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Problem Solving in a Democracy

June 13, 2014

Problem Solving In a Democracy

Perfecting the Question

For any problem to be solved, there is a fundamental principle that must be accepted. This principle in universal in both business and government as well as in life.

That principle is: There is only one right answer to ANY question!

This principle is fundamental to the use of all computers. If there is no agreement on the formulas or parameters programmed into the software, the results will not be useful, much less acceptable. It is both "garbage in results in garbage out" plus the formulas and Values used as input need to in accordance with the participants for the results to be useful. The approach to all problem solving requires a full and basic understanding of the problem being addressed. Simply: If the problem is fully and exactly defined it is practically solved . If these parameters are not defined and agreed upon by all participants, any answer will meet with objections because the solution will probably have unacceptable items in the answer if not address initially.

Computers originated in a world of absolutes. Everyone agreed on the mathematics used and therefore trusted the results. As computers evolved and the parameters gradually became more subjective and less absolute. For example, "do you like red or blue?" If one is not chosen to be more acceptable, the answer will meet with resistance. The next step would involve a series of subjective preferences. "Do you like big or small?" for example. Is the size more important than the color? The parameters must be ranked in order of importance as well as defining what is big or small much less what is red or blue. As one can see this analysis become daunting for humans but not for a computer.

This approach was the foundation that gave us the true 'World Jeopardy Champion'. It was not Ken Jennings or Brad Rutter, but the Watson Computer built by IBM. This machine beat both, handedly. This can arguably be the most important human accomplishment in the history of civilization. It could literally replace the function of government and is used to some extent in business today. Since the beginning of civilization, governments have been trying to do the impossible task of problem solving with solutions that would be acceptable to a democratic society by hand, without using the power of computer analysis. The computer is now used only to acquire data for the analysis but not to give an answer. Watson's operation was using ALL the information in the world to satisfy the words in the question. It would then rank the most logical answers base on probably of meeting all the specifics parameters of the question. This concept is surprising simple and logical when we envision how we all now solve problem in our head. The human limitation is emotional bias and the inability to factor in all the preferences of the society looking for an answer.

The reason why monarchs and dictators evolved before democracies is simple. It worked great. The ability to declare an answer to a problem was confined to a handful of advisers with the leader's desires well understood.....and they got things done by demanding it! But as the concept of democracy evolved the ability to demand was lost, and the debate started with everyone one wanting to protect their own self interest as well as preserving a functional society. Fundamental values are built into our genetics and appear in every culture and society from the beginning of civilization and are expressed in all religions of the world. These are found in Natural Law, the Ten Commandments or teaching in the Bible, Torah or Quran.

The list is:

1. Honesty- Everyone wants us all to be honest. It eliminates suspicion of others and engenders trust and dependability. All laws contain words that are to be effective and trusted. If society believes there is a devious alternative or self service agenda involved, it is not honest.

2. Fairness -To have harmony in any society, any hardship from a law must not be selective or distributed unequally. If it is perceive to be unfair, it will be ignored or circumvented in some way and breeds anarchy.

3. Integrity-Integrity is a concept that causes us to do the right thing when no one is looking or will notice. When lacking, it causes us to lock our doors and is the reason we have prisons. All prisoners did something they thought they would get away with. If complete integrity existed our prisons would be empty and locksmiths would be out of business. Politician who make laws that exempt themselves or act in a manner that would be embarrassing if discovered are examples.

4. Sustainability or longevity-Government is a mechanism used to give some assurance that the society will survive and support a standard that is livable for future generations.

Any law that does not provide a way of funding violates fairness, is not sustainable and completely unacceptable if society wants our future generations to survive. If a law is not sustainable, it is a violation of honesty and integrity and must be stopped. Principles and Their Compromise Now the human element must be considered in analysis. We all possess traits and feelings that may differ with other members of society. Some are self serving and other altruistic. No one with a basic moral compass would disagree with the four fundamental values of fairness, honesty, integrity and longevity. But, we all have preferences that we would like to see in any law. The best law is no law but since we all possess the "human condition" it is necessary to make laws. This is where compromise starts and the part where The Watson Computer comes into play.

Benjamin Franklin said he would never compromise his fundamental values, but he would compromise on his preferences or, better said, things he would like to see. He realized not everyone can get everything they want an still have a harmonious society. The implementation of this methodology into a Democratic Republic form of government, is the basic reason for the two party system in the United States. The thinking behind our party system is those with similar preferences will join the group that professes similar principles to their personal choices. In actual fact, the list between various parties are more or less the same with the only difference being the ranking of those preferences.

Logic Tree for Democratic Problem

Solving List of Core Values not subject to Compromise





If yes to all, continue. If no, stop! The solution is unacceptable.

Principles subject to Compromise


(>2%) Slow growth-----Economy-----Fast Growth (< 2%)

(< 5%) Lower------Employment------Higher (>5%)

Lower Graduation rate-----Education----Higher graduation rate

less clean-----Environment------more clean




In the logic tree of any computer program, if a law or position violates a core value, the analysis stops. Additional data, in each areas of compromise, is needed for a computer program to give a solution . The parameters for each issue must be defined, measurable and agreed to for the analysis to continue. Once the values for each issue are established, this list must also be prioritized in order of importance for the analysis to proceed. The approach is not get everything we want, but what is the least we would accept in each area to reach an acceptable solution. As difficult as this seems, it is considerably easier than working on an answer, 'floating a solution' for review and criticism, only to have it rejected if a part of the solution is not acceptable to some smaller segment. Every solution will have its' critics, but if acceptable limits or standards are established, the solution will more likely be acceptable. In actual fact all problem solving and debate regarding business, social, domestic or international issues uses this approach with the solution a result a result of 'attrition' and/or fatigue, not logic.

The need to experience this procedure is inescapable with the only limitation of a computer analysis is that the answer will come too quickly and easily to be believed and/or trusted. The other conclusion from this analysis is the approach, manual or computer, is the only way we deal with any societal issues. Once the initial step of getting through the acceptance of all the core value issues, the second step, the preference process, may be contentious, but peaceful.

The only one reason to ever to go to war. It is when the approach stalls in the core value phase. If there is no agreement on what is Fair, Honest, Integral or Sustainable the only alternative is forcing the loser to comply. After the war the process will then continue to the preference phase, hopefully resulting in harmony in the management of the society for future generations.

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