As you may already be aware, I have a particular dislike for the system of units used in the United States, and a great love for the International System (SI, for Système International) Units. It is a great pain to me that my home country is stubbornly holding out against its inevitable adoption of units that simply make sense.
There are plenty of benefits to doing this, but these have all been argued before. And, more importantly, the argument has been settled: 95.6% of humanity lives in countries where SI units, or some variant thereof, are or shortly will become the standard and the norm. This is perhaps the only social construct which we as a species have ever really agreed on and used in exactly the same way.
The meter and the gram, two of seven base units in the metric system, were defined in a law passed by the First Republic of France on April 7, 1795, nearly 220 years ago. Since then the metric system’s progress towards universal human adoption has been direct and linear. The United States is the only country that is both large enough and stupid enough to hold on to an archaic and poorly designed system of units whose obsolescence has long been clear. This has left it with an unfortunate and often confusing mix of archaic US “Imperial” units and metric units. Basically, it boils down to this: Any time measurement accuracy is important, measurement will be done in metric units. This holds for the fields of science, engineering, construction, and medicine. Whenever it is necessary that people who may or may not have graduated high school understand what you’re doing, US units are used in preference to a quick explanation of the metric system.
As on many other issues, American politicians and cultural leaders are united against the tide of logic. This goes beyond the two-party system. While both Democrats and Republicans are opposed to metrication, so is the Constitution party, the Libertarian party, and the Green party. Actually, so far as I can tell, there is no political party in the United States, no matter how minor, that supports metrication as an element of their platform. This is a disgrace.
But I digress. What can we do about this? Well, there are two answers. The first is that we can and should start a metrication party, and we should lobby all parties, major and minor, to add metrication to their platform. I suspect the Greens would be most amenable, but more on this later.
What I propose is that we begin metrication with ourselves. Each of us has the power to measure our height in meters and our mass in kilograms. We can all tell our weather widgets to give us the temperature in Celsius, and we can tell our navigation units to give us the distance to our destination in kilometers.
I believe strongly that society is the sum of its members. For every person who metricates, we push back the tide of Imperial units and bring their inevitable obsolescence closer. Within the US, this amounts to a unilateral decision to metricate. From a global perspective, however, it is simply a recognition that it is time to give up on the idea of American Exceptionalism, and join humanity in a species-wide pursuit of progress.