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1 - Origins The transmission of knowledge and the principle of standardization have existed since humanity's beginning: Archaeology proves that primitive human groups adopted the working methods they considered the best to fabricate their tools and habitats and were organized to transmit their knowledge. That has resulted in constant technical progress, which historians and archaeologists categorize as significant progress eras, such as the stone, bronze, and iron ages. However, these periods were also characterized by a flourishing of different cultures having particular use of the available technologies that have resulted in what we commonly call civilizations. This succession and diversity of civilizations have been the motor of progress, with discoveries and technologies from a particular human group being adopted by others who then developed these concepts according to their way of life, which gave rise to other discoveries and inventions, and this continuously. Thus history proves to us that the future of humanity is in its diversity and not in a uniform civilization. Based on what is said above, and opposite to some beliefs, we can see that the principle of standardization, which purpose is to issue technical specifications to ensure that materials, products, processes, services, systems, or persons are fit for their intended purpose, was not invented at the beginning of what is commonly called the "industrialization era" during the 19th century, but a long time ago. For example, the Xi'an tomb in China confirms that the armies of the Qin emperor (259–210 BC) were already equipped with standardized equipment far before the roman empire era (see the image below). During the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), officials designed standard civil service exams to choose people to work in the government based on merit rather than family status. Also, the sculptures of the Trajan emperor (53 -117 AC) column in Rome (see here) proves that the soldiers of the Roman empire had fully standardized equipment. Again in China, during the Song dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD), silk production was organized according to strict norms controlled by the imperial government.
About standards
2 - About national and international standards and guidelines Even though the example above proves that standards and transmission of these have existed since the beginning of humanity, we need to recognize that the current era has put in place structures for creating and implementing international standards to fulfill the need for increasing exchanges worldwide. As a result, a lot of devices are today built according to established requirements to offer the same service and level of safety throughout the globe. However, international standards do not entirely replace national ones, as to protect their citizens, governments also publish the standards and norms applicable in their country. Also, to protect people producing goods from abusive and unsafe working conditions, governments publish laws that indicate the minimum level of protection required. Depending on the country, these laws can be emitted in the form of acts, decrees, work regulations, codes of practice, national standards, etc. For convenience, we can call them “working laws”. Some of these laws have been adopted worldwide through the various instruments of the United Nations, such as, but not limited to, the International Labour Organization (ILO). However, adopting international laws is a long process that, in the end, requires the signature of the states applying them. Thus, a state is not engaged in implementing an international law it has not signed. For these reasons, in parallel with the laws emitted by States, companies involved in industrial or construction activities have issued their own working practices that are based on the laws of the states and their experience. These working practices are sometimes shared through structures such as professional associations or similar organizations that defend their interests and are usually called "guidelines". These professional organizations also act as pressure groups on states to impose their point of view. For a better understanding, we need to make a distinction between standards, working laws, and guidelines: As said above, the purpose of standards is to issue technical specifications to ensure that materials, products, processes, services, systems, or persons are fit for their intended purpose. Standards are also called "Norms". Legal specialists say that even though their purpose is the same, their process is different: A norm can be described as a set of rules resulting from a consensus of experts, and a standard is the harmonization of technical characteristics and construction processes, not necessarily based on a consensus. However, despite this difference, the two words are often used for the same documents. Standards and Norms are issued by states or specific organizations depending on them, usually called "national standardization bodies". For example, the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV), British Standards Institution (BSI), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the "Association francaise de normalization" (French association for normalization -AFNOR), the Thai Industrial Institute (Thailand), and many others. Organizations emitting standards & norms can group an ensemble of states. It is the case of the European Standards (EN), also called European Norms. These documents are published by one of the three following organizations: the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), or the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). These organizations depend on the states of the European community and the associated members. Another example of an organization that depends on states is the International Organization for Standardization, better known under the acronym ISO, which is presented as an independent, non- governmental international organization with a membership of 167 "national