Archive for November, 2009

Contrasting Network Communities: Transparent, Efficient, and Invested vs Not

November 30, 2009

Different networks and different communities have different amounts of social capital going for them. As was originally described by Putnam (1993), some networks are organized hierarchically in a command-and-control structure. The top layers here are the autocrats, nobility, or bosses who run the show. Rigid conformity is the name of the game to get by. Those in power can make or break anyone. Market transactions in this context are characterized by the thumb on the scale, the bribe, and the kickback. Everyone is watching out for themselves.

At the opposite extreme are horizontal networks characterized by altruism and a sense that doing what’s good for everyone will eventually come back around to be good for me. The ideal here is a republic in which the law rules and everyone has the same price of entry into the market.

What I’d like to focus on is what’s going on in these horizontal networks. What makes one a more tightly-knit community than another? The closeness people feel should not be oppressive or claustrophic or smothering. I’m thinking of community relations in which people feel safe, not just personally but creatively. How and when are diversity, dissent and innovation not just tolerated but celebrated? What makes it possible for a market in new ideas and new ways of doing things to take off?

And how does a community like this differ from another one that is just as horizontally structured but that does not give rise to anything at all creative?

The answers to all of these questions seem to me to hinge on the transparency, efficiency, and volume of investments in the relationships making up the networks. What kinds of investments? All kinds: emotional, social, intellectual, financial, spiritual, etc. Less transparent, inefficient, and low volume investments don’t have the thickness or complexity of the relationships that we can see through, that are well lubricated, and that are reinforced with frequent visits.

Putnam (1993, p. 183) has a very illuminating way of putting this: “The harmonies of a choral society illustrate how voluntary collaboration can create value that no individual, no matter how wealthy, no matter how wily, could produce alone.” Social capital is the coordination of thought and behavior that embodies trust, good will, and loyalty. Social capital is at play when an individual can rely on a thickly elaborated network of largely unknown others who provide clean water, nutritious food, effective public health practices (sanitation, restaurant inspections, and sewers), fire and police protection, a fair and just judiciary, electrical and information technology, affordably priced consumer goods, medical care, and who ensure the future by educating the next generation.

Life would be incredibly difficult if we could not trust others to obey traffic laws, or to do their jobs without taking unfair advantage of access to special knowledge (credit card numbers, cash, inside information), etc. But beyond that, we gain huge efficiencies in our lives because of the way our thoughts and behaviors are harmonized and coordinated on mass scales. We just simply do not have to worry about millions of things that are being taken care of, things that would completely freeze us in our tracks if they weren’t being done.

Thus, later on the same page, Putnam also observes that, “For political stability, for government effectiveness, and even for economic progress social capital may be even more important than physical or human capital.” And so, he says, “Where norms and networks of civic engagement are lacking, the outlook for collective action appears bleak.”

But what if two communities have identical norms and networks, but they differ in one crucial way: one relies on everyday language, used in conversations and written messages, to get things done, and the other has a new language, one with a heightened capacity for transparent meaningfulness and precision efficiency? Which one is likely to be more creative and innovative?

The question can be re-expressed in terms of Gladwell’s (2000) sense of the factors contributing to reaching a tipping point: the mavens, connectors, salespeople, and the stickiness of the messages. What if the mavens in two communities are equally knowledgeable, the connectors just as interconnected, and the salespeople just as persuasive, but messages are dramatically less sticky in one community than the other? In one network of networks, saying things once gets the right response 99% of the time, but in the other things have to be repeated seven times before the right response comes back even 50% of the time, and hardly anyone makes the effort to repeat things that many times. Guess which community will be safer, more creative, and thriving?

All of this, of course, is just another way to bring out the importance of improved measurement for improving network quality and community life. As Surowiecki put it in The Wisdom of Crowds, the SARS virus was sequenced in a matter of weeks by a network of labs sharing common technical standards; without those standards, it would have taken any one of them weeks to do the same job alone. The messages these labs sent back and forth had an elevated stickiness index because they were more transparently and efficiently codified than messages were back in the days before the technical standards were created.

So the question emerges, given the means to create common languages with enhanced stickiness properties, such as we have in advanced measurement models, what kinds of creativity and innovation can we expect when these languages are introduced in the domains of human, social, and natural capital markets? That is the question of the age, it seems to me…

Gladwell, M. (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.

Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and nations. New York: Doubleday.

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Al Gore: Marshalling the Collective Will is NOT the Problem–The Problem is the Problem!

November 22, 2009

In his new book, former vice-president Al Gore says we have in hand all the tools we need to solve the climate change crises, except the collective will to do anything about them. I respectfully beg to differ. Finding the will is not the problem. We already have it and we have it volumes sufficient to the task. Gore is also wrong in claiming we have the tools we need. There are entire classes of scientific and economic tools that we are missing. It is because we lack the right tools that we are unable to focus and channel our will for solutions.

