A genuine and unshakeable commitment to improving the lot of their constituents. Compassion for the underprivileged. Informed and interested in the developments in healthcare. Capable of making, and justifying, difficult ethical, financial, social and developmental decisions.
Voters who consider the needs of others, not just themselves, when they go to the polling booth. Voters who take the time to look at the policy proposals of different representatives, and more importantly, are willing to hold their personal representatives to account. Voters with a keen outlook for their future.
National success measured in a diverse way. International scrutiny not merely of GDP – an indicator which reflects well only on economies built to game the algorithm – but on individual welfare, on maintaining the environment they survive in, on transparency and innovation and adding real value to the way we live.
It sounds like a vision of heaven. What do we have now? Politicians being summoned to inquiries for shady dealings with the empires of press barons. Huge income inequalities, widening even as the economy contracts. International negotiations limply flailing away from any useful agreement to protect natural resources and environments the entire human population of Earth rely upon. We’re well on the road to hell. And not the fist-in-the-air AC/DC hell.
I went to Science Question Time on Monday evening, and the issue was “Growth”, or more precisely, the relationship between science and growth. I was impressed at the quality of the speakers, but was struck by what seemed to be bubbling below the surface of many of the comments. There was a deep dissatisfaction with the structure of business, government and finance. The ‘rules of the game’ suit those in suits, and even though science has typically played its hand pretty well, the problems it seeks to investigate and solve are being amplified by the very money needed to study them (check out the Storify of the event here – lots of good points).
There were two passages of discussion that really hit me. One made the point that the government – not private industry – should be the basis of support for the crazy ones.
The second key point was that science can deliver good information and outcomes, but not necessarily growth in the way it’s currently economically
worshiped defined. What is needed, instead, is for our communities to speak out on the problems we need solved, with a strong voice. Then we need to shape how we value enterprise, business and science against those goals. We need new metrics, and those metrics cannot be based on the sheer quantity of monetary transactions.
Science is one of the best tools we have to discover more about our world and lay the groundwork for innovation. But it rolls along, one vehicle in a motorcade led by politicians lacking vision and integrity, towards checkpoints laid down by vested interests. Science Question Time firmed one thing in my mind: science is only as good as its context, and the current context is one I can’t accept. I want it to be better. You should too, because it can be. If we make it.
Here’s a simple question: if you could replace economic growth/GDP as a measure of national success with a single indicator, what would it be? Education? Health? Military? Research output? Art? Happiness?
And then the question I want you to really think about, and take with you, and talk about: what would the world look like in 10 years if we implemented your indicator with the same vigor and zeal we currently pursue growth? How do we get to the kind of world you want to live in? We must ask ourselves these questions, and try to answer them. Heaven is waiting for us to shape it.