Ranking the unrankable

Weight is a useful measure. 10 pounds is twice as much as 5 pounds.

Measuring things and then ranking them effectively enables us to make better choices and to scale up our operations.

Sometimes, though, in our rush to standardize and process a complicated world, we begin to measure things that can’t be easily measured, and then, since we’ve measured them, to aggressively rank them.

Smart isn’t easily measurable. Neither is beautiful, good or successful. And especially happy.

A high SAT score is a measure of whether or not you scored well on the SAT. That’s it. A bank balance is a measure of how much money you have in the bank. That’s all.

In the face of the difficulty the system has in measuring things that don’t measure, we create proxies. Things like popularity as a proxy for whether a work of human creativity has worth or not.

It’s a method built to process commodities instead of people, and it’s running amok.

A precision ranking is nothing but a number, an inaccurate and ultimately useless stand-in. These proxies are created and spread and relied upon by a system that craves certainty and order.

Realizing the fraud of the proxies might help us get back to what matters instead.