very good (and rather long) explanation of Nudge Theory from Alan Chapman in the links below.

The original psychology behind Nudge Theory technique was to gently push people in a desired direction by making it easy to be good, as opposed to commanding them to do this or that. It makes sense: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you smash me in the face, I’m going to smash you back. If you lure me with a smile and a free beer you will probably get what you want. If healthy food in a cafeteria is easier to reach than junk food, maybe people will eat in a healthier way. In a slightly less obvious application, the British Government claims to be saving £30 million a year by sending personalized text messages rather than final warning letters for unpaid fines (Chalabi 2013).

The authors of Nudge Theory claim their intentions are to help humanity to save itself. As with fire or a knife though, tools can be used for many ends. My impression is that something akin to nudge theory has been the lifeblood of the advertising industry for many years. Also, as a non-watcher of TV who occasionally stumbles into a room full of zombie-conditioned TV viewers, my passing impression is always that these people have been nudged into desired attitudes more effectively than any leader of a religious congregation could hope for.

The important point from these examples is that the guys using Nudge Theory might be good or bad, while the people being nudged to change perhaps don’t even realize that there is an issue to discuss. At best, sooner or later on the turkey farm some of the turkeys may have a vague sense that they are being manipulated. A suspicion of this conspiracy feeling occasionally comes through in cinema themes of the day: “somebody out there knows the truth..”

4. Change influencers in plain sight

When we think of “leaders” or “rulers” or “managers” it is usually in terms of organization and control, or keeping the trains running on time. We do not usually think of these role types as arbiters of change even though change is often central to their daily concerns. In fact change is the most dominant feature of our era. Willy-nilly we must constantly adapt. If we pause to think, and remember a little history (not a common habit), we might notice that adaptation to very rapid change has been going on for a couple of centuries now. For example, a whole caste system of modern occupations has emerged. It follows that ascribed managers in big institutions are not the only people wanting to set a change agenda. Interest groups of many types compete to slant benefits from change to their own advantage.

Note that although I refer to a caste system because of the tenacity with which these self-sustaining groups pursue their collective interests, as individuals we may find ourselves participating in more than one “caste” (role system) and accordingly feel rather conflicted. As a cultural aside, this is a dilemma not unfamiliar to many in India as people juggle the historical caste system. Mechanisms and institutions have arisen to negotiate the processes and rewards of change amongst these occupational castes. Sometimes such attempts have failed, perhaps resulting in revolt or war. One of the institutions for change management which has emerged is democratic government, though it has many flavours. The forums of democracy in most national domains have tended to an imbalance of power over time. For example, the broad occupational caste to which the greatest influence has accrued could be called “Rent Seekers”. Modern rent-seekers embrace a broader category than the rather simpler 19th Century world originally confronted by Karl Marx.

In general rent-seekers are individuals or groups who seek to leverage their economic advantage in some way, above the value they might earn in a completely free market. Some leverage like this is not always a bad thing. For example, it can motivate people to divert effort or capital or improve standards in a field which might otherwise be neglected. At the simplest level, a householder might rent a spare room which would otherwise remain empty. Planning a career, a doctor might be motivated to seek and charge for specialized knowledge in a system that protected his status. At another level there are aggregators of resources who don’t actually produce anything but save other people time and inconvenience, then seek to monopolize their position. Wholesale middlemen have commonly adopted this model, including on the Internet (e.g. Yet we know from multiple daily experience that protected economic advantage for a taxi driver, or tradesman, or degree issuing institution, or multinational business etc. will force us to pay more than we think many services are really worth. In addition to all of the above, the rent seeking from organized crime, protection rackets, corruption and the traditional parasites of inherited wealth are still with us in most nation states. 

The multiplying complexity of modern economies is a kind of change which owes a great deal to the efforts of rent-seekers to identify and quarantine a profitable niche from uncontrolled competition. Once established, rent seekers are generally averse to change, but also exploit the outcomes of change. The following diagram gives some idea of the interests at work in a parliamentary democracy:



5. Evolving Roles and Perceptions


For any particular individual, the transitions through life from childhood to adulthood, gender partnership, child raising, old age and then death is a process of change. All societies mark these transitions in some way. Traditionally it was done with community celebrations, after which the expectations placed on that individual in the culture changed in carefully specified ways.

