“We measure what is easiest to measure, not what really matters to most people's lives.” Eric Weiner in his book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search For The Happiest Places In The World. ISBN 978-0-446-69889-4.
He was referring to our collective use of a single economic measure to determine a country’s worth – GDP or Gross National Produce.
“GDP is simply the sum of all goods and services a nation produces over a given time. The sale of an assault rifle and the sale of an antibiotic both contribute equally to the national tally … Nor does GDP take into account unpaid work, the so-called compassionate economy … You have to give economists credit. They have taken a vice – selfishness – and converted it into a virtue.”
“GDP doesn’t register the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, or the intelligence of out public debate … GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.” Robert Kennedy.
We see this “measure what is easy” practice across many daily aspects of our society. Take education for example.
School children are often measured on their ability to regurgitate memorised facts, because this is easiest to compare against a set of fixed absolutes. Other children are taught how to manipulate mathematical equations, without any understanding of the real world contexts in which these apply. In some art classes, children are measured on their ability to photographically reproduce a given scene.
Measuring cognition, the ability to apply what is learnt, creativity, problem solving, critical determination of fact from fiction, integration of knowledge. etc are all much harder to measure. And yet, arguably these are the very skills required by the next phase of human development.
How will our collective failure to measure (and therefore overtly value) what is worthwhile affect our ability to evolve as a global community?