THE GLOBAL EMERGENCE OF THE SUSTAINABLE GROWTH OF QUALITY OF LIFE AND PRODUCTIVITY
If you have ever wondered why, after so much effort and billions upon billions of dollars that are spent every year... there is so much conflict, poverty and environmental degradation in the world...
Have you also wondered why there seems to be no end to those ills?
Are They Human-Behaviour Challenges?
...or Are They Structural Problems?
For a long time, the civil, human rights and international development communities have been focusing on a multitude of grievances and intractable situations that in most countries impede the improvement of wellbeing and the sustainable growth of labour productivity. However, most of the money spent on the improvement of civil and human rights, on the reduction of conflict and alleviation of poverty, and on the protection of the environment, appears to be wasted because there has been no agreement on what is the best thing to do.
Some experts in the subject have pointed out that since there are so many social factors, and due to the resulting complexity of human dynamics, there can be no activity or practice that fits all situations. Consequently, the consensus seems to be that efforts should not be made to identify best practice, being that apparently there is no such thing in the domain.
Examples of the precarious state of affairs abound both in developed and underdeveloped countries. Whilst issues like discrimination, criminality, terrorism, wage stagnation and climate change are mainstays of the media in industrialized nations, UNICEF reports that every day around 20,000 children die on account of poverty, and the World Health Organization indicates that 2.5 billion people lack basic sanitation facilities.
Donor countries also illustrate the difficulty of the situation by having funneled US$ 142.6 billion in 2016 through Official Development Assistance (ODA), for what management scientists could call a decades-long firefighting mission in their quest to eliminate global poverty.
Perhaps because people favour convenience, or maybe as a result of frustration out of feelings of impotence, or of lack of trust towards institutions, they may at times manage social stress by showing concern for those or other difficulties, grievances and challenges in emotional ways. They may become alienated or impulsive, tribal, sectarian or factional, or express other cortisol-driven "fight or flight" manifestations.
Methods can range from expressions of anxiety, despondency or distress to feuds, public disputes or civic unrest, mass rumours or hatemongering, organized protest or riots to protracted insurgencies, looting, displacement of refugees, diasporas, ethnic cleansing, vendettas, mass murder, pogroms, guerrilla or open strife, or in kind.
As the froth builds up, "Powerful groups demand more opportunity and less government interference in their quest to benefit from the forces of change, while other groups, no less powerful, demand more government support and protection from those same forces. The threats of class warfare and regional disaffection are never far away" is the take of Robert D. Hormats in his August 2003 HBR article, Abraham Lincoln and the Global Economy.
Too often human beings try to resolve their differences or disagreements by blowing themselves up, or by causing bodily harm to others either informally, or very formally through national agencies whose sole purpose is standing ready for inflicting destruction by way of national protection.
In a May 2016 lecture at the Oxford Martin School, The Hon. Baroness Valerie Amos indicated that the economic cost of conflict and violence was US$ 14.3 trillion in 2014, constituting 13.4% of the global economy for that year.
By Mural artist Gari Melchers (1862–1932). Photographed in 2007 by Carol Highsmith (1946–), who explicitly placed the photograph in the public domain.
The first proposition that arises from such a scenario indicates that there must be a global disconnect, or a giant invisible barrier or logjam blocking citizens from using a friendlier and more practical, convenient and effective way to both express and realize their expectations on how civic life should be like.
The proposition can arise from proverbial situations where cultural imperatives may create official indifference or civic restrictions or instances of oppression, or when political priorities create corruption, or where citizen requests or petitions may fall on deaf ears, or are perhaps appeased with empty promises on the part of public officials.
The reply is yes. There certainly seems to be a worldwide sense of powerlessness, disillusionment and of distrust in the capacity of government to satisfy the expectations of citizens. It is a disconnect in the form of an overbearing global constraint. Much of the time the constraint appears to complicate social stress by inhibiting the release of intractable emotional tension and frustration, or seems to create privation -even hopelessness- while citizens, as Adam Smith would have said, strive to improve themselves and their lot in their daily lives.
For instance, Robert Wright´s August 28, 1995 TIME article The Evolution of Despair points out how rates of depression had been doubling every 10 years in some developed nations, and that up to that time, suicide was the third most common cause of death among young adults in North America, after car wrecks and homicides. In May 2013, the BBC published a qualitative vs. quantitative indicator of sorts that various sources indicate is a very disturbing and continuing trend: It reported that since 2009, suicide has claimed more Americans than land-wheeled-vehicle crashes.