The short version of my argument is that we don’t have scientific, universally uniform, and ubiquitously used metrics for measuring overall environmental quality. Because we don’t have the measures, we can’t and don’t effectively and efficiently manage our natural capital and environmental assets. Without metrics akin to barrels of oil or bushels of grain, we don’t have markets for matching environmental quality supply with demand for it.

Without tools as essential as metrics and markets, we can’t harness our existing will to improve our relationship with the earth. What will do we have, you might ask? Our collective will is expressed in the profit motive. What we need to do is set up metrics and markets to harness the energy of the profit motive. We need to create systems for trading natural capital (and human and social capital) so that we generate real wealth and drive happiness indexes north by realizing human potential, building thriving communities, and nurturing sustainable environments. The profit motive is not our enemy. It is the source of energy we need to deal with the multiple crises we face: human, social, and environmental.

Now for the long version of my argument. The problem is the problem. We restrict our options for solving problems by the way we frame the issue. Einstein supposedly pointed out that big problems, ones framed at a level where they define the entire paradigmatic orientation to a class of smaller, solvable problems, cannot be solved from within the paradigm they emerge from. We tend to define problems from the modern point of view, in a Cartesian fashion, from the point of view of a subject that is separate from, and in no way involved in the construction of, the objects it encounters. What I want to point out is that it is this Cartesian orientation to problem definition that is itself the problem!

Set aside your opinions on the basic issues concerning climate change, and think about what’s going on. It is undeniable that human activities are implicated in changes to the environment, and that we have to learn to manage our effects on the planet, or they will feed back on us in potentially harmful ways. This is the nature of life in the flux and flow of ecological relationships. It is one of many ways in which observers are inherently implicated in constructing what is observed, which is recognized as holding true as much in physics as in anthropology. These are uncontroversial facts, quite apart from any concern with climate change.

And what these feedback loops imply, as has indeed already been pointed out by generations of scholars and thinkers, is that there is no such thing as a pure Cartesian subject separate from its objects. We shape the things in our world, and those things, in turn, shape us. Subjects and objects are mutually implicated. All observers are participant observers. It is inevitable that what we do and think will change the world, and the new world will require us to think and act differently.

The plethora of environmental crises we face are therefore situated in a new non-Cartesian paradigm. It is a fundamental error of the first order to approach a non-Cartesian problem as though it were merely another variation on the usual kind of thing that can be addressed fairly well from the Cartesian dualist perspective. When we think, as Al Gore does, that we should be socialistically organizing resources for a centrally-organized 5-year plan of attack on environmental problems, we are missing the point.

This approach can be put to work only in terms of an authoritarian form of control directed by a dictatorial panel of experts, a military junta, or a self-appointed czar. Framed from a Cartesian point of view, no democratic process will ever compel voters to do what needs to be done. As was illustrated so dramatically by the fall of Communism, the socialistic manipulation of the concrete particulars of human, social, and environmental problems is unsustainable and socially irresponsible.

The fact is that non-Cartesian problems are only made worse when we try to solve them with Cartesian solutions. This is why non-Cartesian problems are often described by philosophers as “hermeneutic,” a word that derives from the name of the Greek god Hermes, known by the ancient Romans as Mercury. Like liquid mercury, non-Cartesian problems merely split and multiply when we grasp at them clumsily ignoring our own involvement in the creation of the problem.

So we can go on trying to herd cats or nail jello to the wall, but to be part of the solution and not just another way of being part of the problem, we need to set up systems of thought and behavior that are not internally inconsistent and self-contradictory. No matter what we do, if we keep on marshalling resources to attack problems in deliberate and systematic ignorance of this cross-paradigmatic dissonance, we can only make matters worse.

What else can be done? Just what does it mean to go with the flow of the mutual implication of subject and object? How can we explicitly model the problem to include the participant observer?

“The medium is the message,” to quote Marshall McLuhan. As was pointed out so humorously by Woody Allen in his film, “Annie Hall,” this expression is often repeated and often misunderstood. Though all can see that the news and entertainment media are ubiquitous, the meaning of our captivation with the media of creative expression has not yet been clarified sufficiently well for generalized understanding.

Significant advances have occurred in recent years, however. The media we are captivated by define and limit not only how and what we communicate, but who and what we have been, are, and could be. Depending on the quality of their transparency and of the biases that color them, media convey moral, human, and economic values of various kinds. The media through which we express values include every conceivable technology, from alphabets and phonemes to buildings, clothing, and food preparation, to musical instruments, and the creations of art and science.

Media are at the crux of the lesson we have to learn if we are to frame the problems of environmental management so that we are living solutions, not exacerbating problems. Media of all kinds, from pen and paper to television to the Internet, are fundamentally technical. In fact, media are the original technologies. The words “text,” “textile,” and “technique” all derive from the Greek “techne,” to make, and have even deeper roots in the Sanskrit “TEK.” Technology is our primary medium of shared meaning. Technology embodies the meanings we create and distributes their values across society and around the world.

