Nautilus

Why You Didn’t See It Coming

You don’t see it coming. You probably couldn’t if you tried. The effects of large changes in scale are frequently beyond our powers of perception, even our imagination. They seem to emerge out of nowhere: the cumulative effects of climate change, the creation of a black hole, the spookiness of quantum mechanics, the societal tipping points reached when the rich have billions rather than millions—even the sudden boiling of water in a slowly heating pot.

More or less of almost anything can change nearly everything.

I’ve been pondering this a lot recently as I watch the explosion of mini-mansions in my once modest Santa Monica neighborhood. A run on teardowns has left older homes looking like abandoned toys wedged between grand new structures straining at the seams of their property lines. They tower into the trees, the better to catch a glimpse of ocean, casting shadows, blocking light.

new neighbors: A mini-mansion highlights the changes happening to a neighborhood in Burbank, California.City of Burbank Community Development Department Visual Preference Survey

I also see a lot more dog poop on the sidewalk, a lot fewer old folks strolling at dusk, a noticeable decrease in the number of “hellos” from the neighbors. More and more owners aren’t from around here; the house down the street is for sale by Berkshire Hathaway. A little money can spruce up a neighborhood. Vast infusions of wealth can

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