Believing the Earth Is Flat and Other Misconceptions

2 min read

“The Flat Earth Misconception”

It is understandable that people 500 years ago thought the world is flat. It was difficult to check and see through the misconception.

In the 21st century it is easy for people to verify that the earth is round.

In other areas it is also fairly easy to see through the most basic misconceptions. Still, many people fail to question even the most obvious false beliefs.

Modern Day Folklore

People like to believe that the transformation to a sustainable society will be unproblematic and that the change to, for example, electric vehicles will proceed from small numbers of electric cars and even smaller numbers of electric trucks and buses at present, to complete fleets consisting almost exclusively of electric vehicles in only two or three decades. Most people also seem to believe that the conversion will be achieved without any planning or management of the change process.

This belief is passed on across society, expounded by researchers to politicians, presented to the general public and told back again to researchers, politicians, and business leaders. We all want the change to be easy and would like to think that we will wake up to a new sustainable reality in twenty years’ time, without anyone having to bother to consider it, but telling other people that this is likely to happen is different.

Despite the fact that electric vehicles are significantly more expensive than petrol and diesel types, that countries already experience a shortage of electricity and that it will take ten years or more to start to significantly expand production, and that the change will require a multitude of change measures, literally tens of thousands, and that the amount of investment that will be needed will be larger than in any other change or development project in history, people continue to pass on the idea of a complete change in only twenty-five or thirty years.

Highly complex change processes need to be managed, especially if the changes will have to be achieved over a brief period of time. As countries go from small-scale pilot change to large-scale transformation people will discover that the change process will not be as straight-forward as many believe.

Changing to a sustainable world will require prioritization of the most important change activities. Large investment in critical infrastructure will be needed to facilitate the changes, and coordination of activities will also be necessary so that well-functioning and competitive transport systems get developed. At the same time the most highly prioritised production and distribution systems will have to be transformed to sustainable varieties.

Everything cannot be done at the same time. Countries have limited resources and we can neither afford to change everything at the same time, nor set aside all the resources necessary in terms of man-hours and raw materials to achieve it.

In several articles on Medium, I have discussed the details of this large-scale change, for anyone to look up, who may question the scale or complexity.

A Right to Believe — But No Right to Pass on Incorrect Information

Everyone has a right to believe anything. Believing and hoping is not a problem

But it is unethical to pass on incorrect information with the purpose of convincing others of something that we know is not true. In the same way that people have learned to question misconceptions, such as that of the flat earth, more need to start questioning the realism of the complete transformation of society in only two or three decades.

Instead, we need to take on the challenge of planning the development of sustainable production and distribution systems and the transformation from the present systems to new ones.

More people need to go out there and admit that we know too little about the process of large-scale transformation to a sustainable society and that governments need to lead the change process. Countries need to build the change programmes that can take society into a new era. The processes will have to be similar to the Apollo Program and other large change programs in history.

Mats Larsson’s latest book on innovation and the transformation to sustainability is “The Blind Guardians of Ignorance — Covid -19, Sustainability, and Our Vulnerable Future” and the first one of these was “The Transparent Market,” written together with David Lundberg. In “The Transparent Market” we discussed the future of electronic business. The book was published in 1998, when most experts still did not see that most companies soon would do business on the Internet. My first book about the transformation to e-mobility was “Global Energy Transformation” from 2009.

Mats Larsson Mats is a business and sustainability consultant with 30+ years' experience. In the past 15 years he has written extensively about the large-scale transformations to electromobility and a circular economy that are in their early phases, but also worked with business development in many other high-tech and sustainability areas. He is an experienced project and change manager, has developed strategies for companies in a wide range of industries, and likes to tackle subjects of importance for the development of society. He was one of the first to write a book about e-business strategy, "The Transparent Market," written with David Lundberg and published in 1998.

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