measuring things

How do you measure this…

194. People Walking Together Under and Umbrella 10-28-2008

Often what matters, can’t be measured.

Perhaps we’re spending all our time/money/energy/people on measuring things.

Perhaps we need to stop measuring things.

perhaps we need to let go of any form of m\a\p


measurable outcomes least

perhaps.. least significant (and cancerous) result of anything..


graeber violence/quantification law: ‘when one looks a little closer, one discovers that these two elements—the violence and the quantification—are intimately linked‘ – david graeber in debt

graeber measure law


red flag

masks and measures et al

marsh exchange law

bateson measuring as managing law

graeber values law

tit for tat ness

this is ridiculous et al

fuller and. too much.. bullshit.. ness

krishnamurti measure law

making up money

oh my math

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

mona lisa compare law

of math and men

perhaps let’s try/code money (any form of measuring/accounting) as the planned obsolescence ie: ubi as temp placebo..



does anyone know any handy rebuttals to the neoliberal/conservative numbers on social progress over the last 30 years?

again & again i see these guys trundling out #s that absolute poverty, illiteracy, child malnutrition, child labor, have sharply declined…

… that life expectancy & education levels have gone way up, worldwide, thus showing the age of structural adjustment etc was a good thing.

what is education..? how has that been boding us..?

it strikes me as highly unlikely these numbers are right, or anyway that such improvements are due to privatization, etc.

It’s clear this is all put together by right-wing think tanks. Yet where’s the other sides numbers? I’ve found no clear rebuttals.

perhaps it’s the looking for numbers that is messing with us

I suspect you are right in the larger scheme of things, but I don’t want to cede that ground entirely to the bad guys

wasn’t it you who said.. you’ll never be able to convince a person thru logical argument.. et al..

what if we’re losing ground by trying to not cede that ground

well I was talking about the possibility of freedom especially

freedom.. especially..

my impression from where i stand is the opposite in this particular area anyway. But maybe I’m not standing in the right place.

most of us aren’t standing in right place.. missing.. looking for the numbers.. measures..

so.. just from grabbing tweets floating by

Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) tweeted at 5:50 AM – 16 Jan 2017 :

Great example of a key point: organs of mainstream orthodoxy exist to smear those who dissent from it as stupid or corrupt: (

showing how numbers don’t seem to matter.. we just use them for agendas.. not for human nature..

Pavlina R Tcherneva (@ptcherneva) tweeted at 7:41 PM – 15 Jan 2017 :

2015: The 80 richest ppl owned as much as world’s poorest half
2016: The 62 richest ppl owned as much
2017: The 8 richest ppl owned…#Oxfam (

if they did matter.. this should be enough.. no?.. if the gap is what makes us not us.. unsettled.. et al

The 8 richest people in the world now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% @Oxfam (


same day.. from Maria

Maria Popova (@brainpicker) tweeted at 6:01 AM – 16 Jan 2017 :

How do you know that you love somebody? Philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s incompleteness theorem of the heart’s truth (

Nussbaum considers how our over-reliance on the intellect for clarity about love produces instead a kind of myopia:

Intellect’s account of psychology lacks all sense of proportion and depth and importance… [Such a] cost-benefit analysis of the heart — the only comparative assessment of which intellect, by itself, is capable — is bound, Proust suggests, to miss differences of depth. Not only to miss them, but to impede their recognition. Cost-benefit analysis is a way of comforting oneself, of putting oneself in control by pretending that all losses can be made up by sufficient quantities of something else. This stratagem opposes the recognition of love — and, indeed, love itself.


Central to this method of truth-seeking is what Nussbaum calls catalepsis — *“a condition of certainty and confidence form which nothing can dislodge us.” To be cataleptic — from the Greek katalēptikē, derived from the verb katalambanein, meaning “to apprehend,” “to firmly grasp” — is to have a firm grasp of reality. But, of course, the implied antinomy is that because reality is inherently slippery, either the firmness of such catalepsis or its conception of reality is **false.

*back to Glen’s tweet above.. wmd.. how we assert.. by making any questioning/ers feel/sound stupid.. when.. what could ever **not be questioned..


For the Stoic the cataleptic impression is not simply a route to knowing; it is knowing. It doesn’t point beyond itself to knowledge; it goes to constitute knowledge. (Science is a system made up of katalēpseis.)


At the general level, again, Marcel both discovers and enacts a permanent underlying feature of his condition, namely, his neediness, his hunger for possession and completeness


to try to grasp love intellectually is a way of not suffering, not loving — a practical rival, a stratagem of flight.


And yet this notion of measuring love by degree of suffering seems to be a particular pathology of the human heart..


Marcel’s relation to the science of self-knowledge now begins to look more complex than we had suspected. We said that the attempt to grasp love intellectually was a way of avoiding loving. We said that in the cataleptic impression there is acknowledgement of one’s own vulnerability and incompleteness, an end to our flight from ourselves. But isn’t the whole idea of basing love and its knowledge on cataleptic impressions itself a form of flight — from openness to the other, from all those things in love for which there is in fact no certain criterion? Isn’t his whole enterprise just a new and more subtle expression of the rage for control, and need for possession and certainty, the denial of incompleteness and neediness that characterized the intellectual project? Isn’t he still hungry for a science of life?