What we need to do to effect non-Cartesian solutions then is to dwell deeply with our shared meanings and values, and find new ways of living them out, ways that embody the unity of subject and object, problem and solution. Nice rhetoric, you might say, but what does it mean? What is its practical consequence?

Put in academic terms, the pragmatic issue concerns the nature of technology and how it provides measures of reality serving as the media through which we experience the world in terms of shared universals. Primary sources here include the works of writers like Latour, Wise, Jasanoff, Knorr-Cetina, Schaffer, Ihde, Heidegger, and others cited in previous posts in this blog, and in my published work.

To do more to cut to the chase, we can start to think of language and technology as embodying problem-solution unities. Words and tools are situated within ecologies of relationships that define their meanings and functions. We need to be more sensitive to the way meanings and values become embodied in language and technologies, and then are distributed across far-flung networks to coordinate collectively harmonized thought and action.

To get right down to where this all is leading, though it is probably far from obvious, the appropriate non-Cartesian orientation to the problems of environmental management raised in Al Gore’s new book ultimately culminates in creation of the technical networks through which we distribute measures of what we want to manage. These networks comprise the ecologies of meaning and values that we inhabit. Not coincidentally, they also create the markets in which human, social, and natural capital can be efficiently and effectively traded.

When these networks and markets are created, finding the collective will to deal with the environmental challenges we face will be the least of our problems. The profit motive is an exceptionally strong force. What we ought to be doing is figuring out how to harness it as the engine of social change. This contrasts diametrically with Al Gore’s perspective, which treats the profit motive as part of the problem.

Technical networks of instruments traceable to reference standards, and markets for the exchange of the values measured by those instruments, are what we ought to be focusing on. The previous post in this blog proposes an Intangible Assets Metric System, and is related to earlier posts on the role of common currencies for the exchange of meaningful quantitative values in creating functional markets for human, social, and natural capital. What we need are these infrastructural supports for creating the efficient markets in which demand for environmental solutions can be matched the supply of those solutions. The failure of socialism is testimony to the futility of trying to man-handle our way forward by brute force.

Of course, I will continue living out my life’s mission and passion by continuing to elaborate variations, explanations, and demonstrations of how this could be so….

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Draft Legislation on Development and Adoption of an Intangible Assets Metric System

November 19, 2009

In my opinion, more could be done to effect meaningful and effective health care reform with legislation like that proposed below, which has fewer than 3,800 words, than will ever be possible with the 2,074 pages in Congress’s current health care reform bill. What’s more, creating the infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital markets in this way would not only cost a tiny fraction of the projected $847 billion bill being debated, it would be an investment that would pay returns many times larger than the initial investment. See previous posts in this blog for more info on how and why this is so.

The draft legislation below is adapted from The Metric Conversion Act (Title 15 U.S.C. Chapter6 §(204) 205a – 205k). The viability of a metric system for human, social, and natural capital is indicated by the realized state of scientific rigor in the measurement of human, social, and natural capital (Fisher, 2009b). The need for such a system is indicated by the current crisis’s pointed economic demands that all forms of capital be unified within a common econometric and financial framework (Fisher, 2009a). It is equally demanded by the moral and philosophical requirements of fair play and meaningfulness (Fisher, 2004). The day is fast approaching when a metric system for intangible assets will be recognized as the urgent need that it is (Fisher, 2009c).

At some point in the near future, it can be expected that a table showing how to interpret the units of the Intangible Assets Metric System will be published in the Federal Register, just as the International System units have been.

For those unfamiliar with the state of the art in measurement, these may seem like wildly unrealistic goals. Those wondering how a reasonable person might arrive at such opinions are urged to consult other posts in this blog, and the references cited in them. The advantages of an intangible assets metric system for sustainable and socially responsible economic policies and practices are nothing short of profound. As Georg Rasch (1980, p. xx) said in reference to the stringent demands of his measurement models, “this is a huge challenge, but once the problem has been formulated it does seem possible to meet it.” We are less likely to attain goals that we do not actively formulate. In the spirit of John Dewey’s student, Chiang Mon-Lin, what we need are “wild hypotheses and careful tests.” There is no wilder idea with greater potential impact for redefining profit as the reduction of waste, and for thereby mitigating human suffering, sociopolitical discontent, and environmental degradation.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2004, October). Meaning and method in the social sciences. Human Studies: A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences, 27(4), 429-54.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009a). Bringing human, social, and natural capital to life: Practical consequences and opportunities. In M. Wilson, K. Draney, N. Brown, B. Duckor (Eds.), Advances in Rasch Measurement, Vol. Two (p. in press). Maple Grove, MN: JAM Press.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009b, November). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement (Elsevier), 42(9), 1278-1287.

Fisher, W. P. J. (2009c). NIST Critical national need idea White Paper: Metrological infrastructure for human, social, and natural capital (Tech. Rep.). New Orleans: LivingCapitalMetrics.com.

Rasch, G. (1980). Probabilistic models for some intelligence and attainment tests (Reprint, with Foreword and Afterword by B. D. Wright, Chicago: University of Chicago Press). Copenhagen, Denmark: Danmarks Paedogogiske Institut.

