Everything is new, and nothing is.

Everything is new, and nothing is.
GenAI picture, prompt: looking through glasses, through left side we see a shiny neon city, through right side we see historic old town

I am fascinated with chosing a clear-cut perspective when looking at new questions/topics/whatever, and examine where this perspective leads me to. It does not have to be based on my own opinion or conviction though - sometimes I also like to consider a polar opposite of that, just to see if the contrarian perspective does hold some information, some „truth“ as well (much to the frustration of my wife, who had to teach me to announce this beforehand, because we ended up in good fights over some of those virtual viewpoints when she thought I had just gone mad).

Two of those perspectives have proven useful - not in inciting a useless fight with my wife, but in re-framing issues and discovering interesting nuances: „Everything about this is new“ and „nothing about this is new“.

Everything is new:

  • I have never seen this before, I am looking at it with completely fresh eyes
  • I make no assumptions about its usefulness, it must prove its worth
  • I assume this is the first iteration, and I can freely imagine how the 10th iteration might look like
  • There is no cost attached for me, no ballast of any kind
  • This does not replace anything by default but could replace any number of things
  • The people talking about it today are the pioneers of this field
  • All Knowledge on this topic is on the table

Nothing is new:

  • What I am looking at is rooted in fundamentally old, basic ideas and principles, which I try to identify
  • What I am looking at has proven itself to others many times over, it is just me discovering its usefulness with fresh eyes
  • I assume this is the n-th generation of things of its kind, it might be the last iteration before something new comes along
  • The people talking about it today do not even know the pioneers of this field
  • Most knowledge on this topic has already been lost/ archived again

I used this when diving deep into VR. I wore VR goggles for the first time in an arcade in the 90s. It gave me instant nausea. 25 odd years later, I re-discovered VR through the latest Oculus hardware and current apps. For me, this was a revolutionary breakthrough. Imagine the possibilities!

... then I read up on the topic.

Turns out, most of the people being really excited about VR, like me, had missed a few iterations. Almost none of them knew the roots of VR. Few had seen the ebb and flow of excitement - THIS time it will hit mass adoption! Turns out, „nothing is new“ was a pretty good approximation. This framing helped me to put my own knowledge and observation horizon into perspective. When working on a client engagement that was concerned with utilizing VR, I had a more realistic view.

The next time you hit a topic - especially one where you have a dangerous level of half-knowledge, especially one that is „hype“ in your bubble right now - try these frames. Everything is new. Nothing is new.

What changes?