The constraint also seems to carry over its effect on to the factory floor, resulting in a labor-management gap of trust, with the consequent sluggish growth in productivity and the high cost of quality underlined by stagnant wages.
The second proposition lies further down the road; environmental degradation is mostly a result of a few very visible variables like solid and liquid waste, and gaseous emissions. So in principle, it should be easier for people to grasp the issues that impede human society from carrying out all of its activities in an eco-friendly manner.
Yet, in addition to the spectre of billions of humans either not having enough to eat, or not having proper living accommodations or healthcare, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points out that human activities are rapidly damaging the ecosphere to the no-return point, just as the NASA Global Climate Change website informs that Antarctica is suffering an irreversible meltdown.
And as if to add a tangible sense of urgency to the dire long-term global situation, the North Pole Environmental Observatory (NPEO) maintains a webcam at the North Pole. After NPEO said that in July 2013 the North Pole had turned into a meltwater lake, the World Economic Forum has forecasted more plastic than fish in the oceans by the year 2050.
The Engineering of Systematic Resolution to Global Issues
Typically, the various fields of the engineering sciences deal with the design and improvement of objects, machines and systems like locomotives, roads, bridges, the software and hardware of computers of all types, rockets, tanks, bombs, machine guns, land mines, EKG machines, heart valves, prosthetic arteries and limbs, satellites, automobiles, airplanes, buildings, chemical processes for making from shampoos to petrol, roller coasters, and electrical generation and distribution systems.
The list goes on with telephone systems and telephones, industrial mass production, mass-farming and food mass-processing systems, the machines that make the clothes humans wear, etc. Just about every mechanism, human-designed process or structure is designed or improved upon by engineers.
On the other hand, socioeconomic issues have usually been dealt with by professionals of the social and economic sciences, but industrial engineering, which has popularly been identified with the mass-production line, concerns itself with the human-machine or human-operating system interface. Human-factors engineering or ergonomics is one of the industrial engineering techniques used for designing or improving the methods the individual worker or the work group must carry out in order to operate and control machinery, production equipment, and/or the overall production system, in an efficient manner.
Taking into account the famous conclusions Elton Mayo came to at the Hawthorne Works of the General Electric Company between 1924 and 1927, industrial engineers consider the work group a social group. Mayo´s findings have helped industrial engineering practitioners hone the macroergonomic functions work groups, and whole organizations, must satisfy while operating complex sociotechnical systems such as an assembly line or a factory, a submarine, a cruise ship or an airliner, a supermarket-counter system, a transportation system or a call centre, etc.
In the case of sustainability, industrial engineering contends with the methods large social groups, such as whole societies, must carry out in order to operate and control the machinery of their own governments (MoG), as it were, in an ergonomically correct manner. In fact, because industrial engineering handles the optimization of complex processes, it is within its scope to help raise global productivity as it identifies the factors and variables human society must modify in order to optimize its activities vis-â-vis the needs of the ecosphere as a closed ecological system.
As a starting point, it might be useful to look at probably one of the most visible characteristics of the global condition at the beginning of the 21st. Century: shantytowns. Extrapolating from the actual situation in the South American nation of Venezuela, every day humans build around fifty thousand shanties. In this UN Habitat Video, Professor Edgar Pieterse suggests the name "slum urbanism" for the phenomenon...
By employing action research, The Global SoS Network has determined that most, if not all, of the major social, economical and environmental difficulties and challenges facing human society at the beginning of the 21st. Century are a direct result of one and the same global constraint . The constraint could be classified as technological because it impedes individuals from using information about stress-creating civic conflicts-of-interest, and from initiating the communication processes required for the resolution of the aforementioned issues.
More specifically, the information revolution makes knowledge about all types of social, economic and environmental challenges readily available to citizens. As humans live their daily lives, they gather information and converse and debate with their families, peers and coworkers regarding civic challenges, and of the perceived incapacity of government to address such issues.
Citizens own the information that can bring about the ending of alienation, privation, poverty and inequality, injustice, corruption, criminality of all types, of simmering radicalism, terrorism, civic turmoil and open conflict, and of environmental degradation.
But humans the world over seem to be unaware of how to put all that collective brainpower to effective use, hence the technological constraint. Consequently, other key questions emerge from this scenario...
What are humans to do with that information?