standards bodies". However, as the national standards bodies are appointed by their governments, we can imagine that these governments can influence ISO through their appointed standardization bodies. As already said, national working laws are rules whose implementation is mandatory in the country they are published. Depending on the country, they can have various forms, such as: - Acts: Bills that the legislature votes on. - Decrees: A formal and authoritative order from a government having the force of law. - Work regulations: Rules or directives made and maintained by the authorities. - Codes of practices: Ensembles of regulations that complement laws to explain how to comply with them. - National standards: Mandatory procedures approved by the government for the operations they are designed for. According to the Cambridge dictionary, “guidelines” are “information intended to advise people on how something should be done or what something should be”. Guidelines can be emitted by all types of organizations and also individual authors and are not binding. Therefore, it is not mandatory to follow a guideline that the government has not emitted or approved. Based on the fact that only states and organizations appointed by states can emit laws and standards, professional organizations are obliged to publish their point of view through guidelines only. However, some of these organizations consider or want to impose their guidelines as standards. For this reason, depending on their policy, they convince or oblige their members to include their guidelines, which they sometimes incorrectly call “standards”, in their working practices. However, as said previously, there is legally no obligation to apply such guidelines, so their implementation ultimately depends on the company. We must, however, consider that in case of an accident, the authorities of the country and the judge in charge, if the persons responsible for the undesirable event are sent to court, can ask why policies covering the activities that resulted in the accident were not implemented. Thus, even though it is not mandatory to implement an organization's guidelines, it is highly recommended to provide at least equivalent procedures adapted to the company's needs. It must be noted that guidelines from organizations are often adopted by states and, thus, become standards.
3 - About ethical standards, laws, and guidelines Based on the above, we can say that the idea of standards comes from the positive thought to improve people's living and working conditions, which can be deviated for the profit of only a few people. Thus, we can define "ethical" standards, laws, and guidelines as documents describing procedures that aim to protect people without the intention of making a profit, imposing an ideology, or favouring a community to the detriment of others. To define a community and its interests, we can refer to the description from Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), who said: "The community is a fictitious body composed of the individual persons who are considered as constituting as it were its members. The interest of the community then is the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it".
4 - About the deviation of standards, laws, and guidelines It must be noted that despite the positive mint of the people creating them, the relevance of ethical standards, laws, and guidelines to their purpose can be inappropriate. History and current working practices show us that many standards were or are unsuitable for the activities they are supposed to cover or are suitable for only a fraction of people. This can be due to an inappropriate evaluation of the problem, but also because the team has been intoxicated by various forms of external interventions. Regarding such issues, history shows us that working and commercial practices can be deliberately imposed by some unethical pressure groups on the members of their organization, governments, their contractors, and their clients to eliminate challengers, impose their ideology, be in a monopolistic position, and thus be in a situation where they can increase their profits without opposition. These unethical groups do not hesitate to “buy” scientists, politicians, civil servants, other organizations, and the press, where they display their propaganda to reach their targets. Thus, such organizations often create what is commonly called an influence peddling or a mafia system. The guidelines they emit and also, when they obtain their publication, their standards, can be called "unethical" as they aim to be profitable for only a few people to the detriment of others. A historical example of such practices is the story of the “robber barons”, a pejorative term that describes 19th century American industrialists and financiers who made fortunes by monopolizing huge industries through the formation of trusts, engaging in controversial business practices, exploiting workers (Refer to the song “sixteen tons”), practicing lobbying at large scale, and physically attacking their competitors and opponents if the methods mentioned above did not work as expected. The propaganda from such groups of influence is usually based on fallacious arguments that are particularly refined and usually employed very intelligently so that they can attract honest people. The list of fallacious arguments they use is without end. However, we can retain the following: Circular reasoning: With this method of reasoning, the proposition is supported by the premises, which is supported by the proposition, creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is shared. In other words: X is true because of Y, and Y is true because of X. Argumentation based on a dogma: A dogmatism argument is based on a given belief, dogma, or doctrine. In other words, dogmatism treats something as true without question or allowance for conversation. This argumentation is commonly used with circular reasoning. Personal attack: A personal attack consists in refuting a logical argument by attacking the intelligence, professional qualifications, morals, and education of