Opposing the metrication - convenience or ignorance?

This is a part of Standpoints (Marko Pinteric) site.

I recently came across two YouTube videos that attempt to take a balanced approach to the problems of the metrication in the US and Canada.

Videos do a good job of busting one of the arguments against the metrication, namely the cost: despite the fact that the metrication in a single moment generates enormous costs, the subsequent financial benefits far exceed them.

Videos still show too much favour for other sloppy arguments against the metrication. These arguments can be roughly described with one word: "public convenience". Allegedly it is difficult for laymen to convert, because learning metric units is compared to learning a new language. Much attention is also paid to coercion, comparing the metrication to imposing Esperanto or English on the whole world, and claiming that politics or companies promote the metrication against the will of the people.

So what would be my short answer to that? Those who have created a video do not have a complete understanding of units at all. And I also argue that those who understand units and therefore promote the metrication unfortunatelly do not understand the ignorance of those who do not understand them.

The "problem" is that units have two functions:

So contrary to popular belief, the metric front is not a battle between the US, Canada, UK and the rest of the world, but primarily a battle between STEM people and non-STEM people within the US, Canada and UK. The technical companies in the US, Canada and the UK have made the switch to metric units not only because of pressure from the rest of the world, but primarily because the use of imperial units is simply not attainable in the fields of STEM.

So should non-STEM people really care — they use units as reference values, and for them it makes no difference? Their opposition influences a large part of the population of their own countries, which is forced by them to constantly convert between imperial and metric units, which leads to avoidable mistakes and unnecessary loss of time. The change is imminent and a certain generation will have to make the change, so this is simply a matter of selfishness: It should be a future generation and not us, despite all the unnecessary problems that this causes our fellow citizens.

Should governments push through unpopular changes? Is it not the government's job to push through things that are good for society, even though they are unpopular? Just to mention, for example, the end of slavery or gender equality, two unpopular things that are now taken for granted.

No, learning metric units is not even remotelly comparable to a new language. And units are not cultural values, since many strongly nationalistic nations have easily abandoned their own long ago. And people who discuss the metrication process should know the full meaning of units.

Transition does not have to be perfect - even in metricated countries, a couple of units that are incompatible with metrics persist, but to an extent that does not harm the whole of society. The question is not if, but when. And the answer is: as soon as possible.

Additional material: my response to an Imperial enthusiast claiming to be STEM person on YouTube:

When we talk about science, there is no preference, no matter of choice, but a necessity. To use Imperial in science is next to impossible, and I know that for this very good reason all American university books on physics are in SI units. This is not because the world uses metric units, but because imperial units in science suck.

On the other hand, there is the world of ordinary people, where it is really a matter of preference whether one uses meter/centimeter or foot/inch. Both systems are arguably working just as well. But these worlds are not completely separate, there is always a very specific chain scientist - layman: for example, physicist - chemist - pharmacist - doctor - patient.

You have to do units conversion, you have to create mess somewhere if these two worlds cannot agree on units. But on the scientific side one has no choice. On the layman's side, it is only a matter of preference. If the latter does not want to change out of sheer convenience maintaining the status quo chaos, in my book of morals this is just selfishness. But you may stick to a different book of morals.

In summary, for anything beyond Newton's laws, be it thermodynamics or electricity, it is next to impossible to use anything other than SI units. The vast majority of technology has something to do with thermodynamics or electricity. You might be one of the few lucky STEM people who do not.

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