Monday, February 2, 2009

The Moderate Middle

If roughly one-fourth of us are predominantly diversity-seekers, and there is the same amount of diversity-avoiders, then half of us are somewhere in-between. The behavior of the “moderate middle” tends to be neither very accepting of others nor very excepting of others. These people are not typically part of the “base” of any political party aligned along a conservative-liberal bias (such as U.S. Republicans and Democrats), favoring instead a mix that averages out over time and circumstance.

This analysis assumes a spectrum across any random population of people, possibly correlating with personality type. In the empirically-based Big Five personality model, the most useful of its kind, the relevant personality dimensions are likely “openness” and “agreeableness” which address one’s curiosity and altruism, respectively. In situations where rules of behavior must change and people must work closely together, diversity-seekers will easily adapt, with the rest of the spectrum requiring an increasing amount of convincing as people’s comfort zones fall further away from the kind of life they will need to live.

As with any spectrum, the closest any situation can come to everyone’s comfort zone is where the average person is most happy. The exact middle is the best target for any set of circumstances we might want to create for optimum happiness across a population. There is neither too much nor too little variability in experience and need for cooperation; that is, opportunity for social stress.

These considerations are the basis of the environment-lifespan correlation that underlies the Comfort model. Each “environment” corresponds to a circumstance within the broadest spectrum of possible combinations of personality and physical condition (arbitrarily falling on a scale from zero to six). The difference between what makes a person most comfortable (happy) and the environment that actually exists determines just how happy the person will be. Since happiness is proportional to lifespan and lifespan correlates with per-capita consumption of resources, the estimated amount of remaining (non-renewable) resources can be used to calculate how long those resources will last. Following this chain of logic and modeling the actual range of environments preferred by the world’s population (which is narrow and close to the middle) we can deduce that the closer we come to making everyone happy (catering to the middle), the equivalent of following the ideal path, the less time our civilization can survive without replenishing resources.

What does this mean for those of us who want to influence public policy to achieve the best possible outcome for humanity? As I’ve suggested in several ways before, it means that we must focus our attention on increasing the total amount of renewable resources to match current consumption, then increase both the minimum and maximum environments to effectively approach the middle (along the ideal path) while compensating for these changes with more renewable resources.

1 comment:

BradJ1001 said...

For clarification, let me add that I am NOT suggesting the conservative and liberal sides of "the spectrum" correspond directly to the low and high ends of the lifespan/environment spectra. If anything, one (conservatives) advocates increasing the maximum, while the other advocates increasing the minimum. The “middle” would likely advocate increasing both.