In the society which I now inhabit, only a shadow of the traditional lifetime transitions remain. They have been modified and compromised in a multitude of ways. Nor are they universal amongst my peers. Australian society is host to some 200 source cultures, dissolving and merging in unpredictable ways. Growing up in this environment, I can honestly say that I was unable to figure out what was expected of me. The unspoken rules seemed to change by the day, and continue to do so. As a young adult, the process was less about managing than surviving as the ground shifted underfoot. Yet many of my cultural elders seemed unable to notice that the physical and social frameworks which supported their own worldview had crumbled to dust. There were those who claimed to plan a career instead of stumbling into it. I never pulled that off.

A culture is a design for living. The original design for living appropriate for, say, my mother who never saw a light switch until she was 12, has only fragments of relevance to me as I type this document on a computer which can store all the books ever written, and will project my scribbling potentially to an impressive fraction of the planet’s population. By the time we are 12 we have mentally embedded a working model of the culture in which we find ourselves. For most individuals, at most times in the history of our species, that was sufficient. It is no longer sufficient. The mental models of our younger life are stressed in a thousand directions daily as they confront environments for which they were never intended.

What happens to (or what can be done about) people's psychology as they are machine gunned with futures their grandmother never dreamed about? The nihilism of the so-called Islamic State illustrates one outcome to the mental and physical violations which torrential change inflicts on a culture and on individual psychology. In fact, in this sense the Islamic State phenomenon is emblematic of many other upheavals in recent history, from millenarian movements (e.g. the Taiping Rebellion which led to over 20 million deaths in between 1850 and 1864), arguably to the World Wars of the 20th Century, and certainly to the ground zero killing fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. So wrenching change can cause violent social convulsions. How can this effect by moderated?

If we can imagine ourselves in England or Europe as the industrial revolution accelerated out of the conservative rural countryside with its feudal class divisions, the prospects must have seemed overwhelming, confusing and at times terrifying. Firstly there were planned changes by narrow interests, such as the Enclosure Acts in England, benefitting the already well off, and soon casting the mass of the population into chaotic urbanization. The aristocrats and privileged elites who thought they were planning a change had expectations built on whatever knowledge of the past they possessed. Occasional visionaries aside, there was no way these individuals could have had even an approximate idea of what would unfold into an ever-accelerating industrial revolution which would stand English culture on its head, totally restructure systems of government, create the welfare state, and unleash undreamed of technologies. They could not know that the deep psychological disturbances caused by change, sweeping across millions of lives, would lead to the huge systemic breakdowns of two world wars and countless other conflicts.

We are now standing on the cusp of social and technological changes even more giddy than those which engulfed our immediate ancestors. Will we do a better job of riding such dragons? The evidence so far doesn’t look promising, partly because “we”, the initiators, are no longer a small elite. We are a distributed network of billions with technologies of instant communication and miscommunication.  The scale of vast, interlocking changes has become planetary. However, a read of the comments columns in any newspaper or journal, regardless of whether it is populist or elitist, will quickly show that there is little consensus or understanding of what is going on when the issues are complicated. Completely opposed camps will loudly state their version of the truth, and quote a selective menu of facts or research to support their position. The distortions are not always deliberate. The human faculty of reason most often begins with a desired outcome, then minds become alert to whatever supports that outcome, and dimmed to whatever contradicts it. This is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias + the instant social media spread of mass outrage = dire political outcomes.  


6. How we become who we are


The traditional job of a teacher has been to pass on learnable parts of an existing culture to new generations. This is pretty well what happens to this day, certainly in primary and secondary education, and also for the most part in tertiary education.

University professors and researchers officially have a licence to synthesize new insights, processes and technologies which will take an existing culture to new levels of achievement. Only a very small percentage of them actually do this. For the most part they are clever people finding fashionable answers to dead questions. Like the average general, they fight the last war.

Image result for managing change Industries, public and private, for the most part also deal in known processes, technologies and systems of organization. As with the marketing beloved of university administrators, the average company is decked out in slogans claiming to be cutting-edge, innovative, agile and adaptive. However, just as in educational institutions, companies and government departments are made up of rather ordinary people, few of whom have the energy to be cutting-edge, innovative, agile and adaptive. There are 24 hours in a day, maybe 8 of them in a formal work environment. Overwhelmingly those 8 hours are filled, even for directors and managers, by following required routines. People with disruptive ideas and requirements are frankly unwelcome and seen as threats. This conservative inclination is unlikely to change. After all, predictable routine is the foundation and engine by which widgets are actually made, trains run on time, and bankers do their banking.

