In recognition of a rare day of numeric agreement (11/11/11), here is an encore of some thoughts on compromise, inspired by the binary system.
Is Compromise Possible in A Polarized World
Evidence is all around us: 50/50 splits between “them” and “us” (political identity, religious/secular identity, you name it) are creating gridlocks everywhere you look. Opinions become fixed and SHOUT on opposite ends of every issue. There seems to be less and less middle ground.
Budget talks become ideological battlegrounds with “warring” factions and strongholds where there are only two options for any issue. Yes. No. Yea. Nay. The debate, if you can call it that, is predictable. Almost robotic. People’s knee jerk reactions are instant, flicking on and off like sharp flashes of lightning in a stormy sky.
What happened to compromise?
Would a little binary help to improve the situation?
Zeroes and ones are beautiful and useful digits, first put to use by an Indian scholar in the second century B.C. Two thousand years later those sweet little 0s and 1s helped to spawn the information age, not long after the binary system was used to automate weaving looms. In computer programming, binary 0 means ‘off’ (or no) and 1 means ‘on’ (or yes). When used in sequence, the code adds up to more than just a random series. Programming instructions, and language result. It’s a work of genius.
I first experienced the wonder of binary in the 1960’s when my dad would occasionally bring his tribe of seven children to the Control Data office where he worked and let us operate the huge card punch machines that gave Control Data one of its supercomputer powers back in its heyday (the 1960’s). The seven of us had no idea what the machines were actually used for, but we loved creating stacks of punched cards, and bringing them home to make craft projects like punch card Christmas wreaths. We didn’t know that we were playing with machines that were making use of the binary system’s power to calculate and track vast quantities of data.
Binary is a group code composed of differences, where warring little characters, some saying YES and others saying NO, stand together to create a harmonious force that powers every modern computer.
Translated to binary, compromise itself is the following compromise of zeroes and ones:
01000011 01101111 01101101 01110000 01110010 01101111 01101101 01101001 01110011 01100101
It’s a simple, ingenious concept with vast powers. Binary. The power of compromise. It applies to everything we know in the electronic age. Maybe it would be a good concept to apply to resolve our differences, our stubborn positions on opposite sides of every issue. Can we use our differences to power the world? Binary can.