But WHY Are Standards and Conformity Assessment Important… It’s Not Science Fiction

Rendering of Coruscant to show why standards and conformity assessment are important.

True fanatics of a certain science fiction movie series that debuted in May 1977 can show certain details to those of us not too immersed in the galaxy these movies took place might otherwise miss (if it is too long, long ago and too far, far away for you).

One such detail is the city-planet of Coruscant. Coruscant was portrayed as a single city that covered an entire planet. It existed at multiple physical levels above and below the planet’s surface and was built up after the oceans of the planet were drained into giant caverns excavated well below the surface. 

But what does that have to do with understanding WHY standards and conformity assessment are important?

Coruscant and the Coalescing of Human Society

It’s certainly NOT because such a city could only function based on standards and conformity assessment. That would be trite at best. And besides, using an example like a city that can only exist outside the laws of physics is not a way to convince anyone about the importance of standards and conformity assessment in the real world!

So while Coruscant is not an example of the use of standards and conformity assessment (at least in our galaxy) the IDEA of Coruscant is helpful. Coruscant is an imaginary end point that helps us see an actual process the leads up to it: the process of diverse groups across an entire planet coalescing into a single community. Whether a Coruscant-like end point could ever be reached doesn’t matter here in the real world (where the laws of physics are still at work.) It’s the coalescing process Coruscant results from that is important and real.  Like really good science fiction, Coruscant is the result of a real process we see today that is logically extrapolated beyond the limits of the possible. (Free advice: resist the urge to invest in hoverboards that actually float and move, except above water, unless you got power…)

Coruscant is meaningful because it is the imaginary end point of the real process of the coalescing of human society; a broad trend that spans all of human history. While some enormous backward steps have occurred, and no doubt will occur in the future, the overall trend of human history is that we are on a road to Coruscant.

Forces Driving Coalescence Today

Want proof? How about Covid 19. Other than the most remote and isolated groups of native peoples (which are a living example of our human condition at the beginning of coalescence), the Covid 19 pandemic was an event shared by every human on this planet. And real time information about the details of this pandemic were generally available to any human on the planet with uncontrolled internet access. This was an experience shared by all humans on this planet in real time coalesced into a single community.

Coalescence is why standards and conformity assessment are so important, and more important now than ever. Today, economic and market forces play a bigger role than ever before in driving coalescence among different individuals, groups, countries and regions. Standards and conformity assessment both can, and do, make a real and meaningful contribution to these more peaceful and productive drivers of the coalescing process in human society. Standards can provide a non-political process for attaining and recording worldwide consensus. Conformity assessment can provide a systematic means for individuals and groups to make manifest their commitment to trustworthiness to any other individual or group in the world.

How Standards/Conformity Assessment Improve the Human Condition

Of course, these contributions will only be made if those who work in standards and conformity assessment understand the broad contributions these activities make and above all stay true to the principles of effective standards development and conformity assessment. This is not to say, however, that these activities must be segregated from the economic and market forces that today are such important driving forces behind the coalescing of human society. Rather, standards development and conformity assessment need to be in the prevailing economic and market milieu to make the best contribution to coalescence.

The key is for standards and conformity assessment to function, develop, and grow within markets and be subject to economic forces. At the same time, the transformative role of these activities in contributing to the coalescence of human society must be safeguarded. If standards and conformity assessment become just another professional service and lose touch with their fundamental purpose and broader role, their contribution to improving the human condition may not just cease but could become counterproductive.

Those who choose to work in, or devote their entire career to, standards and conformity assessment are literally moving the human condition to a better place. Each step in developing or revising a standard; each task in completing conformity assessment; each activity in assuring the effectiveness of standardization and conformity assessment and safeguarding their transformative role; no matter how small; contributes another advance toward a future global community in this world better than what exists today. Something to remember when getting that last task finished at the end of the work week; it really is worth your best effort. Coalescence started when groups of hunter-gatherers first came in to contact with one another (whether or not that involved using a bone as weapon, as a 1968 sci-fi classic showed us). The longer the view the easier to see the process of human coalescence. Similarly, it can be easier to see the contribution of standards and conformity assessment through firsthand experience across decades. It’s even easier if you expand your view based on the experiences shared by those who have gone before you. So if an old hermit cloaked in metaphorical brown robes suggests you must learn the ways of standards and conformity assessment… listen carefully you must.

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