The preceding paragraphs suggest that ascribed positions do not in themselves lead to effective change management. You can give people whatever titles you like without enhancing outcomes. You can go through the hoopla of elaborate personnel selection which keeps shoals of HR officers and agencies claiming to select the very best candidates, yet somehow in the end after fishing from the same pond they hire the same bottom feeding survivors. You can put individuals through courses which claim to teach entrepreneurship, creativity, adaptability, or whatever. This is perhaps reminiscent of courses which aspire to train novelists. It is possible to graduate large numbers of people who can tick all the boxes from an invented competency curriculum but prove to be almost useless when faced with major challenges.

The ordinariness of ordinary people (whatever their salary rank) seems a discouraging indicator of survival prospects as whole populations are dragged into a vortex of change where half of known occupations are expected to disappear in less than a generation, the ever-widening gulf between wealth and poverty suggests impending political upheaval worldwide, and the climate of the planet itself slides towards some kind of catastrophic tipping point. Yet the ordinariness of ordinary lives is a kind of anchor which will always be with us while we survive as a species at all.

There is a sense in which we have been here before. Throughout their evolution, humanoid groups have faced extinction many times, and many of those groups did indeed perish. Yet amongst the ordinary there were always a few who were extraordinary, whether in technical adaptation, or beating back threats, or in a kind of leadership which was somehow able to focus those less gifted, more ordinary, and raise them up to pursue new and unplanned destinies. History of course is awash with false prophets, and there is little evidence that the class of professional managers who emerged post World War II have been better at feeling the stones to cross the river than our ancestors.  The real leaders in any organization or group or population may or may not have titles and ranks. Yet it is these leaders in their own very individual ways who will gather others about them when the time comes and lead us into the gathering storm, as they have done from the beginning of time.


7. Why is change now so culturally dominant as a process, but submerged in awareness?


Given our natural conservatism, how is it then that change is such a dominant fact of life in almost all countries and human communities now? How is it that in spite of the natural laziness and fondness for predictable routine which cacoons most people, no matter whether they are clever or dumb, rich or poor, that we find ourselves engulfed in new technologies, clinging by our finger nails to disappearing occupations, and wondering how we can possibly plan 5 years ahead, let alone a lifetime ahead?

Yet perhaps the question “Why is change so culturally dominant now?” also carries false assumptions. I have already suggested that change as a phenomenon was intensely interesting to industry and government leaders. Such ascribed leaders we expect (often forlornly) to have some vision and plan to handle larger issues. I also noted that change as a general issue in itself really didn’t impact much on the public mind, and therein rests a dilemma. 

Let me draw an analogy here about the limits of personal awareness. When I first went to work in China in 1998 I had a better than average foreigner’s understanding of Chinese culture and history (though still naïve of course). I was therefore very curious to get the views of Chinese individuals on their experience with the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. This was a politically manufactured decade of madness at the behest of an insane and degenerated Mao Zedong. It had millions of people committing a kind of cultural suicide as children betrayed parents, cultural heritage of every kind was vandalized or destroyed, and socioeconomic life retreated to a primitive condition. (There are some parallels with the contagious madness of the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia, or the so-called Islamic State in Iraq). Surely this searing experience would be branded as an object lesson into the minds of every Chinese person? My acquaintances in Central China at first were reluctant to discuss the topic at all, especially with foreigner. As individuals came to know me, stories gradually came out. The stories were all personal tragedies of families or friends lost or ruined. I probed for some insight into the bigger picture. What would lead a whole nation of people into this kind of thing? What really caused it? Why was responsibility put aside on such a massive scale? The eyes of my new friends would shift out of focus. They had no understanding or knowledge of the big picture, of patterns and trends, of the diktats from Beijing. It wasn’t even interesting. Their interests were entirely in individual events that had impacted people they knew. History had no lessons for them.

So just as “cultural revolution” had no non-personal currency in the common mind of Chinese people, today relentless “change” in societies and groups, or even in individuals, as something which follows certain human patterns regardless of particular examples, as something which can be prepared for at, say, the level of child raising  … this kind of abstract analysis of change plays little part in dinner table conversations, or in the loud opinions of drunk men in pubs and clubs. It is not headlined in tabloid newspapers, or in the evening television news. When a car factory converts to robot production lines, it is the personal misfortune of a thousand workers who will struggle to find another job which makes headlines for a day. There is no thought or education or funding put into an impending change through automation which will throw whole populations out of work. There is no awareness amongst ordinary people, regardless of intelligence, that a wary social contract is crumbling away – the contract between the owners of capital and the labour forces their production lines once had to have. Nobody says in dinner parties that the owners industry may no longer think they need to fund a welfare state when their workers are robots (assuming the rich are dumb enough to forget that robots won’t buy the products, when the poor can’t).


