The One Thing That Will Never Be Obsolete

A friend recently sent me an article by Plinio Granado titled, “9 Things That Will Disappear in Our Lifetime.” The list includes some obvious things including the post office, the check, newspaper, book and landline telephone — no surprises there. There were also a few that may not be obvious but are understandable: television, the music industry, “things” that you own (as they will live in a cloud) and privacy. In talking to friends and associates about the list, some of them say that they don’t believe all of these things will disappear. These are the same people who said they would never use a cellphone! Certainly technology is changing so fast that customers are reluctant to buy things because they are afraid a new, better, cheaper version will be on the market before they get their new purchase up and running.

However, here is one thing that will not change, not in my lifetime or yours — the laws of behavior. People have acquired behaviors, and consequently habits, the same way since the beginning of time. Susan Schneider in her recent book, The Science of Consequences, demonstrates that consequences are the primary way that all animal life learns. Although we can learn through the experience of others, by observation and reading, we follow rules or ignore them because of a personal history of consequences associated with engaging in that behavior. Although there is still much to learn about how behavior is acquired and maintained, the basic laws of learning have been researched for more than 100 years and are generally understood by those who have studied the science.

While those who have studied behavior analysis formally have been able to demonstrate dramatic success in a great many areas of daily life, the public is relatively unsophisticated in the science and relies more on personal experience, the experience of friends and neighbors or some authority for answers rather than on the science of behavior.

Being old — I am 77 — certainly has its disadvantages in the modern world. I am still working and glad of it, but every day I have to ask younger people in the office how to do things related to the computer, my cellphone or some other device that involves modern technology, which is most of them. I don’t apologize or feel dumb because I have to do this, because today’s young people have grown up in a world full of technological marvels and I didn’t. However, in matters of behavior, they still seek my advice and opinion because what I have learned during the last 50 years of studying the science and helping people solve problems of business and living is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

I firmly believe that people who learn the science of behavior will have an increasing influence in the way the world works in the future and will also be the most fulfilled and happy. Whether you are young or old, the sooner you learn behavior analysis, the sooner you will be able to create positive changes in your personal behavior that will increase your personal satisfaction and happiness and the sooner you will be able to extend that benefit to your family, the workplace and the greater community.