Man is the measurer of all things. We are rather fond of our measures. We spend a whole lot of time thinking about them. We devote considerable effort building whole organizations, companies and institutions around them. Consequently they command much of our attention. Which is why these measures in a lot of ways affect us in return. What control, what sense of security and predictability we gain from them, comes at a price. They also bring unanticipated results, some of which are complex and whose impact makes us design new measures.
Some of the core underlying assumptions from which we craft these metrics are growth, progress and freedom. The envisioned good, the ultimate purpose towards which we use some of our measures to gauge our progress and our growth, is the individual becoming more and more able to enjoy a good life and increasingly being capable of free choice what to become, what to do and how to grow into a successful, productive individual, responsible citizen and exemplary human being.
Now and then we reflect upon the efficacy of our measures. A great deal of the time though we more or less successfully adapt to the complex combined effects and results of the systems we’ve built based on our measures. Once in a while along comes a disruptive agent disturbing the homeostasis and the equilibrium at times making the systems evolve and giving rise to new sets of measures.
What seems to yet remain to design properly is how to design our metrics so as to be sure they are actually reinforcing this progress, this growth. That said, the very robustness and resilience perhaps even the degree of freedom inherent in our systems, might depend on there being more than one set of measures, a diverse enough mix of competing sets, some of which are incompatible, incommensurable even.
Another consideration we’ve only begun to address, is to reflect upon which sets of metrics, resulting in which systems, we need to design towards sustainability of these systems. For instance, one of the systems we’re currently enjoying, transportation, relies quite heavily on oil. As oil is becoming increasingly scarce, this will impact on growth, progress and freedom. Here as with many other systems that we’ve come to rely on for a good life, some of our taken for granted assumptions and measures need to be redesigned, need to be disrupted. Preferrably by design rather than default. Which brings us back full circle, to man as the measurer of all things, a potential source of good if by design, but perhaps more often than we care to admit, by default?