8. Conclusion to a beginning


The idea of managing usually implies selective choices amongst competing futures. For changes that are known knowns to us (i.e. predictable), wise choice may sometimes be viable if there is social agreement. Where the issues are known unknowns (e.g. the economic development of 3rd World countries) we may try to insert at least some well-intentioned influence on change, but must expect many unintended consequences. Where the issues are unknown unknowns (e.g. new discoveries, or a life threatening meteor crash on a large population centre) we can at best only educate ourselves and our children to react with speed, generosity and intelligence to extreme and unexpected challenges.


9. Postscript of unfinished ideas


a) Possible themes ..


- Workplace change: casualization; startups; micro-entrepreneurs; disappearing professions; automation; innovation;(see Cadwalladr 2015 in the reading list below for a scary insight into what is just around the corner).

- Educational change: educate for what kind of future?; competing venues for information and knowledge; will universities survive?; the destruction of TAFES

- Population changes: in Adelaide; worldwide migration & refugee movements

- Globalization: We often hear about the changes wrought by globalization. The word 'globalization' has many and confused meanings. At the level of large corporations it often means the creation of organizations that operate across borders, create an internal culture separate from any national or ethnic community, and owe loyalty to no nation state. International trade agreements (like the prospective TPP) are often disguised vehicles for the interests of these corporations.  At quite different levels, globalization may refer to worldwide spread of the same products (e.g. cars, phones), education curriculums, the internationalization of music, sport, communications etc, and not least the international movements of peoples. All of these versions of globalization  have brought massive changes to lifestyles, thinking and prosperity. We may think the trajectory these changes is irreversible. Maybe, maybe not. The 'globalization' enabled by empires of past centuries all collapsed into dust, followed by centuries of small, local, warring states, living in suspicion and ignorance. Huge amounts of earlier learning and technology were lost forever.

- Cultural change; fashion, music, entertainment, religion, social networks

- Political change; how can democracy cope? alternatives?

- Changes in agriculture & ocean food sources

- Climate and environmental change

- Change driven by technology; communications; automation; 3D printing …

- Psychological adaptation to change; sources of conflict; information overload; the challenge of complexity; retreat from engagement ..


b) Unifying threads in this torrent of change?


- All these changes are initiated by human ideas and actions

- Dreams turning into nightmares. Once a steady state is lost, navigation is beyond the control or even beyond the imagination of most.

- Only a tiny minority of humans will ever focus beyond immediate family & community

- When life becomes too complicated or too wild, the popular reaction is always to seek “simple” solutions. These simple solutions include withdrawal at one extreme, and genocide at the other. Religion is a common vehicle and/or rigid adherence to faith/magic/ideological “solutions”.

- A personal reaction to “the sky falling in” is often hedonism and a refusal to acknowledge the surrounding chaos.

- One growing popular response to a culture of rapid, unpredictable change which is seen as threatening is a revival of traditional survival technologies at family level (see Dewey 2015 in the reading list below). Part of America's gun culture also has its roots in this kind of elemental survival mentality. Even the urban fantasy of huge 4 wheel drive SUVs might be a psychological projection of the wish for "independence" and a "simple" world.

- Individuals are biologically programmed to seek personal safety and security above all as a hedge against unpredictable change. Often the apparent pathways to these are self-defeating. The most elemental solution is to seek opportunity through mating. (As an Australian academic in Fiji, each time I worked in China, and even in South Korea, on the last day of my contracts I was approached by barely known women, who had shown no prior interest in me, wanting to marry me … )

- There are always politicians, faith healers, preachers, carpet-baggers, opportunists… looking for short-term personal profit out of disruption

- Tolerance and willingness to adapt are often the first casualty of stress brought on by change.


c) Solutions?


- Homo sapiens have survived against the odds precisely because some percentage of them had sufficient intelligence to innovate solutions

- The pace of change on multiple fronts has become a major challenge to the species. Can managing this pace of change be somehow factored into our design for survival?

- Can “change surfing”, a kind of psychological readiness to adapt, be taught as a way to optimize personal outcomes from the constant challenge of change?  