the person emitting it. Affective influence: Affective influence is based on the fact that emotions, urges, or feelings are innate and self-validating. Therefore the ability to analyze and critique is diminished. A common practice to influence people through this method is to provide them with a sad history or shocking photos and use the emotional reaction to impose procedures that are the opposite of what is needed in the industry considered and against the interest of the person approving them under the shock created by the story or the dramatic picture. Politicians frequently use this method. Information Pollution: Information Pollution is the contamination of information with irrelevant, redundant, unsolicited, hampering, and low-value news or documents. Hasty generalization: Hasty generalization is a fallacious argument by generalization that consists of drawing a broad conclusion from a small number of unrepresentative cases. Fallacious arguments by generalization are often used by self-proclaimed scientists or scientists who aim to make the ideology or practices of an unethical pressure group admitted. Of course, politicians also regularly use such arguments. Argument from ignorance: Argument from ignorance, also called “appeal to ignorance” consists of arguing that a proposition must be true because it has not been proven false. Appeal to authority: Appeal to authority is misusing an authority's opinion to support an argument by using a statement made by the mentioned authority that is out of date or reported in a biased manner. Argument from authority: Argument From Authority is the claim that the person or the organization taken as reference is an expert and so should be trusted. Note that the expression “X provides the best practices” is an argument from Authority, thus pure propaganda. The reason is that nothing proves that X provides the best practices because someone else may have better ideas. Appeal to flattery (appeal to vanity): Appeal to flattery consists of complimenting a person to obtain his approbation of the ideology, approach, guideline, or standard presented. False dilemma: A false dilemma is a manipulative procedure that aims to polarize the audience to promote a philosophy, approach, or guidelines by demonizing others. For example, politicians commonly use it to strong-arm the public into supporting controversial legislation or policies. This method is also widely used by organizations trying to impose guidelines. For these cases, a strategy often applied successfully involves highlighting the word "safety" so that opponents of the proposed policy are automatically classified as "unsafe people". Thus, they become enemies to eliminate without discussion. Appeal to Closure: Appeal to Closure means that an argument, standpoint, action, or conclusion must be accepted, no matter how questionable the point is, and will remain unsettled. In other words: X is found suspicious, and despite this, it must be accepted. This strategy is often used by persons with authority without the necessary knowledge to exercise their position. It is, of course, commonly used to impose a guideline. Straw man argument: A straw man argument consists in moving the discussion to a different subject rather than the topic being discussed. This strategy is commonly used by people who are uncomfortable with the issue discussed. It is often a complement of the “appeal to closure” described above. Depending on the target, fallacious arguments are used separately or together to elaborate a suitable strategy to erase all forms of reasoning and, thus, opposition. Among the increasingly used strategies, I need to highlight what we can call the "Infantilization strategy", which is a form of conditioning that consists of disabling a community's capacity to think by gradually downgrading it to a level equal to the reasoning of young kids. Several methods are used to obtain the desired result, for example, the multiplication of mandatory pseudo formations with exams where the questions are at the level of a kid and the employees conditioned using the fallacious reasonings described above, the organization of safety and productivity awards with teeshirts or other presents offered to the winners (It is similar to what you do to condition an animal), the implementation of a blame culture with investigations of undesirable events systemically charged against the employees involved, the use of vexation measures against people similar to those used for undisciplined kids, and many others. Note that even though "Infantilization" is increasingly used, it is not a new strategy: It was massively employed by the robber barons and many leaders to control people, and so was described by many 19th and 20th centuries novelists. It can be illustrated by the description of Merle Travis, the author of the previously mentioned song Sixteen tons: "A man is made of muscle and blood, a mind that's weak and a back that's strong". It is commonly said that unethical influencing groups are composed of powerful financial or industrial establishments. However, these influencing groups can also be merely the employees of organizations in a dominant position emitting guidelines or standards. The purpose, in this case, is to secure their place and organize for comfortable incomes. Another reason aside from the comfortable salaries is what we commonly call the drunkenness of power, which can be considered a symptom of megalomania, a narcissistic personality disorder that is characterized by complex symptoms, among which: An unstoppable need for power and glory. A manipulative behaviour to get to positions of power. A self-attribution of abilities. A conceited and arrogant behaviour. The non-acceptance of personal mistakes. The rejection of ideas from others or the need to self-attribute them. Based on the above, we can consider that many of the unethical pressure groups described above show collective megalomaniac symptoms. It is, of course, not the purpose of this post to determine which degree of megalomania these people have; this is a psychoanalyze problem that requires to be evaluated