A National Standard Requires a National Objective Implementation

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It is one of the most important functions of a government: standardization. Monetary policy is the quintessential version of standardization but it extends to other things. What is a pound? How long is a foot? These are required for any type of coordinated commerce. How can I buy a pound of strawberries if you and I disagree on what a pound is?

But there is a subtlety in defining standards that is critical and that is the actual implementation of the standard. For instance, with the standard for the pound, we can check one pound measurement against another with a scale. If they match, we know we are talking about the same thing.

But some standards are more difficult. They lack an objective implementation and so they really create a shared language rather than a shared standard.

In my industry, pavement, there are many national ASTM and other organization standards that govern pavement ratings. However, the process of comparing one road or road rating to another road is difficult since it requires subjective judgment by each individual person. This means that these types of standards create a shared language but they do not create a shared implementation. There is no uniformity.

It is critical to understand the difference and the ramifications. Computers and artificial intelligence provide a means of transforming subjective judgments into repeatable (inside the computer) measurements processes that can be uniformly applied. This leads to shared implementations of national standards.

So ask yourself, when I use a national standard, can I check that everyone will agree with me? Is it more like the afore-mentioned pound of strawberries, or is it really a shared language? If not, then it is not really a standard.

If it’s the latter, then stay tuned as the development of objective national standards emerge in your industry to help create that uniformity.

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