Title xx U.S.C. Chapter x §(100) 101a – 101k
METRIC SYSTEM FOR INTANGIBLE ASSETS DEVELOPMENT LAW
(Pub. L. 10-xxx, §x, Intangible Assets Metrics Development Act, July 25, 2010)

§ 100. New metric system development authorized. – A new national effort is hereby initiated throughout the United States of America focusing on building and realizing the benefits of a metric system for the intangible assets known as human, social, and natural capital.

§ 101a. Congressional statement of findings. – The Congress finds as follows:

(1) The United States was an original signatory party to the 1875 Treaty of the Meter (20 Stat. 709), which established the General Conference of Weights and Measures, the International Committee of Weights and Measures and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

(2) The use of metric measurement standards in the United States was authorized by law in 1866; with the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 this Nation established a national policy of committing itself and taking steps to facilitate conversion to the metric system.

(3) World trade is dependent on the metric system of measurement; continuing trends toward globalization demand expansion of the metric system to include vital economic resources shown scientifically measurable in research conducted over the last 80 years.

(4) Industries and consumers in the United States are often at competitive disadvantages when dealing in domestic and international markets because no existing systems for measuring intangible assets (human, social, and natural capital) are expressed in standardized, universally uniform metrics. The end result is that education, health care, human resource, and other markets are unable to reward quality; supply and demand are unmatched, consumers make decisions with no or insufficient information; and quality cannot be systematically improved.

(5) The inherent simplicity of the metric system of measurement and standardization of weights and measures has led to major cost savings in certain industries which have converted to that system; similar savings are expected to follow from the development and implementation of a metric system for intangible assets.

(6) The Federal Government has a responsibility to develop procedures and techniques to assist industry, especially small business, as it voluntarily seeks to adopt a new metric system of measurement for intangible assets that have always required management but which have not yet been uniformly and systematically measured.

(7) A new metric system of measurement for human, social, and natural capital can provide substantial advantages to the Federal Government in its own operations.

§ 101b. Declaration of policy. – It is therefore the declared policy of the United States-

(1) to support the development and implementation of a new metric system of intangibles assets measurement as the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce involving human, social, and natural capital;

(2) to require that each Federal agency,by a date certain and to the extent economically feasible by the end of the fiscal year 2011, use the new metric system of intangibles measurement in its procurements, grants, and other business-related activities, except to the extent that such use is impractical or is likely to cause significant inefficiencies or loss of markets to United States firms, such as when foreign competitors are producing competing products in non-metric units; and

(3) to seek out ways to increase understanding of the new metric system of intangibles measurement through educational information and guidance and in Government publications.

§ 101c. Definitions

As used in this subchapter, the term-

(1) ‘Board’ means the United States Intangible Assets Metrics Board, established under section 101d of this Title;

(2) ‘engineering standard’ means a standard which prescribes (A) a concise set of conditions and requirements that must be satisfied by a material, product, process, procedure, convention, or test method; and (B) the physical, functional, performance and/or conformance characteristics thereof;

(3) ‘international standard or recommendation’ means an engineering standard or recommendation which is (A) formulated and promulgated by an international organization and (B) recommended for adoption by individual nations as a national standard;

(4) ‘metric system of measurement’ means the International System of Units as established by the General Conference of Weights and Measures in 1960 and as interpreted or modified for the United States by the Secretary of Commerce;

(5) ‘full and open competition’ has the same meaning as defined in section 403 of title 41;

(6) ‘total installed price’ means the price of purchasing a product or material, trimming or otherwise altering some or all of that product or material, if necessary to fit with other building components,and then installing that product or material into a Federal facility;

(7) ‘hard-metric’ means measurement, design, and manufacture using the metric system of measurement, but does not include measurement,design, and manufacture using English system measurement units which are subsequently reexpressed in the metric system of measurement;

(8) ‘cost or pricing data or price analysis’ has the meaning given such terms in section 254b of title 41; and

(9) ‘Federal facility’ means any public building (as defined under section 612 of title 40) and shall include any Federal building or construction project: (A) on lands in the public domain;(B) on lands used in connection with Federal programs for agriculture research, recreation, and conservation programs; (C) on or used  in connection with river, harbor, flood control, reclamation, or power projects; (D) on or used in connection with housing and residential projects; (E) on military installations (including any fort, camp,post, naval training station, airfield, proving ground, military supply depot, military school, any similar facility of the Department of Defense); (F) on installations of the Department of Veterans Affairs used for hospital or domiciliary purposes; or (G) on lands used in connection with Federal prisons, but does not include (i)any Federal building or construction project the exclusion of which the President deems to be justified in the public interest, or (ii) any construction project or building owned or controlled by a State government, local government, Indian tribe, or any private entity.

§101d. United States Intangible Assets Metrics Board

(a) Establishment. – There is established, in accordance with this section, an independent instrumentality to be known as a United States Intangible Assets Metrics Board.