The heart and mind of another are unknowable, even unapproachable, expect in fantasies and projections that are really elements of the knower’s own life, not the other’s.

Proust’s protagonist arrives at this conclusion himself:

I understood that my love was less a love for her than a love in me… It is the misfortune of beings to be for us nothing else but useful showcases for the contents of our own minds.


Sea creatures cannot be said to know the sea in the way that a creature does who can survey and dwell in both sea and land, noticing how they bound and limit one another.


same day on bi.. on fighting .. with numbers.. to get more numbers/measures/money into hands of people.. to perpetuate.. that numbers matter most.. (makes me think of teacher ..donner..? on ellen.. and her applauding his having his kids hold 200 dollars.. and saying.. this is mine and i got it legally.. our god.. our os.. oy)

Rutger Bregman (@rcbregman) tweeted at 6:59 AM – 16 Jan 2017 :

Excellent piece by @scottsantens on universal basic income & what it would cost.

Get the official Twitter app at

back to graeber model law.. will these #s .. any #’s.. ever be convincing enough..? for things that matter


via ultimape stream –

n: I never want to view you as some generic consumer. Imagining at eating my shit(posts) makes me laugh… & reminds me you’re human. Be human.

m: perhaps being human.. begs we quite measuring exchange..

n:There could be something to it. I’d love to know how many people i’m causing pain to, so I can avoid it if I can.

m: not talking about you.. causing pain.. talking about the system

n: That’s what inspired this. I’m thinking about advertising incentives and how it influences ‘the system’. :)

n: But those kinds of measurements have to be rooted in empathy first, or you miss it.…

he shared:

by @davidmanheim

adding page for David.. more there

m: drucker’s – If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. – perhaps we’re not supposed to manage.. it

m: ‘good metrics let us make rules that create the right incentives to improve’ – not sure incentives are human natural

n:Agree. I like this framing – reminds me how absurd some of this sounds (and how it probably is):…

n:Seeing the marketing language juxtaposed with the human conneciton makes me think there’s two competing worlds of thought.

m:or perhaps one we could/should disengage from… Become an expert in the system you want to destroy. In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as marketers. Just cool people sharing.

n:My focus question: how to destabilize in such a way that we don’t impoverish people in the process and lead to great suffering?

m:am thinking it’s gotta be a leap (to a nother way) .. since we now have the means for that

back to goodhart’s law post:

As with many other cognitive skills, the fact that it’s a counter-intuitive learned skill for children means that adults don’t do it intuitively either. So why are measures used? There are lots of good reasons, and I think a useful heuristic for understanding where to use them is to look for the triad of intuition, trust, and complexity

Measurement replaces intuition, which is often fallible. It replaces trust, which is often misplaced. It finesses complexity, which is frequently irreducible. So faulty intuition, untrusted partners, and complex systems can be understood via intuitive, trustworthy, simple metrics. If this seems reductive, it’s worth noting how successful the strategy has been, historically. Wherever and whenever metrics proliferated, overall, the world seems to have improved.

whoa.. – thinking.. civilization/managing ness is what’s killing us

Managers Need to Measure

do we need managers..?

i’m thinking only at the ginorm small level.. and now we’re back to more of a gut.. in the moment measure..

The key problem of using a measure as a metric is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s law. The law is based on a 1975 paper on economic regulation, and is typically paraphrased as “When a measure becomes a metric, it ceases to be a good measure.” When managing a system, this problem is critical, but is deeper than it at first seems, as I’ll argue.

I think these can be understood via the three key things measurement can replace, mentioned above: intuition, trust, and lack of understanding of a complex system.


Hubbard notes, it is precisely the areas where no measurement has been done before that his method typically finds tremendous value in creating metrics. He opens the book saying that “no matter how ‘fuzzy’ the measurement is, it’s still a measurement if it tells you more than you knew before.”

thinking ackoff/drucker law–  doing things right vs doing right things

also makes me think of dreyfus – an ai (or whatever) based on a false premise..

A kid tells you they are the smartest person in their freshman college class. You don’t know them — but their SAT score can tell you if their claim is plausible

what the heck..

Statistics, like any other discipline, is a way to think, but it can’t stop you from lying to yourself, or to others. It can, however, prevent others from lying to you — but only if you *trust the source of the data, and understand and trust the methods they used.

deeper – what the data is.. ie: sat data isn’t a measure of how smart a person is.. (of course.. if your defn of smart is successful at sat tests.. then ok)

But if we want good metrics, we probably need to collect data — and that is hard to verify from the outside. If someone who produced or has access to the numbers is motivated to fudge the numbers, the dishonesty is difficult to detect.

begs a do over.. and we focus on self talk as data

Perhaps the best way to mitigate the risk of dishonesty is to adopt the strategy testing companies use: create trust through disaggregating responsibility. Test takers are monitored for cheating, graders are anonymized, and the people creating the test have no stake in the game.

inspectors of inspectors ness

best safety/guard: gershenfeld sel

Complex systems have complex problems that need to be solved. Measures can summarize, but they don’t reduce the complexity. This means that

measures hide problems, or create them, instead of solving them .

