The attitudes and assumptions which shape the way we make sense of events and plan our response. Unless our expectations are right, or at least expressed as a considered set of probabilities, we plan to fail. But, right or wrong, expectations are self-reinforcing, for we see what we expect to see. We may not realise how critical expectations are in guiding perception, but they are decisive. In the context of our perception of art, the art historian E.H. Gombrich reminds us of . . .

. . . the role which our own expectations play in the deciphering of the artists’ cryptograms. We come to their works with our receivers already attuned. We expect to be presented with a certain notation, a certain sign situation, and make ready to cope with it.E214

The experience of approaching the climacteric will affect our expectations in three ways. First, options which were formerly dismissed will now be grasped with both hands, and we may wonder how we could have been so stupid as to turn them down when they were still available. Secondly, opinions and fundamental values, hitherto seen to be sacrosanct and self-evident, will be challenged and may break down rapidly. Thirdly, there is likely to be expectations-creep, as the (bad) new conditions are seen to be as acceptable as the (good) old ones used to be, without people being explicitly conscious of having changed their opinion. Events will change the frame of reference in which we make judgments.

And there may be a time-lag, leaving us always one step behind, fighting the last war, although lean thinking, for which fast feedback is a core principle, would help us keep this lag brief. Critical to this is a sense of history. History forms our expectations; it is our data. Without a sense of history, our expectations are the product of how we live now.


Related entries:

Different Premises, Frankness, Social Mobility, Success, Damper.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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