The Noise of Numbers

In graduate school twenty-five years ago, one of my professors shared this: “If it can’t be measured it doesn’t count.” I remember as students we laughed when hearing it. A bit nervously. That professor was not a guy obsessed with measuring. He was just astute enough to name a societal pattern. At the time he was pointing to essential qualities like love and kindness, and to essential practices like collaboration and innovation.

That same professor also taught about what he called the inverse relationship between ease of measurement and meaningfulness of data. “The easier it is to measure, the less valuable is the measurement. The most valuable and meaningful something is, the harder it is to measure.”

A colleague in Amsterdam recently sent this video, “The Numbers” (5 minutes) that is a great call to change the story of measurement and numbers. It’s a call to change the course. “The market ideology isn’t a law of nature. It was created by humans. And humans can change it.”

There are several compelling questions and invitations in the video that make it a good watch. For me,

  • Are we not worth what we used to be? (challenging the absurdity of numerical rankings that are so prevalent in contemporary society)
  • A system that sees everything as money will never bring us to a humane and sustainable world.
  • Dare to Question (reminded me of a poster I saw recently at The University of Washington in Seattle, saying “Question the Answer” rather than the old school message that would have been “answer the question.”)
  • Ignite Debate (or engagement, or curiosity, or a more open encounter with one another.)

Take a peek. It’s worth it.

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