Monthly Archives: May 2011

The End of the World, and Looking to the Future

The world didn’t end yesterday as Harold Camping predicted it did.  This won’t come as a surprise to most people.  What did come as a surprise to me at least was how this prediction captured the public imagination, not just among were those that believed in the prophecy, but among the (presumably sceptical) general public, who googled it, tweeted about it, joked about it, and attended “rapture parties” scheduled for after the hour of the rapture.

There are other predictions for the “end of the world” occurring in the near future.  I would suspect Camping will tweak something in his math so that the end of the world will occur on October 21st instead of May 21st.  If that doesn’t happen either, according to the Mayan Long Count calendar, the world will be ending on December 12, 2012.  This date has already received a lot of publicity and no doubt will be getting more as we get closer to the date.  Once that doesn’t happen, I’m sure there will be predictions of some environmental mega-disaster or something like that that will get traction.

While it is kind of fun to joke about things like this, there is a potential problem.  If we’re all thinking about the end of the world, we may neglect to try to improve the world as it currently is.  Why think about the future if there isn’t going to be one?  If too many people are thinking about the end of the world, we’re going to miss the opportunity to create a better future for everyone.

With that in mind, I’m going to talk more about the future and the end in a future post.

Vote Compass Redux, and the Plight of the Liberal Party

About a month ago I wrote a post about, in part, CBC’s Vote Compass.  This is kind of old news now, but in light of how the election campaign has been going the past few weeks, I wanted to discuss it again.

As you’ll recall, I had discussed the scenario that Vote Compass would indicate that two people with diametrically opposite views on everything would both be closest to the Liberal party.  I assume that the algorithm that the site uses goes something along the lines of “if half of your answers are right-wing and half of your answers are left-wing, then you’d land right in the centre”.  In other words, some sort of scoring the answers and averaging them out.

Is that really the way that people think when they vote?  When you go to the polls tomorrow to vote, will you be thinking “Well, Party X is a little too left-wing for me on this issue and a little too right-wing for me on that issue, so if you put the two together, they should be the right fit for me”?  I would imagine not, for the most part.  I would imagine that you would look for the party whose stance best agrees with yours on whatever issues you find important.

To give an example, imagine that there are two parties, Party X and Party Y, and four issues, Issue A, Issue B, Issue C, and Issue D.  Say that Party X is a somewhat too left-wing for your tastes on Issue A and Issue B, and somewhat too right-wing on Issue C and Issue D, and that Party Y is a good match for your tastes on Issue B and Issue C, but is nowhere near your beliefs on Issue A and Issue D.   I would suggest that most people would vote for Party Y, with whom they agree on two of the issues, rather than Party X, with whom they don’t agree on anything.

Similarly, people who answered “Strongly Agree” or “Strongly Disagree” to every question on Vote Compass would be more likely to vote for whichever party agreed with their stance on the most issues (probably either the party of the right, the Conservatives, or the party of the left, the NDP) rather than averaging their answers out and voting for the party of the middle, the Liberals.

This brings me to something else that’s come up over the past few weeks.  Opinion surveys now indicate that the Liberals have been significantly overtaken by the NDP.  While there are many explanations, I would suggest that one explanation for this is that more and more people are finding that they agree with specific issues in the Conservative or the NDP platforms; while the Liberal platform may provide close matches to their beliefs, it just isn’t as close as the other parties.  What do the Liberals stand for, anyway?  It certainly seems that, over the past little while anyway, the Liberals have become less and less principled and instead have just stood for whatever centrist mush will get them votes.  I think that more and more people are noticing this, and, as already discussed, people aren’t going to vote based on averaging all of their opinions, it means that the Liberals are going to get fewer and fewer votes.