Reading List (2015) “Attitudes”. online @

Adonis, James (September 4, 2015) “Do corporate values matter?”. [Organizations, like governments, run behind a shield of empty public slogans. When real challenge arrives, managers from the top down already lack the trust of their employees, and have no decent stratagem to manage change]. Brisbane Times online @ 

Agar, Nicholas (2 September 2015) “Let's Treat Robots Like Yo-Yo Ma's Cello -- as an Instrument for Human Intelligence”. Huffington Post online @

Ahmed, Nafeez (14 March 2014) NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'? -  Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system”. The Guardian online @

Ashkenas, Ron (April 16, 2013) “Change Management Needs to Change”. Harvard Business Review online @ 

Boyd, Stowe (4 September 2014) “When Robots Take Over Most Jobs, What Will Be the Purpose of Humans?”. Huffington Post online @

Bright, Jim (August 22, 2015) Your life is ruled by chance, whether you like it or not”. Brisbane Times online @

Cadwalladr, Carole (4 October 2015)"Is the dotcom bubble about to burst (again)? In Silicon Valley, millions of dollars change hands every day as investors hunt the next big thing – the ‘unicorn’, or billion-dollar tech firm. There are now almost 150, but can they all succeed?". [Scary article. Please read] The Guardian online @

Chalabi, Mona (13 November 2013) “Does a government nudge make us budge?” The Guardian online @

Chapman, Alan (n.d.) “Change Management”. Businessballs website, online @

Chapman, Alan (2012) “Fisher's process of personal change - revised 2012”. Businessballs website, online @

Chapman, Alan (n.d.) “Nudge Theory”. Businessballs website, online @

Cook, Chris (26 October 2011) “Dark inventory and the death of markets”. Asia Times online @

Dewey, Caitlin (September 5, 2015) “Prepper Pinterest: Inside the fascinating, bizarre world of Doomsday survivalists”. [One response to a culture of unpredictable change is a revival of traditional survival technologies] Brisbane Times online @

Grabianowski, Ed (25 March 2010) “Extinction Events That Almost Wiped Out Humans”. i09 The Future blog, online @

Gray, Richard (April 1, 2013) “How a 3D printer gave a man his face - and his life – back”. Brisbane Times online @

Greber, Jacob (10 Dec 2014) “Up to 500,000 [Australian] jobs threatened by rise of robots, artificial intelligence: report”. Australian Financial Review online @

Hatch, Patrick (September 8, 2015) “Nescafé feels the heat over instant coffee recipe change”. [Resistance to change in marketing used to be mute. Social media can now face companies with some hard questions about their own culture] Brisbane Times online @

Hughes, James (2004) “Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond To The Redesigned Human Of The Future”. Basic Books. Amazon reviews online at

Hurley, Dan (March 12, 2014) “The US military's quest for new technology to boost IQ”. [Irony: a quest to change humans so they can kill each other more efficiently] Sydney Morning Herald online @

IEET (n.d.) Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Collected articles at

Ker, Peter (September 11, 2015) “Chile and Australia ponder life after the boom together”. Brisbane Times online @

Kirby, P (2012) "Educating for Paradigm Change". Policy & Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 14, Spring, pp. 19-32. Centre for Global Education website, online @

Long, Christine (September 1, 2015) Accountants and lawyers have big problems. Brisbane Times online @

May, Thor (1987) Super-Culture And The Ghost In The Machine”. online @  or @

May, Thor (2000) “Teaching as a Subversive Activity”. online @   

May, Thor (2001) “Student Activism : Truth and False Prophets”. online @

May, Thor (2002) “The paradox of scholarship: pissing on every lamp post”. online @   or @   

May, Thor (2007) Managing Downward Spirals - Getting from Here to There”. online @

May, Thor (2010) “Cultural Operating Systems - Thoughts on Designing Cultures”. online  @ or @

May, Thor (2014) “The Problem of Work and the Rise of the Precariat. online  @  or @

May, Thor (2014b) “The Purpose of Education - a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy?”. online  @  or @

McGeough, Paul (September 4, 2015) “Charity founder says Afghanistan 2015 is 'as bad as 2002'”. [Why official “aid” rarely works as a real agent of change. Bonus: here are some photos I took in Afghanistan in 1971/72]. Brisbane Times online @

Miles, Kathleen (1 October 2015) "Ray Kurzweil: Nanobots In Our Brains Will Make Us 'Godlike'. Once we're cyborgs, he says, we'll be funnier, sexier and more loving". Huffington Post online @

