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Preserve the good in the old (otherwise it is lost forever)
1000 ways to improve our lives / #48
Good morning from Berlin,
There's a saying about the good old days. That everything was better back then. We know that's not true. But that's how we are. We like to glorify the past.
And yet there is some truth in the saying. Because progress often comes with a price. There is a term for this in economics: trade-off. It means the "costs" that arise when we have to decide. We must give up one thing if we choose to do something else. What we can't do is the price we pay for doing the other. For example, when we buy a condominium and therefore have to forgo expensive summer vacations for a while. Such things.
It's the same with progress. The newer and better replaces the old. And since the old one was not worse in all aspects, we often lose something when the new replaces the old.
This thought occurred to me while travelling through Slovenia in quite old trains last month. The train meanders through the countryside, you open the window, stick your head out (not too far!) and experience the country. I love this way of travelling.
This way to travel is almost nonexistent in Germany any more. The trains here run faster, and waggons are air-conditioned. This doesn't work with windows that can be opened. With progress (faster and more comfortable travel), we have to give up something (a vivid travel experience). There is no free lunch, economists say. Not even with progress.
In that way, the saying of the good old days is correct. We can rightly mourn these old days (but not too much; think of all the advantages of progress).
But sometimes, what is new doesn’t displace the predecessor. Sometimes both continue to exist in parallel. Then we do have a choice. Do we take the new, or do we stick with the old? Digitalisation, for example. Do I read a paper book, or do I look at my cell phone? Do I track my fitness, or do I exercise by feeling? Do I stay with separated family members in daily exchange via WhatsApp, or do I look forward to the big reunion?
Preserving the good in the old can be worthwhile. But it is often challenging to choose between new and old, isn‘t it?
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