World Futures: Polling, Voting, Surveying, Choosing, Influencing And Statistics – Part One

Los Alamos World Futures Institute
A couple of years ago I penned The List of 18, areas that will affect the future of earth and humanity.
The elements of the list are broad in context such as energy: storage, conversion, efficiency and distribution. It is a pretty straightforward list that should be easily controlled and administered.
But, as an example, the sub-elements of the energy element affect other items on The List of 18. For example, another item on the list is the distribution of products, stuff needed by the 7.346 billion people that comprise humanity, and it is growing. How about energy for food production and dietary requirements? Or you might add cell/smart phones which, on average, are replaced every two years and consume lots of energy during manufacture. The items on this list all require making choices, but how do we make them?
The last area on The List of 18 is governance. This includes the making of choices and the enforcement of decisions and policies. As the group called humanity we must work together, in some degree of unison, to ensure our future and that of future generations. While humanity started 200,000 years ago, the society we know today is much, much younger. And even today, the perception of society differs widely from the very, very poor to the very, very rich and everyone in between. Who makes the choices and how are they made?
In writing these columns, I have ardently avoided the discussion of religion. I believe that humanity cannot simply trust in God to control our destiny. Rather, I believe that God has given us the power and opportunity to earn his recognition and determine our destiny. So we, as the society known as humanity, must do what is right based on our knowledge, observations, and collective effort and agreement. The hard part is how do we decide on courses of action?
To get a feel for the magnitude of the problem, consider a very crude model of the military when I entered onto active duty in 1960. At that time an infantry squad consisted of a squad leader, two fire team leaders, and four other soldiers in each fire team, or 11 soldiers in total. If you divide the world population into squads you would have 0.668 billion squads. As you group them together, you need a command and control structure above them. If an army division is used for a model with 20,000 people per division, humanity would be an army of 36,730,000 divisions. During World War II, the United States mobilized 91 divisions.
Put another way, Los Alamos has a population of about 18,000 people. Using the above model format, humanity is the size of 40,811,111 Los Alamos Counties. But as a community, Los Alamos would rebel at a military command and control system. The people of the society of Los Alamos have a say in the decisions about rules, laws, spending and taxes. The county manager is not a dictator, the county council is not an all-powerful body, and the smaller organizations are responsible to the people, the human beings that make up the population.
Obviously, Los Alamos is not the organizational model used across the world. New Mexico differs from the other 49 states and the United States differs from the 194 other countries (196 if you count the Holy See and the State of Palestine). But is all of the organizations of society, the needs of the people must be met and their voices must be heard. If they are not, the organization will eventually fail. But how do you determine the wants and needs and who really is in charge?
I have a bias, I admit it. I love the United States because the people, the citizens, are in charge collectively. Okay, you have to be 18 or older to be part of the “in charge” body and you have to have been born a citizen or naturalized. And citizens do not collectively determine the speed limit on Trinity Drive during construction. But citizens do collectively select the representatives that provide oversight and control of those who do set the Trinity Drive speed limit. But as a simplistic example, suppose the options for the Trinity Drive speed limit where 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 miles per hour. How would the collective preference of the people be determined? To get the answer, however, we have to ask the people, the members of humanity that are part of the society.
Clearly it would be foolish to delay road maintenance while a special election is held to determine the speed limit. But what if the issue was the height of buildings in downtown: should it be 4, 6, 8, 10, or 20 stories? While perhaps a silly question, the input of the citizenry is essential. Should this be acquired by polling, voting, surveying, influencing, social media, or in a public meeting? Since the County of Los Alamos has a population of about 18,000, a public meeting of those who care probably would work. But what if the population is 330 million and the topic is abortion or immigration? How do you do it and how should statistics affect your judgment?
Till next time…
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