Whom do they communicate it to?
How can human society exploit its major technological constraint?
Best Practice: Local Tools for Global Transcendence
The Global SoS Network has found that sustainable growth of wellbeing and productivity is a sociotechnical issue best approached by first looking at the complexities and dynamics of human society on one side, and then -on the other side, analyzing how human society employs democracy, which is the sociotechnical system human society has designed in order to govern itself.
The network has also found that sustainability ultimately depends upon best practice; the application of the right techniques through the technological interface that some sectors, that is, some residents of successful countries use nowadays for exercising their democratic power. The correct use of this technological interface needs to become scaled up and systematized globally so that human society can streamline its collective intelligence towards sustainable development.
The only countries in which citizens employ best practice today are developed countries, precisely the fundamental reason they are rich. Once that sociotechnical platform becomes scaled up to the rest of the globe, such communication processes will allow the synergistic interaction between the constituent and legislative functions of the state, or in SoS parlance, Legislative System of Systems. Of course, rich countries are more advanced in this aspect than poor countries.
In practical terms, constituent-legislator communication, or the lack of it, is an issue that can create situations akin to the virtual representation scenario that brought about revolutionary acrimony two centuries ago between the British Empire and its American colonies. It´s also a matter of correcting the situation of representation without constituent-legislator communication in the Global South, and of some but not enough -and not systematic enough, communication between constituents and their legislators in developed countries.
Because constituents own the decisions made by their legislators, they should all exact effective ownership by eliminating their technological constraint. Each constituent can do this by carrying out the sociotechnical task of articulating the conflict-relevant information he or she owns, and using the right technology to communicate it to the relevant legislator through the teledemocratic infrastructure.
From the Systems of Systems perspective, a national teledemocratic infrastructure consists of the complete infrastructure of a national postal service, including existing old post or royal roads, and the Internet, when those communication channels are used to communicate with legislators.
It's no coincidence that the Internet offers business advantages that has brought accelerated growth to the sector. Not so with postal services, which have been termed as slow and old fashioned. In addition, developing-country postal services have suffered from indifference and inattention to the point that they have become inadequate to satisfy basic institutional needs, such as serving as a transport medium for municipal, utility and housing-authority billing systems.
Under those circumstances, postal services are inadequate for improving tax revenues that would help in the process of financing basic public services, the upgrading of the nowadays crumbling public infrastructure, including the construction of affordable housing in the Global South. The capacity of postal services to influence so many factors comes from their binary nature with respect to sustainable economic growth.
If a country can count on adequate postal services to run smoothly every working day, automatically the country is developed. On the contrary, if inadequate postal services are the norm in any nation, then it is guaranteed to be undeveloped. There are cases of countries being rich because of abundant and valuable natural resources, but they still are underdeveloped.
Nevertheless, effective local resolution of conflict, be it social, economic or environmental, is the result of robust teledemocratic mailstreams through which constituents will determine the systematic and environment-friendly:
Win-Win Resolution of Constituent and Emergent Conflict
Action research The Global SoS Network has carried out indicates that the streamlining of collective intelligence, that is, systematic constituent-legislator communication, is Best Democratic Practice (BDP) because it helps create a solid sociotechnical platform for meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The sociotechnical platform is solid because it ensures broad public participation in decision making. By promoting strong institutions, BDP is intrinsically embedded within SDG 16. Thus it is to great avail that Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretary-General, Martin Chungong, said "Goal 16 is the powerhouse from which all other action will follow".
The Theory of Change the Global SoS Network is developing, aligns the projected results of the teledemocratic processes that will emerge around the world, with the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The strategy helps unravel how a) SDGs 13 and 14, which refer to climate change, b) SDG 8, which pursues productivity and industrial development, and ultimately c) SDG 1, eradication of poverty, will emerge as programmed results from such global processes.
By pursuing the strategy, and introducing other key technological factors to local conditions, practically any underdeveloped or developed nation can not just meet, but exceed these and all the other SDGs at a fraction of the projected cost, well before the 2030 deadline. Happily, the cost will be so low there will be no need to meet SDG Target 17.2, which calls for developed countries to commit a minimum of 0.7 % of their GNP for Official Development Assistance.
There are, however, ominous news indicating that the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 have all broken high temperature records. Moreover, Dr. James Hansen, who is a Columbia University Adjunt Professor, and was NASA's top climate scientist, has stated that a tipping point was reached in April 2008. The jury is still out as to whether the unprecedented continuous increase of global temperature constitutes the first manifestation of catastrophic climate change, or just a fluke.
