How can we measure human rights and our progress toward preserving dignity for all humans? Wolfram Alpha (WA) is a powerful new Internet tool for gathering, analyzing, and displaying quantitative information. Let’s put it to work measuring, reporting, and illustrating the condition of human rights around the world so we can direct help to where it is most needed.
Preserving human rights requires meeting human needs. Humans need: air, water, food, shelter, sanitation, sleep, caring touch, autonomy, competency, and relatedness. Can WA help us understand where these needs are being met and where they are not?
Although WA can access, assemble, and report many fascinating and important quantities, asking WA today about “safe drinking water” returns no result. The system could provide more useful human rights-related information if data sources can be located that allow the system to provide maps of have and have not regions, counts of people who do or do not have access to safe drinking water, chart how far people must travel to obtain safe drinking water, show water pollution levels and trends, identify sites where progress is being made, help us visualize hydrology, show public and private ownership of aquifers, track water levels in reservoirs, monitor water-born diseases, track droughts and deserts, etc.
Several searches were tested to begin investigating the present capabilities of WA to provide human rights information. For example the following queries result in substantial and useful international data including: statistics, graphs, countries with highest and lowest levels, etc.
- life expectancy
- per capita income
- unemployment rates
- employment of women (US results only)
- democratic governments
- participation in elections
- human rights
- income levels
- literacy levels
- political prisoners
- length of work week
- standard of living
- education levels
A draft questionnaire, based directly on the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now available. Researchers may wish to validate the questionnaire, administer it to selected populations, and make the resulting data available to WA to provide direct information on human rights. Additional proposals for measuring human rights, dignity, and humiliation are also available. One summary of proposals, developed for the 12th annual Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies conference, is now available in both PowerPoint format and .pdf format. If these ideas are further developed they can provide more data for WA.
The global peace index gathers and combines authoritative information sources provided by reliable research organizations to quantify the peacefulness of each nation. This provides a helpful model for how WA can be extended into social-political arenas.
How would WA perform as a human-rights measurements tool? Here are some ideas. A query on “Human Rights” would return several results, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Questionnaire, and the list of human needs.
Clicking on the Declaration would expand it to show each of the 30 articles separately. Clicking on one of these articles would display maps, charts, and graphs of where this protection is in place and where it is not in place throughout the world. Clicking on the Questionnaire would provide maps showing where the Questionnaire has been used to collect data. Drilling down further, results for a given area are displayed. Also, selecting one of the questionnaire items results in a display showing regions scoring high and regions scoring low for that item. Other statistics for that item are also shown. Selecting one of the needs, such as “safe drinking water” will display information as described above in the water example.
You can help us make this a reality in a variety of ways:
- Share this article with others who are interested in protecting human rights. Talk about it, email it, and link to this from your social networking pages, blogs, and web pages.
- Provide your comments and ideas for improving this article using the comment feature of this blog. Is the article as clear, compelling, accurate, complete, useful and inspiring as it can be?
- Identify existing human rights-related WA queries that provide useful results. Let me know of these so I can begin to assemble them into useful subgroups and announce them.
- Use the existing WA feedback mechanism to provide the WA team specific suggestions on improving particular queries related to measuring human rights.
- Identify existing data repositories and information sources that WA can use to measure human rights. Bring these to the attention of the WA team.
- Create new information sources as a result of your own research work. Alert the WA team to this data.
- Administer the Human Rights questionnaire to selected populations. Record the results and make this data available to the WA team.
- Offer to join the WA team as a curator of human-rights related information sources or as a human-rights subject matter expert.