(b) Membership; Chairman; appointment of members; term of office;vacancies. – The Board shall consist of 17 individuals, as follows:

(1) the Chairman, a qualified individual who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate;

(2) seventeen members who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on the following basis-

(A) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by psychometricians and organizations representative of psychometric interests;

(B) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by social scientists, the scientific and technical community, and organizations representative of social scientists and technicians;

(C) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by environmental scientists, the scientific and technical community, and organizations representative of environmental scientists and technicians;

(D) one to be selected from a list of qualified individuals recommended by the National Association of Manufacturers or its successor;

(E) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by the United States Chamber of Commerce, or its successor, retailers,and other commercial organizations;

(F) two to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations or its successor, who are representative of workers directly affected by human capital metrics for health, skills, motivations, and productivity, and by other organizations representing labor;

(G) one to be selected from a list of qualified individuals recommended by the National Governors Conference, the National Council of State Legislatures, and organizations representative of State and local government;

(H) two to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by organizations representative of small business;

(I) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals representative of the human resource management industry;

(J) one to be selected from a list of qualified individuals recommended by the National Conference on Weights and Measures and standards making organizations;

(K) one to be selected from lists of qualified individuals recommended by educators, the educational community, and organizations representative of educational interests; and

(L) four at-large members to represent consumers and other interests deemed suitable by the President and who shall be qualified individuals.

As used in this subsection, each ‘list’ shall include the names of at least three individuals for each applicable vacancy. The terms of office of the members of the Board first taking office shall expire as designated by the President at the time of nomination; five at the end of the second year; five at the end of the fourth year;and six at the end of the sixth year. The term of office of the Chairman of such Board shall be six years. Members, including the Chairman, may be appointed to an additional term of six years, in the same manner as the original appointment. Successors to members of such Board shall be appointed in the same manner as the original members and shall have terms of office expiring six years from the date of expiration of the terms for which their predecessors were appointed. Any individual appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of any term of office shall be appointed for the remainder of that term. Beginning 45 days after the date of incorporation of the Board, six members of such Board shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any function of the Board.

(c) Compulsory powers. – Unless otherwise provided by the Congress, the Board shall have no compulsory powers.

(d) Termination. – The Board shall cease to exist when the Congress, by law, determines that its mission has been accomplished.

§101e. – Functions and powers of Board. – It shall be the function of the Board to devise and carry out a broad program of planning, coordination, and public education, consistent with other national policy and interests, with the aim of implementing the policy set forth in this subchapter. In carrying out this program,the Board shall-

(1) consult with and take into account the interests, views, and costs relevant to the inefficiencies that have long plagued the management of unmeasured forms of capital in United States commerce and industry, including small business; science; engineering; labor; education; consumers; government agencies at the Federal, State, and local level; nationally recognized standards developing and coordinating organizations; intangibles metrics development, planning and coordinating groups; and such other individuals or groups as are considered appropriate by the Board to the carrying out of the purposes of this subchapter. The Board shall take into account activities underway in the private and public sectors, so as not to duplicate unnecessarily such activities;

(2) provide for appropriate procedures whereby various groups,under the auspices of the Board, may formulate, and recommend or suggest, to the Board specific programs for coordinating intangibles metrics development in each industry and segment thereof and specific dimensions and configurations in the new metric system and in other measurements for general use. Such programs, dimensions, and configurations shall be consistent with (A) the needs, interests, and capabilities of manufacturers (large and small), suppliers, labor, consumers, educators,and other interested groups, and (B) the national interest;

(3) publicize, in an appropriate manner, proposed programs and provide an opportunity for interested groups or individuals to submit comments on such programs. At the request of interested parties, the Board, in its discretion, may hold hearings with regard to such programs. Such comments and hearings may be considered by the Board;

(4) encourage activities of standardization organizations to develop or revise, as rapidly as practicable, policy and IT standards based on the new intangibles metrics, and to take advantage of opportunities to promote (A) rationalization or simplification of relationships,(B) improvements of design, (C) reduction of size variations, (D) increases in economy, and (E) where feasible, the efficient use of energy and the conservation of natural resources;

(5) encourage the retention, in the new metric language of human, social, and natural capital standards, of those United States policy and IT designs, practices, and conventions that are internationally accepted or that embody superior technology;

(6) consult and cooperate with foreign governments, and intergovernmental organizations, in collaboration with the Department of State, and, through appropriate member bodies, with private international organizations, which are or become concerned with the encouragement and coordination of increased use of intangible assets metrics measurement units or policy and IT standards based on such units, or both. Such consultation shall include efforts, where appropriate, to gain international recognition for intangible assets metrics standards proposed by the United States;

(7) assist the public through information and education programs, to become familiar with the meaning and applicability of metric terms and measures in daily life. Such programs shall include –

(A) public information programs conducted by the Board, through the use of newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet, social networking, and other media, and through talks before appropriate citizens’ groups, and trade and public organizations;

