Many things cannot be measured well

This might seem vacuously true. However, many people act as though it is not true which leads to two coupled effects.

  1. People use a thing they can measure well as a proxy for a thing that cannot be measured well. This leads to the Streetlight Effect.
  2. People measure something poorly and then forget how bad the metric is at representing the thing they’re actually trying to measure. It’s arguable but I think a lot of the happiness literature falls into this category.

People desperately want to measure things because metrics lead to legibility and Legibility enables action.

The desire to measure all the things can enable amazing outcomes, like modern science! If you go from “when you increase the pressure while holding volume constant things get hotter” to precisely measuring how much volume, how much pressure and how how much the temperature goes up you can actually figure out important laws of nature.


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