Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dijkstra on the Buxton Index


A very useful measure is —called after its inventor— the "Buxton Index". John N. Buxton discovered that the most important one-dimensional scale along which persons are institutions to be compared, can be placed is the length of the period of time in the future for which a person or institution plans. This period, measured in years, gives the Buxton Index. For the little shopkeeper around the corner the Buxton Index is three-quarter, for a true Christian it is infinite, we marry with one near fifty, most larger companies have one of about five, most scientist have one between two and ten. (For a scientist it is hard to have a larger one: the future then becomes so hazy, that effective planning becomes an illusion.)

The great significance of the Buxton Index is not its depth, but its objectivity. The point is that when people with drastically different Buxton Indices have to cooperate while unaware of the concept of the Buxton Index, they tend to make moral accusations against each other. The man with the shorter Buxton Index accuses the other of neglect of duty, the man with the larger one accuses the other of shortsightedness. The notion of the Buxton Index takes the moral flavour away and enables people to discuss such differences among themselves dispassionately. There is nothing wrong with having different Buxton Indices! It takes many people to make a world. There is clearly no moral value attached to either a long or a short Buxton Index. It is a useful concept for dispassionate discussion.

Hoping to have a dispassionate discussion based on this of variety of phenomenon.

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