1\First, metrics reduce dimensionality 

the single number of a metric doesn’t represent everything in the system, leading to a loss in fidelity.

2\Second in our list of difficulties is causality. Defining causality is contentious, but I’ll try to keep it simple. A causes B if when we magically manipulate A, but nothing else (even things that would normally change), B changes. This is made harder in practice because usually

blaming a single cause is fallacious reasoning.

third problem: metrics are usually reified….In some sense,

your brain finds it easier to create a non-existent object than to fail to recognize a pattern

What’s harmful is that when we create a measure, it is never the thing we care about, and we always want to make decisions. And if you reify metrics away from the true goal, you end up in trouble when they stop being good measures.

Systems using measures are incentivized to perform certain ways – they self optimize.

huge – thinking 10 day care centers ness.. and why/how.. if we measure.. we have to then externally incentivize.. and we’ve compromised human energy..

Metrics make things better overall, but only occurs to the extent that they are effective at encouraging the true goals of the system. To the extent that they are misaligned, the system’s behavior will diverge from the goals being mismeasured. And once the system diverges, the very incentives you put in place make it hard to change. The problem with Goodhart’s law is that it is impossible to get metrics exactly right, and so the pressure of the system will always warp until the metrics diverge from the actual goal.

Specify a metric for user engagement, and as Zeynep Tufekci pointed out in a very worthwhile analysis, Facebook starts to select for sensationalism and garbage. In the article, she says this is because algorithms are not neutral — but I think she’s wrong. Tools themselves are neutral, but how they are used are not.

agree.. that’s why ai is messed up.. we keep using tools wrong way.. we’re missing such an incredible opp.. ie: we let tech/mech listen to all the voices.. since we can’t.. making ai – augmented interdependence..

Complex systems can only be managed using metrics, and once the metrics are put in place, everyone is being incentivized to follow the system’s logic, to the exclusion of the original goals.

? perhaps complex systems shouldn’t be managed.. esp if begs incentives.. to me that’s a sign .. not deep enough..


Heather Marsh‘s people weighed and measured – whoa


Yes, it’s possible to measure, but not in a meaningfully useful way. In an abstract manner, yes.

Original Tweet:

Is Well-being a Number? by Anna Alexandrova

So is well-being measurable?

Much depends on what you mean by measurement. *Everybody agrees that it requires a numerical scale that represents adequately the quantity in question. It is harder to find consensus on what it takes to justify such a scale and whether this justification is in place for well-being.


Because well-being wholism is impossible to implement in scales that apply to populations rather than individuals, well-being is not measurable, the skeptic concludes.

The catch is that it works for only a specific kind of well-being – the all-things-considered individual kind. Given my view that this is only one concept of well-being among many, this argument pours cold water on the ambition to measure this kind of well-being, but not others.

Another thing responsible researchers do is be clear on measuring a specific aspect of well-being – happiness, or sense of purpose, or fulfillment at work, etc. – without claiming to measure well-being as a whole

So well-being, properly defined, is in principle measurable.

so kicker is.. you can’t define well being.. it’s something that begs to be asked about.. and changed.. everyday..

well.. perhaps.. if defn is .. equity: everyone getting a go everyday.. doing whatever they want..

but then it either is … everyone getting a go everyday.. or it isn’t.. that holistic/wholistic piece.. that ginormous small ness of holistic/wholistic/interconnectedness

Psychometrics as currently practiced attempts to turn a philosophical problem – what well-being is – into a *technical one, thus hiding the the value-judgments instead of facing them properly.

*rowson mechanical law

so – if it is or isn’t.. like 1 and 0’s .. technical.. but not technical/mechanical

i’d say to.. that attempting to measure it.. would make it a zero.. (not everyone getting a go everyday)

Studying conditions of human flourishing can be, and for many researchers is, an idealistic and empowering exercise that need not inherit the agenda that also makes this science such a commercial success. How we as a community can make knowledge about well-being in a way that’s truly ethical is a story yet to be told.

or rather.. modeled..via 2 convos .. as the day..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) tweeted at 5:03 AM – 25 Oct 2018 :
A clip from this week’s Under The Skin podcast with @ceisenstein
Watch it here: (

4 min – when things get monetized and reduced to a number.. the things that you cannot reduce to a number get left out..  in general when we quantify things they fit into a society that is built on measurement and quantification and ultimately the conversion of all things to the number called value.. it’s dangerous..t

measuring things


bateson measuring as managing law:

nora bateson (@NoraBateson) tweeted at 4:04 AM on Mon, Jun 17, 2019:
It may be tempting to measure happiness… But measuring becomes managing which contribute to the conditions of control that produce unhappiness, anxiety, anger, & depression. Is there something real to be tended that is safely outside the reach of measurement? Please. #WarmData

Nora Bateson


if we think we have to have a measure.. what if love .. is the measure