Neiva, Elaine, Maria Ros and Maria das Gracas Torres da Paz (2005) “Attitudes towards organizational change: validation of a scale”. Psychology in Spain, 2005, Vol. 9 . No 1, 81-90, online @

Newman, Bruce (December 26, 2014) “Stanford University students create 'gecko gloves' that allow humans to scale glass walls”. Brisbane Times online @

O'Chee, Bill (September 16, 2015) “What does the future hold for our children?”. Brisbane Times online@

Rapoza, Kenneth (July 20, 2015) “What will become of China’s Ghost Cities?”. Forbes Magazine online @

Rohrer, Finlo (23 December 2010 ) “Futurology: The tricky art of knowing what will happen next”. BBC News Magazine online @ 

Simons, Margaret (22 August 2015) “Coming, Ready or Not”. The Saturday Paper, online @

Smith, Warwick (9 January 2015) “Repeat after me: the Australian economy is not like a household budget”. The Guardian online @

Strake, David (n.d.) “The Psychology of Change”. Changing Minds website, online @

Ting, Inga and Maher Mughrabi (August 14, 2015) “Migrant crisis: How the world's forcibly displaced refugees add up”. [War, crisis, population pressure … the makings of uncontrollable change]. Brisbane Times online @

Universitat Tuebingen ( 22 March 2013) "First migration from Africa less than 95,000 years ago: Ancient hunter-gatherer DNA challenges theory of early out-of-Africa migrations." online in ScienceDaily @

Waldron, Jeremy (October 9, 2014 ) "It’s All for Your Own Good". [about Nudge Theory]. New York Review of Books, online @

Waterford, Jack (September 11, 2015) “Tony Abbott's conversion to becoming a good guy was painfully slow”. [The political architects of chaos, East, West and Centre, Australian and International, all prove incapable of managing the changes they unleash, or even offering constructive help to the victims] Brisbane Times online @

White, Elliott (1993) Genes, Brains, and Politics: Self-selection and Social Life. Greenwood Publishing. Interesting Google Books extract discussing clusters of individuals as agents of change at:

Wikipedia (2015) “Attitude Change”. Wikipedia online @

Wikipedia (2015) “Futures Studies”. Wikipedia online @

Wikipedia (2015) "Nudge Theory". Wikipedia online @

Wikipedia (2015) “Multifunction Polis”. [ Adelaide’s city of the future which turned into a real estate agent’s nightmare]. Wikipedia online @

Wikipedia (2015) “South Australian Housing Trust”. [This history of Playford’s SAHT is a fascinating example of the planned change which played a large part in the creation of modern Adelaide]. Wikipedia online @

Wikipedia (2015) “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – John Perkins”. Wikipedia online @

Williams, Kate (Sunday 6 September 2015) “The Queen’s record-long reign has seen Britain’s greatest time of change”. [End of an era. Empires come and go. Was this a well managed change?] The Guardian online @

Zappone, Chris (September 11, 2015) “Migrant crisis spilling into domestic politics around the world: report”. [Since humans moved from East Africa tens of thousands of years ago, one of the largest drivers of change has been the adaptation forced by mass migration]. Brisbane Times online @

Zheng, Jinran (2015-05-05) “57-floor building goes up in 19 days”. China Daily online @

Zhou, Christina (July 13, 2015) “World-first robot brickie 'Hadrian' can build a house in two days”. Fairfax real estate blog, online @





Professional bio: Thor May has a core professional interest in cognitive linguistics, at which he has rarely succeeded in making a living. He has also, perhaps fatally in a career sense, cultivated an interest in how things work people, brains, systems, countries, machines, whatever… In the world of daily employment he has mostly taught English as a foreign language, a stimulating activity though rarely regarded as a profession by the world at large. His PhD dissertation, Language Tangle, dealt with language teaching productivity. Thor has been teaching English to non-native speakers, training teachers and lecturing linguistics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven countries in Oceania and East Asia, mostly with tertiary students, but with a couple of detours to teach secondary students and young children. He has trained teachers in Australia, Fiji and South Korea. In an earlier life, prior to becoming a teacher, he had a decade of finding his way out of working class origins, through unskilled jobs in Australia, New Zealand and finally England (after backpacking across Asia to England in 1972).

Surfing or Drowning in an Ocean of Change?     ©Thor May August 2015



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