Either way, it could be said that were BDP not to be given priority, it is highly likely that the SDGs will run the same luck as the Millennium Development Goals, which offered less than stellar results. The eventual outcome could be the end of the capacity of the ecosphere to sustain human civilization as we know it.
MIT Professor Thomas Malone does state that in the end, we will probably make choices that save the Earth. This means that focusing the collective intelligence towards the meeting of habitat SDGs 13 and 14, should be given the highest priority. And considering that the UN weather agency found 2016 to be the hottest year ever, the Affordable and Clean Energy-seeking SDG 7 should pioneer the way towards sustainability.
The Human Factor of Democracy
Macroergonomically speaking, if the machinery of government is to deliver satisfactory results, the whole adult national population should know how to 'operate' it correctly, something that brings importance to know-what, know-why and know-who. While citizens should acquire tacit knowledge of the task at hand, they must also meet the operational needs of the mechanisms that make the overall system work.
Consequently, teledemocratic collective-intelligence techniques are preludes to complex-adaptive sociotechnical processes, through which citizens can exact accountable and transparent governance by first acting upon their permanent role as constituents of their own state and of their government, and then interacting with the legislative function of the state. And in spite of the scarily complicated, hi-tech and expensive-sounding names, the streamlining of collective intelligence is refreshingly simple, very convenient, and surprisingly economic.
In order to streamline the collective intelligence and meet the SDGs in a cost effective way and on time, methods engineering prescribes that constituents around the globe must use at least four tools to initiate a simple three-step communication method. The tools are a pen, a sheet of paper, an envelope, and a postage stamp. The method consists of writing periodic letters to the pertinent legislators, having them delivered, and obtaining feedback through the subsequent replies.
Best Democratic Practice represents a global paradigm shift that is usually promoted under 'Write to Your Legislator' and 'Write to Your MP' motifs. By opening a conduit through which each citizen can channel civic stress, the streamlining of collective intelligence creates communication processes that are analogue to the operation and control of the machinery of government. It is BDP because it creates teledemocratic communication processes that, with the proper arrangements, allow all cognizant -literate or illiterate- residents of a country or nation to influence, and ultimately establish, the outcome of public policy for the good of all stakeholders, and of the environment.
Once constituents have established such processes, then the same constituents, now in their role as workers, will feel more empowered at work. This will translate in more meaningful tasks thus more quality and productivity. From then on, increased trust in the objectives of management will cause the emergence of unity of purpose at work, the resulting boost in quality and productivity will also boost wages and the standard of living.
Deducing that the logistics of transporting teledemocratic information require the existence of postal technology that is adequate for the task, the focused collective intelligence of constituents now creates nationwide teledemocratic mailstreams towards the legislatures. Subsequently, legislators will use traditional parliamentarian procedures in order to resolve constituent conflict in the forums human society has designed for that specific undertaking.
THE GLOBAL TECHNOLOGICAL CONSTRAINT...
...gets smaller each time a mail carrier delivers a formal reply from a legislator to a constituent.
"Constituents comprise the world's most powerful social groups, and teledemocratic techniques make constituencies the most versatile of social networks."
Because it is the task of legislatures to allocate resources to the executive function of government, the deliberation of different perspectives will in effect result in the allocation of resources that will resolve the conflict at hand, meaning that overall government performance will improve systematically.
Keeping in mind that constituent conflict could represent any aspect of the civic domain, from gaping potholes to inadequate housing, education, medical care, relationships between the facets of myriad social groups, or any environmental problem; only when business managers note improved government effectiveness will they become more motivated to invest in sustainable technology.
This would take the form of more efficient machinery and methods that will improve productivity, helping make small gains in labor productivity and wellbeing. The complex-adaptive result is that improved government performance begets improved quality of life as the standard of living improves, meaning that everyone involved, and the environment, win.
In addition to serving as a medium for constituent-legislator communication, adequate postal services allow for institutional focusing of adaptive capacity in order to address pressing social needs. As mentioned before, adequate postal services allow for the rollout of municipal and utility billing systems. The resulting income streams are key for the local development and upkeep of the public infrastructure necessary for world-class quality education and medical services, and for all-important trade.
