The Default Theory

I have been thinking about the Default Theory for quite a time. And I am convinced that advancing this idea as a theory can help explain the phenomenon that commonly beset human affairs, i.e., nothing happens, or nothing changes without deliberate and sustained effort to institute change.

This article explains the theory using two examples in real life. Read on to find out.

The Default Theory

I have in mind applies to many cases of human endeavor. Although there is a theory by Timothy Levine called Truth-Default Theory or TDT, the theory I am advancing is entirely different from his description.

Opportunity for Innovation

For example, as the research director in the university, I disseminated information among colleagues that there is an opportunity for innovation and development proposals to be potentially funded heavily by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd). The initiative is part of the government’s effort to minimize the adverse effects of the K-12 Transition Program.

A week was given to comply with the simple requirement of submitting a one or two-page concept paper to the funding agency. The concept paper preludes the preparation of a full-blown research proposal once the proposed concept is accepted.

I discussed the rationale, explained the mechanics, and gave all the forms to be accomplished to the unit heads. I thought they would appreciate the effort and be motivated likewise to disseminate the information to the 400-500 faculty members of the university. I also explored possible topics as starting points that the group can follow through.

By Default, Nothing Gets Done

Even while disseminating the information and being hopeful that the faculty will respond to the call, I somehow anticipate that nobody will submit or make the extra effort to present their proposals. By default, nothing gets done for many reasons. Almost always, nothing gets done despite efforts to make a change.

And nobody did submit an innovation proposal except me. I took the extra effort to make a submission on or before the deadline. I am aware of the Default Theory. Things happen as they should if no additional energy is exerted to counter its effect. I have done this action several times, and I made changes and took a career turn. I counteract the default with deliberate, sustained effort to do something about the situation.

default theory
Cities expand by default.

The Default Theory in Environmental Issues

When applied to deal with environmental issues or concerns, which are my cup of tea, the Default Theory works likewise.

For example, for many years and after so many ideas, suggestions, propositions, projects, programs, among others that arise to counter the effects of environmental degradation, the default prevails. That is, nothing gets accomplished that significantly influenced the direction of development with lasting impact.

If you attend conferences or read scientific papers, the issue of environmental problems such as pollution, illegal trade, over-extraction, and similar matters faced decades back remain. The default is that nothing gets done, at least in a sustainable manner, even with much effort and expense. There may be successes, but history reveals that everything goes back to board one through time. Gains are not sustainable. Perhaps, the desired change is a matter of accident.

So where does this situation bring us? How can we counter the effect of default in our lives?

The answer lies in being conscious about the influence of inaction associated with complacency. Meaningful change in the turn of events all starts with the recognition that this phenomenon – the Default, exists. And deliberate, sustained effort to counter the “business as usual” must be made to change the direction of events.

Updated: 22 August 2020

©2016 August 20 P. A. Regoniel