(B) counseling and consultation by the Secretary of Education; the Secretary of Labor; the Administrator of the Small Business Administration; and the Director of the National Science Foundation, with educational associations, State and local educational agencies, labor education committees, apprentice training committees, and other interested groups, in order to assure (i) that the new intangible assets metric system of measurement is included in the curriculum of the Nation’s educational institutions, and (ii) that teachers and other appropriate personnel are properly trained to teach the intangible assets metric system of measurement;

(C) consultation by the Secretary of Commerce with the National Conference of Weights and Measures in order to assure that State and local weights and measures officials are (i) appropriately involved in intangible assets metric development and adoption activities and (ii) assisted in their efforts to bring about timely amendments to weights and measures laws; and

(D) such other public information activities, by any Federal agency in support of this subchapter, as relate to the mission of suchagency;

(8) collect, analyze, and publish information about the extent of usage of intangible assets metric measurements; evaluate the costs and benefits of that usage; and make efforts to minimize any adverse effects resulting from increasing intangible assets metric usage;

(9) conduct research, including appropriate surveys; publish the results of such research; and recommend to the Congress and to the President such action as may be appropriate to deal with any unresolved problems, issues, and questions associated with intangible assets metric development, adoption, or usage, such problems, issues, and questions may include, but are not limited to, the impact on different occupations and industries, possible increased costs to consumers, the impact on society and the economy, effects on small business, the impact on the international trade position of the United States, the appropriateness of and methods for using procurement by the Federal Government as a means to effect development and adoption of the intangible assets metric system, the proper conversion or transition period in particular sectors of society, and consequences for national defense;

(10) submit annually to the Congress and to the President a report on its activities. Each such report shall include a status report on the development and adoption process as well as projections for continued progress in that process. Such report may include recommendations covering any legislation or executive action needed to implement the programs of development and adoption accepted by the Board. The Board may also submit such other reports and recommendations as it deems necessary;and

(11) submit to the President, not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of the Act making appropriations for carrying out this subchapter, a report on the need to provide an effective structural mechanism for adopting intangible assets metric units in statutes, regulations, and other laws at all levels of government, on a coordinated and timely basis, in response to voluntary programs adopted and implemented by various sectors of society under the auspices and with the approval of the Board. If the Board determines that such a need exists, such report shall include recommendations as to appropriate and effective means for establishing and implementing such a mechanism.

§101f. – Duties of Board. – In carrying out its duties under this subchapter, the Board may –

(1) establish an Executive Committee, and such other committees as it deems desirable;

(2) establish such committees and advisory panels as it deems necessary to work with the various sectors of the Nation’s economy and with Federal and State governmental agencies in the development and implementation of detailed development and adoption plans for those sectors. The Board may reimburse,to the extent authorized by law, the members of such committees;

(3) conduct hearings at such times and places as it deems appropriate;

(4) enter into contracts, in accordance with the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended (40 U.S.C. 471et seq.), with Federal or State agencies, private firms, institutions, and individuals for the conduct of research or surveys, the preparation of reports, and other activities necessary to the discharge of its duties;

(5) delegate to the Executive Director such authority as it deems advisable; and

(6) perform such other acts as may be necessary to carry out the duties prescribed by this subchapter.

§101g. – Gifts, donations and bequests to Board

(a) Authorization; deposit into Treasury and disbursement. – The Board may accept, hold, administer, and utilize gifts, donations,and bequests of property, both real and personal, and personal services, for the purpose of aiding or facilitating the work of the Board. Gifts and bequests of money, and the proceeds from the sale of any other property received as gifts or requests, shall be deposited in the Treasury in a separate fund and shall be disbursed upon order of the Board.

(b) Federal income, estate, and gift taxation of property. – For purpose of Federal income, estate, and gift taxation, property accepted under subsection (a) of this section shall be considered as a gift or bequest to or for the use of the United States.

(c) Investment of moneys; disbursement of accrued income. – Upon the request of the Board, the Secretary of the Treasury may invest and reinvest, in securities of the United States, any moneys contained in the fund authorized in subsection (a) of this section. Income accruing from such securities, and from any other property acceptedto the credit of such fund, shall be dispersed upon the order ofthe Board.

(d) Reversion to Treasury of unexpended funds. – Funds not expended by the Board as of the date when it ceases to exist, in accordance with section 105d(d) of this title, shall revert to the Treasury of the United States as of such date.

§101h. – Compensation of Board members; travel expenses.- Members of the Board who are not in the regular full-time employ of the United States shall, while attending meetings or conferences of the Board or while otherwise engaged in the business of the Board, be entitled to receive compensation at a rate not to exceed the daily rate currently being paid grade 18 of the General Schedule (under section 5332 of title 5), including travel time. While so serving, on the business of the Board away from their homes or regular places of business, members of the Board may be allowed travel expenses,including per diem in lieu of subsistence, as authorized by section5703 of title 5, for persons employed intermittently in the Government service. Payments under this section shall not render members of the Board employees or of the United States for any purpose. Members of the Board who are in the employ of the United States shall be entitled to travel expenses when traveling on the business of the Board.

