Underwear saved the lives of peasants in the 1700's.
Innovations in the early day of the industrial revolution made underwear and changes of clothes affordable. Prior to that, clothing that lie next to the skin fostered bacteria and infection and early death. Some time later, fashion became, er, fashionable and people began to buy clothes simply to stay current rather than because their clothes were hopelessly soiled, worn or outgrown.
It is considerably harder to change minds than clothing. Thomas Kuhn's often cited and occasionally read book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions popularized the notion of paradigm. He argued that a particular worldview, or paradigm, does two things. One, it makes sense of the world by ordering data and experiences into comprehensible patterns. Two, it filters out what doesn't fit into the pattern, what doesn't support the paradigm. (At any given instance, our senses are exposed to millions of bits of data; our consciousness can process only about 40 bits per second.) Thus, the paradigm we need to make sense of reality also filters out reality. One of the first jobs of a paradigm is to defend itself from attack.
Kuhn points to various examples of paradigm filters throughout history. Scientists expecting planetary orbits to be perfectly circular threw out data that deviated from that, seeing it as an error or anomaly. Their failure to clearly see the data meant that they missed the elliptical nature of orbits which meant that they missed the opportunity to develop a theory of gravity. The way that they made sense of the world kept them from sensing the world.
Radically new theories generally get accepted only by later generations. The Copernican Revolution actually took a century to be accepted. The germ theory was discarded by Pasteur's contemporaries and only accepted by the next generation, provoking the quip, "Science proceeds by the death of scientists."
A great deal of the progress of the 20th century came from solving problems of information. From semiotics and algorithms to the transmission and storage of information, we've made amazing progress in information technology. Yet new information does not automatically create a new paradigm.
There is a difference between information that streams in to be sorted and filtered to support our existing paradigms and the acquisition of knowledge, understanding, or wisdom that might transform our paradigms. We've mastered the first and have, as near as I can tell, not even bothered to define the latter as a challenge worth pursuing.
I'm sure that the medieval masses didn't think any more about changing underwear than today's masses think about changing paradigms. Yet fluency with paradigms might do as much for our quality of life as information technology did for the last century or textile manufacturing did for the 18th century.
If history teaches us nothing else, it is that paradigms are like underwear; no matter how comfortable they first seem, they eventually need changing. Maybe it's time to make paradigm shifts fashionable.