The Risk of Changing Nothing

Humans are predisposed to avoid risk. It’s how we are all still here. If we didn’t fear anything, our species would not survive.

We have an interesting bias, though, to avoid the risk of change. Change is unknown, uncertain. So often we take on an attitude of ‘better the devil you know’.

I come across this every time I present ideas of social progress. The new idea is challenged for all the things that could go wrong. Meanwhile, the current way of doing things goes completely unchallenged. This frustrates me to no end.

  1. Homeschooling v. Mainstream schooling

Me: “I want to homeschool my kids. I think it will lead to better outcomes”
Response: “But what about socialising?!?!?!??!?!?”

Meanwhile mainstream schooling gets by without a challenge. Despite the many problems with mainstream schooling: bullying; students being required to fit in with an externally imposed pace rather than going at their own pace; the inordinate amount of time spent on supporting the institution rather than actually learning; the unsustainable load demanded of teachers; externally imposed curricula rather than student-led learning, including the assumption that every person needs to learn the same things.

All that goes unchallenged, because it is ‘how things are done’.

(By the way, my response to the socialising question: My view is that the kind of socialising that happens in school is not the kind of socialising that sets kids up for success in the future. I have heard it compared to the tribe-like socialising that goes on in prison – the purpose is survival, not human connection. I am aware this is a strong opinion.)


  1. Homebirth v. Hospital birth

Me: “I want a home birth.”
Response: “But RIIIIIIIIIIISK! SAFETY!!!!!!”

Meanwhile the risks of birthing in hospital go unchallenged. Including the higher risk of intervention. “Safety” takes into account only perceived threat to life, not feelings of emotional safety which can aid ease of birth.

Medical intervention itself is seen as the norm, and goes unchallenged. Even though interventions carry their own risks. These risks are not considered. Only the risk of refusing them.


  1. Universal Basic Income v. current welfare system

Me: “I think we should replace our welfare system with a universal basic income system, in which every adult gets $20,000 a year, no questions asked”
Response: “It would never wooooooooooooork!!!!!!!”

Meanwhile our current welfare system is assumed to be perfectly fine, despite its many problems: the system is flawed and dehumanising, meaning most people who interact with it have an awful experience at least once, if not every time; our current system spends millions (presumably, I don’t know exact numbers) on wages and systems to prove recipients are worthy, which could be saved by just giving it to everyone anyway; the system is so complicated it requires individual recipients to have lots of time, energy, education, social capital and/or advocacy in order to navigate it, which makes it less accessible to those who are most disadvantaged.


  1. Climate action v. business as usual

Climate activists: “We need to stop climate change”
Response: “But the economyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!”

As if we exist to serve the economy, rather than the other way around.

In this case, the risks of changing nothing are terrifyingly massive. And the benefits of changing the way we do things are also huge. Aside from saving our species from extinction, we stand to improve social justice outcomes in our fight for climate action, for example getting better choices and opportunities for women and girls.


To join a climate change protest near you check out Climate Change Protests Australia.


4 thoughts on “The Risk of Changing Nothing

  1. This is a great discussion! I think as a society we are also uncomfortable with change because it would mean that our current ideas/ways of life are wrong, and nowadays to be wrong is to be canceled/disregarded/left behind. I think we should re-arrange our thinking and admit that just because we are wrong about something or there is a potentially better system, we should at least consider if the risk is worth the potential gains.

    I don’t know too much about universal basic income, but I do support universal healthcare. A lot of my family members work in the medical field and talk about how people exploit Medicare in the US by purposefully working low-income jobs in order to be considered for the benefits. I know that this is a reality, but I don’t think the “risk” of someone using taxpayer money to buy medication they may not need will outweigh the “gain,” of universal healthcare, which is that all people have access to health insurance.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! Such a good point. If someone is deliberately working a low-income job so they can qualify, does that not say more about their other options in terms of getting insurance? I don’t understand the system in the US (I am in Australia and we have had proper universal healthcare for decades). I agree with you about the risk v. gain, and it sounds like those comments your family members make are to do with their discomfort about the change in the system.

  2. Thanks, Emmeline. I could not agree more with your observation that “the kind of socialising that happens in school is not the kind of socialising that sets kids up for success in the future. I have heard it compared to the tribe-like socialising that goes on in prison – the purpose is survival, not human connection.”

    This was exactly my experience and that of so many people.

    I used to be very opposed to homeschooling for ideological reasons (I was opposed to reasons for homeschooling such as, “I don’t want my kids exposed to evolution”) but I’ve come to hold a view pretty close to the points you express here about time-wasting, socialization, and learning outcomes.

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