Writers, what are your alternatives for ‘paradigm shift’?

Here’s another term that has drifted from its original meaning, picking up an onerous connotation along the way. The author explains, and offers alternatives.

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The phrase “paradigm shift” is tired and scary. Worse, it doesn’t make you look as smart as you might think.

Paradigm shift actually means a new scientific assumption that replaces the old, according to Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” For example, the planets revolve around the sun, not around the Earth; or, germs, not ice cubes, will give your kids a sore throat. Check out Wikipedia for more examples.

You cannot believe that the planets revolve around both the Earth and the sun, or that both germs and ice cubes cause sore throats, or that we are in transition between old and new beliefs. Yet, when digital gurus talk about paradigm shift they are referring to a transition, not an abrupt rejection of the old in favor of the new.

Although the pendulum has swung toward digital in the more than 20 years since Don Tapscott’s “Paradigm Shift” was published, we still see many readers poring over printed books, some farmers hoeing manually, and the odd business making copies with carbon paper. The paradigm is shifting; it has not shifted.

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