A paradigm shift denotes a significant change in the practices and concepts associated with the way in which something works or is being accomplished. A paradigm shift can occur in a variety of contexts and is most commonly witnessed with the introduction of new technologies or other methods that alter the production process of a good or service. This means that during a paradigm shift, entire departments or systems may be eliminated or replaced with advanced options, with significant resources invested in the creation of new equipment that would be more effective in producing a particular type of product.
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As mentioned by Thomas Kahn Kuhn, an American philosopher and physicist, paradigm shifts represent a revolution in a prevailing scientific framework of a certain time period (Naughton). They take place when the dominant paradigm, which dictates the normally accepted operation of science, is rendered insufficient, thus facilitating the adoption of completely new paradigms that can also be changed in the future. The purpose of this paper is to explore several significant paradigm shifts that occurred in the course of history, from the earliest to the latest.
One of the most significant paradigm shifts in natural sciences pertains to the change in evolutionary science from the goal-directed change to the theory of natural selection put forward by Charles Darwin. In the context of evolutionary studies, the change in inherited traits of populations through successive generations has been widely debated in terms of the reasons for their occurrence. The goal-directed perception of evolution was used to explain the change in the characteristics of the species on the basis of being focused on a specific goal, such as learning specific traits or becoming stronger.
In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn argued for the need to displace the goal-directed model of development and replace it with the concept of Darwinian evolution (Paksi 31). According to the physicist and philosopher, the selection of scientific theories to facilitate the understanding of scientific resolutions “leads to an evolutionary tree structure of science and that the development of science is a non-goal-directed progress of change toward no goa which, in a paradoxical way, still implies for him that scientific progress exists” (Paksi 31).
Darwin formulated his theory of evolution occurring with the help of natural selection in his work On the Origin of Species in 1859 (Paksi 32). Thus, the date of the book’s publishing marks a shift in paradigm in terms of the theories of evolution. The scholar defined evolution as the process by which animals and human beings change over the course of time in their physical and behavioral traits.
These changes are imperative for strengthening the adaptation of humans to their environment and help survive and have prosperous offspring. This theory is considered one of the best-substantiated in the history of science because it was formed on the basis of evidence from a variety of other disciplines, such as paleontology, developmental biology, and genetics. The theory has been referred to as descent with modification, which is the idea that all species change over time, facilitate the appearance of new species, as well as share common ancestors. Natural selection is the mechanism by which evolution takes place.
Since, in nature, the resources are limited, organisms that have heritable characteristics that are focused on survival and reproduction are expected to leave more offspring compared to their peers, thus causing the increase of traits in the frequency of their occurrence over generations. Thus, natural selection ideas put forward by Darwin cause species to become adapted, with the increasing focus on environments that influence the forming and well-being of individuals belonging to a particular species (Boero 49).
Therefore, the paradigm shift introduced by Darwin changed the way in which evolution was perceived. The adaptive changes in the species were then considered to be not goal-oriented but rather in relation to the environment and strengthening the capabilities of survival and overall improvement.
The second important paradigm concerns the Keynesian revolution, which denotes an essential shift in the economic theory as related to factors that determine the levels of employment in the overall economy. During the 1930s, the time period characterized by the Great Depression, the existing economic theories were insufficient for explaining the reasons for the significant global economic decline or provide solutions that would be adequate for enacting effective public policy solutions or facilitating the rapid expansion of employment and production (Thirlwall). The contribution of John Maynard Keynes is important when discussing paradigm shifts because it encouraged a revolution in economic thinking because it overturned the idea that free markets would automatically ensure full employment.
The main contribution of Keynes’ theory is associated with the assertion that aggregate demand, which is measured as the sum of spending among all parties (e.g., households, governments, businesses), represents the key driving force for the economy. Thus, the scholar suggested that free markets lack self-balancing mechanisms that would increase full employment, pointing to the need for governmental intervention with the help of effective public policies that would establish price stability and full employment.
Keynesian revolution is instrumental in changing the way economic stability was perceived. The economist argued that inadequate overall demand could increase the likelihood of prolonged high unemployment. This assertion is important because the output of an economy’s goods and services is concerned with the sump of net exports, consumption, governmental purchases, and investment.
This means that any increases in demand have to result from the changes in one of the four components. For instance, during the downturns in the economy, uncertainty can often erode the confidence of consumers, thus reducing their spending, especially in terms of such large purchases as houses or cars (Jahan et al. 53). The reduction in public spending inevitably leads to decreased spending by companies as they provide a response to the weakened demand for their products.
Such conditions increase the need for the government to heighten its output. Overall, Keynesian economics is essential for facilitating the intervention of states in moderating the increases and decreases in economic activity – the business cycle (Jahan et al. 53). The Keynesian revolution represents a paradigm shift that helped to understand the nature of demand and the economic decisions that influence it.
The fourth industrial revolution is the final paradigm shift to be discussed in the current exploration. It encompasses a series of political, social, cultural, and economic changes that will take place in the 21st century. What is interesting to note is that the revolution has not been completed yet and is occurring at the present time. Building upon the knowledge attained during the third industrial (digital) revolution, the fourth revolution is expected to be driven predominantly by the interactions of physical, biological, and digital innovations. The technologies inherent to the fourth industrial revolution include artificial intelligence, augmented reality, robotics development, 3-D printing, and genome editing ().
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All of these innovations are rapidly changing the way in which the modern society creates, interacts, exchanges, and distributes value. Similar to the occurrence of the previous three revolutions, the fourth industrial revolution is expected to profoundly change the performance of industries, individuals, and institutions. It is essential to mention that the revolution will align with the choices that modern people make today in terms of using technologies to facilitate interactions or earn money.
Despite the fact that the fourth industrial revolution is still taking place, it has already had an influence on facilitating systematic change across a variety of contexts. Moreover, the influences of developing technologies are even more vital than their capabilities. For example, the recent developments in low-cost gene sequencing has allowed scientists to “edit the building blocks of life” (Schwab). Also, artificial intelligence that gets integrated into various industries provides invaluable skills that enhance the way products or services are produced. These changes facilitate societal evolution at a global scale through influencing the norms, rules, and incentives of economic life.
Paradigm shifts have shown to change history and the way humans interact with the outside world. The exploration of Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Keynesian revolution, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution has shown that paradigm shifts were instrumental in changing the perceptions of the world through contributing to the way in which products are produced or the way in which demand influences employment. Importantly, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is happening today, is expected to transform modern society by offering a range of new capabilities for improvement.
Boero, Ferdinando. “From Darwin’s Origin of Species Toward a Theory of Natural History.” F1000prime Reports, vol. 7, no. 49, 2015, p. 49.
Jahan, Sarwat, et al. “What is Keynesian Economics?” Finance and Development, vol. 51, no. 3, 2014, pp. 53-54.
Naughton, John. “Thomas Kuhn: The Man Who Changed the Way the World Looked at Science.” The Guardian. 2012. Web.
Paksi, Dániel. “Kuhn’s Darwinism – From a Darwinian Point of View.” Periodica Polytechnica, vol. 15, no. 1, 2008, pp. 31-42.
Schwab, Klaus. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Web.
Thirlwall, Tony. “Understanding the Keynesian Revolution.” Financial Times. 2018. Web.