The Right Tools For The Right Job

I wake up to read an article on Trump this morning.

“It appears to be a recognition that Mr. Trump’s simplistic and angry campaign rhetoric may be much more difficult to accomplish.”

We all want simplistic ideas. But we live in a complex world. With complexity comes difficulty. Difficulty brings doubt. And in a complex world, doubt is not a pleasant condition… but certainty is absurd. When will we learn not to be seduced by overly simplistic, overly confident ideals? When will we learn to become comfortable with a complex system:  when we have to actually research what we’re jumping into before truly jumping?

Maybe the discrepancy lies in the scale of the task. Normal, every-day people don’t usually have to worry about how to overcome hugely networked, complex tasks. Normal every-day people tend to have to work out whether they should plan their dinner with friends for Friday or for Saturday.

We develop different problem solving tools throughout our lives based on the tasks we face. If all we’re doing is planning whether we should have dinner Friday or Saturday night, we’ll only ever develop the tools to overcome that task. On top of that, the implications at stake with this task aren’t that great: say you organise the dinner for Friday. If everyone says they can’t make it, you can change the dinner to Saturday. Even if you screw it up… you can just organise it for another weekend. The idea of creating research groups to study the full extent of whether Friday night or Saturday night is better, or to consult all the ‘stakeholders involved’ about the full implications of each nuance for the choice between Friday and Saturday probably sounds like overkill. And it is.

But when it comes to the direction of a government, we need highly developed tools and processes to overcome highly complex tasks. Millions of people’s lives can be affected, and yet it feels like we treat these problems like choosing what night to organise dinner. It’s like we’re using a sledgehammer and a chisel to change the fillings in someone’s teeth.

So now we have two choices. We can choose to equip everyone with the correct tools so that they are able to assess a problem and maintain the democracy we have. This will take people years to achieve: they’re essentially learning a new skill. You can’t become a piano master overnight. On top of this obstacle is the fact that not all people will want to put in the work to become a ‘piano master’.

The other choice is that we can start picking specific people who are equipped with the skills to actually assess a complex problem properly, and assign them responsibility to decide what to do.

Very extreme conclusion: maybe democracy isn’t the answer. Maybe it’s time to apply a more suitable tool for the job.

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