The Internet is a very convenient venue for establishing teledemocratic processes. But until poor countries become affluent, the cost of each computer or cellular phone, in addition to installation costs (electric supply, fixed or cellular-line or Internet hook-up fees, modem, batteries, printing ink, etc.) plus monthly payments, maintenance, upgrading, training, and other hidden costs, must be compared to the cost of a few stationery items and that of family mailboxes, which are usually made of low-cost sheetmetal. Home letterboxes only need a key and lock, require no periodic expenses, and practically never need maintenance.
Using either type of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), postal services or the Internet, when social groups such as constituents use teledemocratic methods, then the collective intelligence has the capacity to regulate the activities of the Public Sector System in benefit of the common good, and of the environment, while steadily increasing the level of productivity.
Accountability and Virtual Democracies
The key outcome from a reply from a legislator is accountability. It is no coincidence that countries where some constituents are accustomed to carrying out the time-tested practice of communicating with their legislators... are developed countries, precisely the nations in which legislators are usually most accountable to their constituents. Needless to say, quality of goods, of basic public services, of concern for the environment, of overall wellbeing, and of productivity, is highest in those same countries. However, existing social shortcomings show that actual teledemocratic activity may not be systematic enough.
It also seems that most underdeveloped nations are in the underdeveloped side of a postal divide. This means that most countries of the Global South have not developed postal-service-based ICT processes. As a consequence, the history of inadequate postal services appears to have inhibited constituent-legislator communication activities. Now that the Internet has arrived, the constituent-legislator communication tradition just seems not to be there, so developing-world constituents do not appear to use that tool for channeling their grievances.
Also, legislators in underdeveloped nations do allocate resources, but they do not seem to wield sufficient leverage as compared to the executive function of those legislative SoS. Action research indicates that those legislators tend to insist they have the well being of their constituents in mind, but if there is no constituent-legislator communication, legislators cannot really speak in name of their constituents, and the legislative function is not as relevant -there is no real accountability. It looks like a 21st. Century version of the virtual representation claim made by British Members of Parliament in the 18th. Century, through which lawmakers insisted they represented the interests of all colonists of the British Empire.
Action research also indicates that the global technological constraint has created virtual democracies all around the Global South. The executive function is very powerful, as compared to the legislative function. Even if the executive function does try to be effective, without the benefit of constituent-generated information, and without the required accountability, the executive function ends not being very efficient or effective in improving the habitat in a way that would help increase national productivity and quality of life in a sustainable manner.
In the case of the so-called second world, virtual democracies also abound as a result of lack of constituent-legislator communication. A much lesser degree of virtuality exists in industrialized countries, as evidenced by such issues as pockets of poverty and distrust of government institutions. The remedy being the same, rich countries do need to institutionalize Best Democratic Practice if they are to comply with the overriding challenge, the SDGs.
Streamlining for the Future
Thus for human sustainability, SoS Engineering (SoSE) identifies teledemocratic activities, such as those ones being researched at the International Teledemocracy Centre as best democratic practice. Dealing with legislative Systems of Systems themselves is bound to help donor nations because in addition to bringing much lower costs to development endeavours, the effectiveness of constituent-legislator communication will create giant markets that did not exist before. From that perspective, SoSE can predict, as the Global Marshall Plan puts it, a global economic miracle.
And the Business Sustainable Development Commission agrees that sustainability makes good business sense. In its website, the BSDC says that sustainability can unlock at least US$12 trillion in New Market Value, while repairing the economic system. It looks like a good return for motivating workers to contact their legislators.
If you get quite a shock when an airplane falls off the sky and kills dozens of people, or when someone dies from conflict, you will probably be horrified when you realize that three thousand humans die every day from land-wheeled-vehicle crashes.
The Global SoS Network has identified the isomorphism between Legislative SoS and Ground Transportation SoS. As a result, Globalsosnet has also designed the technological approach that will be necessary for eliminating 99.7% (Six-Sigma, assuming normal data distribution) of vehicle crashes.
Crashes are not accidents. They are statistically predictable outcomes. Crashes are not the fault of drivers -they are an organizational problem. So the solution to the problem is a matter of drivers participating in eliminating the SoS constraints in order to eliminate assignable causes for crashes. Globalsosnet is actively working to bring Total Quality Management, or Quality Driving, into practical use.
The United Nations has placed such importance to this issue that it has assigned Target 3.6, of the Sustainable Development Goals, indicating that traffic deaths should be cut by half as part of the 2030 UN Agenda.