§101i. – Personnel

(a) Executive Director; appointment; tenure; duties. – The Board shall appoint a qualified individual to serve as the Executive Director of the Board at the pleasure of the Board. The Executive Director, subject to the direction of the Board, shall be responsible to the Board and shall carry out the intangible assets metric development and adoption program, pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter and the policies established by the Board.

(b) Executive Director; salary. – The Executive Director of the Board shall serve full time and be subject to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5. The annual salary of the Executive Director shall not exceed level III of the Executive Schedule under section 5314 of such title.

(c) Staff personnel; appointment and compensation. – The Board may appoint and fix the compensation of such staff personnel as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this subchapter in accordance with the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5.

(d) Experts and consultants; employment and compensation; annual review of contracts. – The Board may (1) employ experts and consultants or organizations thereof, as authorized by section 3109 of title5; (2) compensate individuals so employed at rates not in excess of the rate currently being paid grade 18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of such title, including travel time; and (3) may allow such individuals, while away from their homes or regular places of business, travel expenses (including per diem in lieu of subsistence) as authorized by section 5703 of such title 5 for persons in the Government service employed intermittently: Provided, however, that contracts for such temporary employment may be renewed annually.

§101j. – Financial and administrative services; sourceand reimbursement. – Financial and administrative services, including those related to budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, personnel, and procurement, and such other staff services as maybe needed by the Board, may be obtained by the Board from the Secretary of Commerce or other appropriate sources in the Federal Government. Payment for such services shall be made by the Board, in advance or by reimbursement, from funds of the Board in such amounts as may be agreed upon by the Chairman of the Board and by the source of the services being rendered.

§101k. – Authorization of appropriations; availability.- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this subchapter. Appropriations to carry out the provisions of this subchapter may remain available for obligation and expenditure for such period or periods as maybe specified in the Acts making such appropriations.

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LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
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Thurstone’s Missed Metrological Opportunity

November 18, 2009

Leon L. Thurstone (1959, p. 214), an early psychometrician, founder of the University of Chicago Psychometric Laboratory, a former electrical engineer, and, in 1936, the first President of the Psychometric Society, makes some remarks about his career that have a remarkable parallel in the life of James Clerk Maxwell at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, in the 19th century.

Thurstone says, “When I was working on attitude measurement, I found great interest in the application of attitude scales to all sorts of groups, but I was disappointed in the relative lack of interest in the methodological problems which seemed to be more important for the development of social science. I had only scratched the surface of an important field that justified more fundamental methodological study. In the early thirties we prepared quite a number of attitude scales. When I realized that the psychometric laboratory at the University of Chicago might be swamped with such an enterprise, I decided to stop it. All of the incomplete work on a number of attitude scales was abandoned to make time and room for the development of multiple factor analysis which was already well under way.”

Back in the 1870s, the Cavendish laboratory was focused on the new science of electrical measurements. In both the Chicago and Cambridge laboratories, new measures were being developed and applied at rapid rates. Just as Thurstone feared that “Chicago might be swamped” by these projects, so Maxwell stated that “I do not expect or think it desirable that a manufactory of `ohms’ [resistance boxes] should be established” at the Cavendish. The key difference between the Chicago and Cambridge labs was in the directions Thurstone and Maxwell took their work after realizing that their universities were not the place for a factory or workshop atmosphere.

Thurstone’s decision to pursue factor analysis instead of scale development was partly in reaction to his disappointment at the lack of interest his colleagues showed in measurement work. This lack of interest and Thurstone’s unwillingness to push the issue was tragic on a Promethean scale: “During the 1920s Thurstone stole fire from the gods. (As a punishment, they chained him to factor analysis.)” (Lumsden, 1980, p. 7). The tragedy is compounded in that Thurstone did not perceive that there was another direction in which he might have taken psychological measurement theory and application. Instead of choosing between a survey production line and factor analysis, Thurstone could conceivably have considered another option.

This third direction is indicated by the activities Maxwell undertook at Cambridge. “Maxwell outlined a metrological program for the new Cavendish Laboratory, a program for the verification of others’ resistances and devices, and for the production of new, revised standard instruments. [It became] a center of Victorian electrotechnical metrology, certifying electrometers and resistance boxes for the cable-manufacturing industry and the nascent network of physics laboratories” (Schaffer, 1992, p. 24).

Being a former electrical engineer, Thurstone likely would have found Maxwell’s metrological program for the Cavendish quite attractive. Had his thinking followed Maxwell’s, he might have proposed a metrological program aimed at verifying and relating others’ attitude measuring instruments, and using them to improve the reference standards against which any measuring instrument must be ultimately calibrated if a field is to usefully exchange quantitative information.

