“Every day, millions of people share how they feel with the people who matter the most in their lives…”
Ever since I came across the work of Adam Kramer (a psychologist from the University of Oregon) to develop a behavioural model of “Gross National Happiness” using analysis of positive and negative words in Facebook updates, I’ve been kind of intrigued by the possibilities of being able to measure something that is truly worth measuring – the happiness of a population. Kramer’s work resulted in a quantitative GNH metric that could be tracked and plotted over time, like the visual below of UK happiness over the last six months (notice the big dip when England went out of the world cup).
And then recently, I see the work of Alan Mislove, a computer scientist at Northeastern University, who used twitter to map the emotional state of America:
Bhutan’s goal is not to create happiness, but to create the conditions for happiness to occur. Like Stiglitz, I believe that what we measure affects what we do. And if we have the wrong measures we strive for the wrong things. It becomes an end in itself, leading to distortions of policy, perverse incentives, unsustainable growth. The message of that team of economists was that one number cannot capture everything. I’m left wondering why, if we’re serious about creating the conditions for happiness to occur, we aren’t thinking harder about how we might one day use the connections between us, and the data that flows along them, to define an altogether better measure for human well-being. One that, whilst inherently intangible, feels closer to what really matters to most people in their daily lives.