Thinking: Static vs. Dynamic

The concept of static vs. dynamic thinking is a useful contrast. Much of the foundation of our world-view perspective depends on it. As I discuss the key differences it may bring some political, economic, and social schools of thought to mind.

Static Thinking

Static thinking is zero-sum. For every winner there must be a loser. The pie is fixed in size, there’s only so much of it. Competition is each person scrambling to gather for himself the most he can, leaving less for others.

Static thinking is Malthusian. Each extra person is that much more drain on our resources: water, space, food. It focuses on costs, not benefits.

Static thinking is risk-averse. It follows the precautionary principle, which is non-scientific because in avoiding harm, it takes status quo for granted, failing to weigh the harm of inaction.

Static thinking is dogmatic. Taking status quo for granted with fixed values shuts out alternative perspectives and scenarios. It leads to the naive arrogance (or fatal conceit) that complex systems can be centrally manipulated and optimized.

Dynamic Thinking

Dynamic thinking is positive-sum. Winners win by creating something new, growing the pie. Competition is each person finding new ways to contribute, each creating more overall.

Dynamic thinking is Boserupian. Every limitation creates the incentives to overcome it. Necessity is the mother of innovation. Ingenuity outpaces demand. Each extra person increases the potential for the next big idea.

Dynamic thinking is opportunity seeking. It is scientific optimism: taking calculated risks weighted against benefits using available knowledge.

Dynamic thinking is idealistic. Applied to methods as well as to goals, it encourages thinking outside the box about what is possible. Yet dynamic thinking tempers this idealism with respect for the limits of knowledge that comes from realizing that well-functioning complex systems, both physical and social, are decentralized.