The concept of metrological standards were a clear consequence of Thurstone’s (1928, p. 547) “crucial experimental test” which required that “a measuring instrument not be seriously affected in its measuring function by the object of measurement.” When one requires, with Thurstone, that “the scale values of the statements [on a survey] should not be affected by the opinions of the people who help to construct it,” and when one also joins him in making the converse requirement, that the scale values of the measures should not be affected by the particular questions asked (Thurstone, 1926, p. 446), the logical consequence is that all scales intended to measure a particular variable should do so in a common metric.

The scientific, economic, and human value of precision measurement standards (Wise, 1995) in this context are brought to a fine point by Rasch’s (1960, pp. 110-115) adoption of Maxwell’s method (Boumans, 1993, 2005) of mathematically modeling new phenomena as analogues of previously validated models of well-understood phenomena. In formulating his method of analogy, Maxwell articulated in his own terms what previous generations of physicists had taken, both implicitly and explicitly, as the “Standard Model” of emulating Newton’s successes in the theory of gravity (Heilbron, 1993). (See my July 14 & 15 entries in this blog on the Standard Model for more information.) In the same way that Maxwell naturally included metrological standards with invariant mathematical models as major focuses of his research program at the Cavendish, so ought we also follow through from the application of Rasch’s models to the creation of a metric system for human, social, and natural capital constructs (Fisher, 2009b).

A common metric is defined and maintained via verified traceability to a metrological reference standard. Maxwell accelerated the advance of physics by his work with reference standards. After a lapse of seven decades, these issues are finally being raised as a natural outcome of invariant measures in education, psychology, and health care (Burdick, et al., 2006; Fisher, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005; Heinemann, et al., 2006), and as a consequence of the economic need to price the value of human, social, and natural capital (Fisher, 2002, 2009a, 2009b). Psychology and social science today would be very different had Thurstone grasped the opportunity he had to shape the subsequent history of psychosocial measurement. We are all products of our times, and it is likely that psychosocial metrology could come into its own only in the context of the emerging network culture.

Boumans, M. (1993). Paul Ehrenfest and Jan Tinbergen: A case of limited physics transfer. In N. De Marchi (Ed.), Non-natural social science: Reflecting on the enterprise of “More Heat than Light” (pp. 131-156). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Boumans, M. (2005). How economists model the world into numbers. New York: Routledge.

Burdick, D. S., Stone, M. H., & Stenner, A. J. (2006). The Combined Gas Law and a Rasch Reading Law. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 20(2), 1059-60 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt202.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (1997). Physical disability construct convergence across instruments: Towards a universal metric. Journal of Outcome Measurement, 1(2), 87-113.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (1999). Foundations for health status metrology: The stability of MOS SF-36 PF-10 calibrations across samples. Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society, 151(11), 566-578.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2000). Objectivity in psychosocial measurement: What, why, how. Journal of Outcome Measurement, 4(2), 527-563 [http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/WP_Fisher_Jr_2000.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2002, Spring). “The Mystery of Capital” and the human sciences. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 15(4), 854 [http://www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt154j.htm].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2005). Daredevil barnstorming to the tipping point: New aspirations for the human sciences. Journal of Applied Measurement, 6(3), 173-9 [http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/FisherJAM05.pdf].

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009a). Bringing human, social, and natural capital to life: Practical consequences and opportunities. In M. Wilson, K. Draney, N. Brown & B. Duckor (Eds.), Advances in Rasch Measurement, Vol. Two (p. in press [http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com/images/BringingHSN_FisherARMII.pdf]). Maple Grove, MN: JAM Press.

Fisher, W. P., Jr. (2009b, November). Invariance and traceability for measures of human, social, and natural capital: Theory and application. Measurement (Elsevier), 42(9), 1278-1287.

Heilbron, J. L. (1993). Weighing imponderables and other quantitative science around 1800 Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences, 24 (Supplement), Part I, 1-337.

Heinemann, A. W., Fisher, W. P., Jr., & Gershon, R. (2006). Improving health care quality with outcomes management. Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, 18(1), 46-50 [http://www.oandp.org/jpo/library/2006_01S_046.asp].

Lumsden, J. (1980). Variations on a theme by Thurstone. Applied Psychological Measurement, 4(1), 1-7.

Schaffer, S. (1992). Late Victorian metrology and its instrumentation: A manufactory of Ohms. In Bud R., Cozzens S.E.(Eds.) Invisible connections: instruments, institutions, and science. Bellingham, WA: SPIE Optical Engineering Press, pages 23-56.

Thurstone, L. L. (1926). The scoring of individual performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 17, 446-457.

Thurstone, L. L. (1928). Attitudes can be measured. American Journal of Sociology, 33, 529-554.

Thurstone, L. L. (1959). The Measurement of Values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wise, M. N. (Ed.). (1995). The values of precision. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

(This is a revision of a 1997 article that appeared in Rasch Measurement Transactions, 11(1): 554.)

Creative Commons License
LivingCapitalMetrics Blog by William P. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at livingcapitalmetrics.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.livingcapitalmetrics.com.

Heilbron, J. L. (1993). Weighing imponderables and other quantitative science around 1800 Historical studies in the physical and biological sciences, 24 (Supplement), Part I, 1-337.