This discussion calls for an analysis of Paradigm Shifts. Within this analysis, it will be prevalent to look at Paradigm Shifts of the Past, Present and Probable Future, to see how they influence society.
Kuhn outlined scientific paradigms as “accepted examples of actual scientific practice that include laws, theory, application and instrumentation that provide models from which particular coherent traditions of scientific research springs.” (KnowledgeBrief)
A paradigm shift is a significant change that occurs when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. (Merriam Webster)
Kuhn posited that science cannot evolve and progress unless most scientists agree with it. When a paradigm is established the scientist working within the field of that paradigm is practising normal science, which tries to make the paradigm more established or to find proof to support that paradigm. For example, if a paradigm is human genomes then the normal scientist would try to prove or complete the human genome mapping. Kuhn believes that a paradigm would make an unexpected leap from one to the next, called a shift, and the new paradigm could not be built upon the foundations of the old. The indirect meaning is that one has ‘stepped off the road’ that the prior paradigm followed onto an intersecting and better road.
A successful paradigm shift requires four main elements. First is pressure for change, second is a clear shared vision, then the capacity for change and actionable first step. If any of these elements is missing the result would be a failure of paradigm. Paradigms affect what kind of learning resources are required and these learning resources further influence what kind of paradigms can be used or developed. In his book, Kuhn notes “each new scientific theory preserves a hardcore of the knowledge provided by its predecessor and adds to it. Science progresses by replacing old theories with new,” and the history of Copernican theory, as of any scientific theory, can illustrate the processes by which scientific concepts evolve and replace their predecessors.
American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kahn Kuhn contests that paradigm shifts characterize a revolution to a prevailing scientific framework. They arise when the dominant paradigm, under which normally accepted science operates, is rendered incompatible or insufficient, facilitating the adoption of a revised or completely new theory or paradigm.
Aristotle and Ptolemy thought that the solar system was geocentric or earth-centred. They understood that all of the planets orbited the earth. This was the belief for a long time. They used the observations so that they could develop such a conclusion. This was the position adopted by the Catholic Church and the society at the time. Al-Biruni (973-1048) in Uzbekistan worked in Maragheh observatory in Iran and yet without telescopes he observed that the earth might be moving. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) working in Prussia, proposed that the geocentric model was impossibly complex and that the heliocentric model was simpler. He published his theory in (De Revoulutionibus Oribium Ceolestium).
The Major Proponent of the Heliocentric Model was Italian Scientist Galileo (1564- 1642) who used a new and powerful telescope to observe the sky and made several observations. His observations pointed to a Heliocentric system, that the sun is at the centre of the solar system. Galileo struggled against the Catholic Church about the occurrence of a heliocentric solar system. They also struggled with the importance of observation and rationalism in the face of irrationalism and superstition. The eventual acceptance of the heliocentric model was a major paradigm shift.
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In looking at the Geocentric and the Heliocentric model, we see that person’s thought that all the planets orbited around the earth, this was a religious and societal belief that was entrenched into person’s minds. When the paradigm shift occurred, it caused confusion and chaos. Galileo remodelled how society saw the universe. He was forced to recant in fear of his life and fear of societal rejection. It is only after Galileo’s death that they confirmed through further investigation and normal science (continuation of study within a specific paradigm) that the planets indeed followed a heliocentric model, this led to Galileo’s books being published and him being known as one of the proponents of concluding heliocentricity of the planets. This is also an example of where a paradigm was shifted completely.
Alfred Wegener (1912) published his theory of continental drift, which was a controversial subject however, his beliefs along with others said that the continents were once one which they called Pangea. Wagner was criticised for his findings, but then some scientists accepted this only until 1970. The plate tectonic theory was then created and confirmed through investigation and normal science of Wegener’s theory. This showed that instead of continental drift, plate tectonics was more widely accepted and therefore the Paradigm Shift from one idea to a more concrete idea was presented.
Newton developed laws of motion and gravitation which controlled physics for 200 years, because of their informative and scientific supremacy. Then slight inconsistencies were discovered, which Einstein’s theory of relativity explained. The result was a paradigm shift from Newton’s force of gravity in a flat, infinite universe to Einstein’s curved space-time.
However, Newton was close to Einsteinian physics, his predictions were approximated. Einstein’s theory punched a hole in Newton’s logic. If, as Newton claimed, gravity was a constant, instantaneous force, the information about a sudden change of mass would have to be somehow communicated across the entire universe at once. This made little sense to Einstein. By his reasoning, if the Sun disappeared suddenly, the signal for the planets to stop orbiting would logically have to take some travel time. And it would take longer to arrive at Pluto than it would Mars. Sir Isaac Newton quantified the gravity between two objects when he formulated his three laws of motion. Yet Newton’s laws assume that gravity is an innate force of an object that can act over a distance. Such new truths do not invalidate old truths but include them. This case also demonstrates the importance of precision.
Discrepancies can be hidden in imprecise measurements: as technology improves and precision increases, the room for error shrinks and confidence in theories rises greatly. Newtonian physics was close to the truth, but increasingly precise data showed up its limitations; now the confirmation of Einsteinian physics is very precise indeed. These are examples of paradigm shifts which occurred in the past, these past paradigms are still being investigated to find more evidence to either support or unhinge such findings. To sufficiently understand what paradigm shifts are, one must look at the present-day examples.
The Internet generated a paradigm shift in the way business is conducted. Email and scan ousted the fax machine and courier services. Securities can now be placed directly by the client via the Internet and are sometimes executed in seconds. Before the internet was invented people use to have to pay to make international calls and could only reach people through letters and paper written materials. It had jobs such as couriers, and messenger pigeons. All of these are jobs that vanished with the paradigm of the internet. When the internet took over, you could comfortably call a friend from the other side of the globe in seconds, you could see them using the internet without having to catch a plane. The internet is an astonishing commodity to have, yet it removed jobs and made people less physically interactive. The internet did erase certain jobs nonetheless, it created many more and has led to the overall advancement of society and has made getting things done easier. Not just is the internet something that changed societies thinking but it changed how people lived and interacted with each. It can be seen that the internet is a major paradigm that society interacts with.
A Paradigm Shift that is currently being discussed and is the subject of many debates that can influence the views of a society moreover how people think will be Artificial Intelligence. People habitually believe that robots or machines were created to assist humans. Type a word into a computer and it will search that word however when that robot or computer starts communicating back that is the shift that may affect society.
We are living in a period of rapid change, where AI will transform every aspect of our lives and the fabric of our society. It will affect most human activities from supply chains to healthcare to education, manufacturing, entertainment and even space exploration (Richardson 2018). Artificial Intelligence can cause massive unemployment if robots who do not get tired do our work and this can create a shift from human labour to artificial robotic labour, this shift could both negatively and positively impact society, it can help persons who cannot help themselves and it could create a more technologically advanced society for person to live in. Artificial Intelligence does not just change the beliefs that people have but it can change how persons drive their car if they drive it at all and it would make life a lot smoother and easier for some people. A question that may arise and push the boundaries of such a paradigm shift is whether artificial intelligence who like us and talk like us should have the same rights as us.