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Unintended consequences

July 24, 2023

We went to see Oppenheimer over the weekend. What a movie! But it made me think of how many times we all make decisions based on limited knowledge, or because it furthers our career, or it just seems right at the moment. Oppenheimer is based on the true story of scientists being asked to create a weapon of mass distruction. Thinking as a scientist, I can’t image a bigger opportunity to create something new, to make something that has never been done before and have the resources to make it happen. As a politician it was about the arms race and who wins in the end. As a spouse of a scientist, there must have been so many mixed emotions: seeing your spouse excited about a project, wanting to be supportive but living in the middle of now where and then trying to figure out the moral dilemma of the bomb.

None of us ever have all the truth, all the wisdom, all the knowledge. None of us have always pure motives, always good intentions and always the best interest of others at heart.

As I am thinking about our current topics: homelessness, immigration, health in light of COVID, politics, religion, social issues, education, sexuality, how to spend our local budget, how to- you fill in the blank.

We all have opinions, all have ideas, all think we’ve got it all researched and our answer is the correct one. But reality is, we are all right at some place and wrong at other places.

In community development we often talk about Polarity management, the idea that there are opposite views that but that we can come together and find common ground. Imagine an infinity sign laid sideways. Instead Red or Blue we would focus on the middle and say “red AND blue” because both have good ideas and systems. Instead of border-control or open-borders we would say border-control AND border access and find the best middle ground in it. The AND becomes the defining factor, because on every right or left side there is good and it can further our lives together. But that means we need to stay in the dialogue, we need to be open to learn from each other, we need to move forward together and find the “AND” in it all. Otherwise everyone loses.

In Oppenheimer, people were not listening to each other, there was Washington, there were politicians, there were scientists, there were deep thinkers who could see what the end-result would be, there were egocentric individuals who were out for their own success.

As we think about the future and look at things like globalization, AI, climate control, etc., we need to work together. We no longer have the luxury of working in our own silos, we need to find the AND in it all or we will have unindented consequences that are no longer manageable.

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