You owe everything to the freaks

Published On Oct 11, 2022

Everything you value was once a freak.

The mitochondria in your cells that convert sugar to energy, your eyes, your lungs, your family, your community are all the product of evolution—a relentless, unceasing pressure of mutation and optimization and adaptation. All of these things were once not the norm.

Cells inside you are going rogue right now, and your immune system, if it’s working properly, is suppressing them. Telomeres within your cells act like tiny countdown timers, limiting their lives—and yours—because the alternative is unbridled, deadly growth. Living creatures mutate all the time, and nearly every one of these mutations is bad.

Humans, too, go rogue all the time. Most rogue humans are delusional, or irrational, or misinformed. Social systems, from law enforcement to a chiding family to an electorate to peer pressure, suppress these outliers. They’re the immune system of societal change.

But on very rare occasions, one of these biological or societal mutations is so beneficial that it sticks. Sometimes that’s an opposable thumb or a prehensile tail. Sometimes it’s a political movement, or a cultural change, or a scientific breakthrough. We thought the earth was flat, and the stars were pinpricks, and monarchs were divinely appointed.

It’s a fine balance: Too many mutants, and a system breaks down. Too much normalcy, and a system becomes complacent. From the molecular to the societal, all stable systems find a balance between mutation and suppression.

Keep this balance in mind when you’re working on change. What’s the mutation you’re proposing? What’s the immune system you’re fighting? How do you convince that system you’re the worthy exception, the useful freak, or the change that needs to happen? How can you design not only the end product, but the mechanisms for acceptance?

After all, change we must, and you owe everything to the weirdos.

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