by doctors. Also, we are all plus or minus narcissistic, as this is part of what the safety specialists call “self-esteem”. However, we can highlight troubling facts commonly attributed to such disorders and remember that history says that some leaders affected by such conditions were the source of catastrophic events. To maintain their dominant position, a strategy used by such unethical pressure groups is to increase their production of guidelines, even though some are unnecessary and poorly written; the aim is not to produce valuable documents but to drown people under numerous rules (Information pollution), in other words, to become unavoidable and increase their pressure on governments to push them to publish standards that are more in line with what they want. If they succeed, that may result in a system based only on paperwork and political considerations, producing standards and guidelines that may conflict with the previously established rules and not being welcomed by the people to whom they are imposed. Thus, regulations whose implementation is complex, as it may become evident to the people to whom they are imposed that their purpose is to control them instead of helping them. Consequently, people are no longer confident in laws, have trends to use undeclared inconsistent procedures, and the safety level is diminished. To conclude with the above, inappropriate standards imposed on a community will give rise to a monoculture based on what is commonly called circular reasoning (see above), resulting in the absence of questioning regarding the appropriateness of the procedures imposed, which undoubtedly will trigger decadence because the solutions proposed do not answer to the needs of the majority of people but allow a small fraction of a population to be in upper positions enabling them to control the others for their profit. Therefore, the system will collapse due to its lack of adaptation to unplanned situations and the community's well-being. By comparison, we can say that brilliant civilizations have disappeared because they gradually became mono-cultural narcissistic worlds. As already noted in the introduction of this post, history proves to us that the future of humanity is in its diversity and not in a uniform civilization. It must be noted that many states have emitted laws to prevent the situations mentioned above (Notably antitrust laws). However, implementing such limitations is difficult or even impossible to control organizations operating internationally. An element favouring the influence of the unethical pressure groups previously mentioned is often the states' lack of interest in the domain considered. This lack of interest can be due to a lack of resources, a lack of civil servants with proper formation, and a lack of structures to be in contact with the people involved in the activities considered. Hence, a state disconnected from reality, underestimating how strategic the activity domain can be for the country. Also note that sometimes, it may be only due to complacent behaviour. Thus, at the discharge of these pressure groups, when countries are without proper upper ruling authority, these organizations are tempted to crush everything to increase and secure their profits, even though their methods are unethical. It has been a long time since it has been recognized that without a powerful state administration, the market quickly becomes a kind of jungle ruled by the most influential actors to the detriment of others. In addition to the above, another reason unethical groups of interest impose their point of view is the lack of structured opposition. Thus on one side, we have people well organized, trained in all sorts of manipulations, and motivated to reach their objective. On the other side, we often find individuals and small companies proceeding separately, with some of them ready to satisfy the craziest desire of their clients. That results in these companies and individuals not being considered representative by the authorities, who will have the temptation to follow the suggestions of the unethical organizations that, despite having no legal and scientific references, often present themselves as experts by using the fallacy strategies already mentioned.
5 - About prohibitive prices Another problem with some national and international standards is their prohibitive costs and the fact that they are sold through resellers making profits from these activities. Thus, instead of being tools that protect everyone, standards become a business ! There is no problem with such practices as long the documents in question are private organizations' guidelines that are not imposed on citizens or in bidding processes. However, this is far from being ethical when these documents are standards from organizations depending on governments, and the practices they describe are made mandatory. Considering that standards are laws and that everyone should have an equal status regarding the law, poor and rich people should have equal access to legal documents. We can call that the “principle of equality and fraternity”; without them, what some people call “democracy” becomes a vast mystification. Governments must be aware that their primary function is the protection of all their citizens. Also, not helping poor people is perhaps losing genius scientists or technicians. Some may say, "We need to pay the people writing these standards". Regarding this, my answer is that I have published guidelines and manuals free of charge for over six years, some of which required more than two years of conception full-time with 16 hours/day of work. Also, most scientific documents stored in our data bank have requested similar investments to their authors and are also published free of charge, which is why you can download them without paying fees. Thus, the argument that standards must be sold at high prices because the writers must be paid is definitively fallacious because these organizations have budgets assigned by states for that. Read the continuation on the next page
Xi'an tomb in China
Pejorative cartoon on the “robber barons”