Tag Archives: pop culture

A New Type of Thinking

The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them.

Because attribution of sources is a big part of good scholarship, I went looking for the original source of this quote (often phrased differently, but almost always attributed to Albert Einstein).

What I found was things like:

Ah, searching for “Einstein” and “level of thinking” rather than “same level of thinking” turns up a much earlier example from The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Volumes 1-4, which is dated 1969 by google books though these snippets show it contains pieces from 1969 and 1970. The quote, on p. 124, is “The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level as the level we created them at.” It’s prefaced by “Einstein said an interesting thing”, and the same phrase and quote appears in a 1974 book by Ram Dass (who needs his own wikiquote page!), The Only Dance There Is, on this page, so presumably the one in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology is the same piece by Ram Dass.  [http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Albert_Einstein]


In the interview by Michael Amrine titled, ‘The Real Problem is in the Hearts of Men’ (New York Times Magazine – June 23 1946) Einstein says:‘Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels“.’ (p.7)

The source of that recent message is quoted in an article that appeared the month before titled‘Atomic Education Urged by Einstein‘ where the mircofiche archive copy of the article reports on an appeal by telegram to ‘several hundred prominent Americans’ on 24 May 1946 in a ‘Plea for $200,000 to promote new type of essential thinking’. The telegram was signed by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists with Albert Einstein as Chairman and the Federation of American Scientists. The text of that telegram is quoted in part and reads:

‘Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe… a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels… [http://icarus-falling.blogspot.sg/2009/06/einstein-enigma.html]

Of course, one can argue that the words and the source are not as important as the idea conveyed.  That notion that we have to think about things in new ways to resolve major problems is powerful.  I suspect that is why the quote is constantly rephrased and repeated, yet that essential message survives the transformations.


Ah, Joss… so brilliant. Enjoy! Paid for by the committee to learn parkour like, really soon, like maybe take a class or something.


A tribute to greenwashers everywhere – enjoy!   I’m tired of hearing oil companies talk about how green they are while they pump pollution into our neighborhoods and sidestep basic safety rules. Just look at Chevron—the fire at its Richmond, … Continue reading


A thoughtful group of artists  decided to Occupy! billboards in Britain this summer, because: Advertising is part of a system which destroys our future to fulfil the demands of the present, a ceaseless expansion of production and consumption. It is … Continue reading


Why so many vampires? « The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill. An essay I wrote in 2009, considering the relationship of superheroes and power (especially the challenges faced by men and other male apes in the transition to adulthood), … Continue reading

The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill

Greetings Earthlings! « The Imagined Worlds of Michelle Yvonne Merrill.

Yep, I’m actually putting it out there… my writing projects have a public place.  I’ll also use that blog to focus more on speculative fiction and fandom, while this continues to be a more real-world venue.

So, check it out & enjoy!

My first sketch of the gurita, the mysterious alien from Pulau, for my far-future, offworld novel.

Delenn, Muse and the Strange Lure of Fighting for the Cause

In general, I am a pacifist.  Intellectually I abhor violence.  Personally, I’m unable to cope effectively with even the mildest conflict.  At Bioneers last year, Lynne Twist asked us to decide where we stand on conflict, rating our reactions from 1: never engage in any form to 10: pugilistic, jonesing for a fight (I paraphrase, but it was something like that).  I’m a 2; I’ll only fight about something when all other possibilities have been thoroughly explored and exhausted, and even then, I really don’t wanna.  So no, I’m not a model revolutionary.

But… I think I’m just a little bit in love with revolution.  As a kid, the movies that had the biggest influence on me were the original Star Wars Trilogy and Gandhi – two very different models of rising up to stop the evil tyranny of injustice.

To this day, I always get teared up watching a movie or one of my TV shows (there aren’t many, and since I try to keep my exposure to commercials to a minimum, they’re on DVD or Netflix), when someone gives that rousing “we happy few”-type speech.  I can barely describe the strange elation I feel when Delenn appears just as the second wave of Shadow-allied-Fascist-Earthforce attackers are threatening Babylon 5 and she says:

“Why not?  Only one human captain has survived battle with the Minbari fleet.  He is behind me.  You are in front of me.  If you value your lives, be somewhere else.”

The ever-so-hokey call-to-arms speech in Avatar has almost the same effect on me.  Heck, even the war cries in Braveheart and Return of the King get to me a little.

And so do all those rabble-rousing songs by Muse.  Invincible, Uprising, Resistance… not only do I enjoy the music, I am moved in some inexplicable way.

They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious…

Flip the switch and open your third eye and see that we should never be afraid to die. Rise up and take the power back; it’s time the fat cats should have a heart attack… – M. Bellamy “Uprising”

So with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, etc., in part I see the inevitable result of the demographics: educated, technologically-connected, underemployed, under-appreciated youth – with food prices rising, growing threats of water scarcity, the end of oil approaching and the wealth disparities increasing… of course they get a little feisty.  And as much as I’m ill-suited to any such thing (too afraid, too concilliatory, and getting too old), I envy them.  I wonder if that spirit of resistance will ever appear here in the overly-cushy U.S. of A – if the need to overturn an entrenched system of economic exploitation and environmental degradation becomes so urgent, for the sake of a livable future, that the young and frustrated see rebellion as a viable alternative, and they decide to take to the streets and demand change.

And if that comes to pass, where will I be?  What will I do?  I’m not a warrior.  I’m not a soldier.  I’m not a charismatic leader.  What’s my role, should revolution arise?

I came of age listening to punk rock (among other things): raging against the hypocrisy and injustice of the 1980’s status quo, but without a compelling vision of any alternative, only vague notions of an apocalyptic, nihilistic, MadMax future.  As a teacher, I now try to stay focused on what a better alternative might look like.  But sometimes I do wonder if the vision thing is just another opiate for the masses.

“I’m hungry for some unrest; let’s push it beyond the peaceful protest…” – M. Bellamy “Unnatural Selection”

But, honestly, I’m all about peaceful in my protest.  I’m not afraid to paint a sign and take to the streets (I’ve had to do that more than twice), but I don’t wanna be in an actual uprising.  Even verbal confrontation gives me the wiggins, so actual bare-the-canines-and-be-ready-to-back-it-up aggression is not something I could do, and not something I want anyone else to be doing either.

The protests of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were effective only because so many were brave enough to stand in harm’s way when it was necessary.  They were able to lead those protests because they were that brave, too.  But I’m so acutely aware of the fact that those kinds of leaders usually get assassinated.  Closer to my own experience, there’s Dian Fossey, who tried to protect the apes she was studying and the habitat they lived in, and got the business end of a machete for her troubles.  I’m not brave enough to face that.  So does it make me a complete hypocrite to long for a leader that is, and to be so drawn to the fictional images of such courage and conviction?