In this post, I want to consider a hypothetical national dashboard comprising important metrics that measure the economy, human well-being, and long-term progress. It’s hypothetical because even though all these metrics are measured today, not all of them are getting equal attention in the government and the media.
In This Post
- Show Me the Numbers
- Can We Measure Progress?
- A National Dashboard
- Upstream Drivers of Long-Term Progress
- A Possible Set of 11 Metrics
- More Options
- Global Focus
Show Me the Numbers
As someone who studied economics and business and spent over a decade working in the private sector, I’ve been long dismayed by how little focus there is on numbers in government and media reporting. To the extent politicians focus on numbers, they typically pick the ones that support their narrative and seem relevant to this week’s news cycle. 
I wonder if there’s a better way. What if the order was reversed? What if we came together as a society and determined (1) what things we would most like to improve, (2) the best way to measure the progress, and (3) the best way to report on it and future plans? What if we then used this framework to guide the public conversation, media reporting, and perhaps even some press briefings by White House?
Here are some books I’ve enjoyed more than others in the last 14 months or so. I’ve included some notable quotes but not all are equally representative of the book contents.
Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
“What is progress? You might think that the question is so subjective and culturally relative as to be forever unanswerable. In fact, it’s one of the easier questions to answer. Most people agree that life is better than death. Health is better than sickness. Sustenance is better than hunger. Abundance is better than poverty. Peace is better than war. Safety is better than danger. Freedom is better than tyranny. Equal rights are better than bigotry and discrimination. Literacy is better than illiteracy. Knowledge is better than ignorance. Intelligence is better than dull-wittedness. Happiness is better than misery. Opportunities to enjoy family, friends, culture, and nature are better than drudgery and monotony. All these things can be measured. If they have increased over time, that is progress.”
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Harari
“Homo sapiens is just not built for satisfaction. Human happiness depends less on objective condition and more on our own expectations. Expectations, however, tend to adapt to conditions, including to the condition of other people. When things improve, expectations balloon, and consequently even dramatic improvement in conditions might leave us as dissatisfied as before.”
Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
“Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they’ll find a way to screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a good team, and they’ll find a way to make it better. The goal needs to be to get the team right, get them moving in the right direction, and get them to see where they are making mistakes and where they are succeeding.”
This is an issue of my monthly newsletter. Main topics: technology, startups, business growth, and marketing. See other issues on my blog or subscribe. ~Max
Now, get a cup of coffee and enjoy!
Technology and Startups
Growth and Marketing
In case you’ve missed the new (well, 1.5 months old) 2017 KPCB Internet Trends report, here it is. As always, it’s a fascinating 355-slide deck of charts and graphs that cover everything from advertising to macroeconomics.
Here are some less than obvious insights I noted. What did you find interesting?
- Ads vary significantly in how much they annoy customers: mobile pop-ups are the worst
- Social Media
- Unexpected popularity of weird YouTube channels, e.g. people who record themselves unboxing stuff
- Delivery / On-Demand Economy
- Trending up across the board: from Amazon to Doordash
- Amazon eating the world with Amazon Basics brand
- Gaming and VR
- Gamer’s average age: 35
- More weird entertainment: the # of people watching other people play games keeps growing
- Games have higher engagement in minutes/day than Facebook (per active user)
- VR and gamification of the real world: Stanford Football, Peloton and all kinds of mobile apps
- Virtual world simulations: Improbable
- eSports growth
- Continued growth of the subscription model and personalization: Spotify and Netflix dominate
- Enterprise Software
- Interfaces become more humane as reflected in growing designer/developer ratios
- On-demand bike sharing
- AliPay + WeChat
- Macro Trends
- US Deficit
- 60% of most valued companies started by 1st or 2nd generation immigrants
- 50% of most valued companies started by 1st generation immigrants
There are a lot of different approaches to measure happiness levels in a given country and, of course, they are all imperfect. These two recent studies seem interesting though: According to the latest Gallup, these are the happiest countries:
% Thriving in 3+ Elements of Well-being
- Panama 61
- Costa Rica 44
- Denmark 40
- Austria 39
- Brazil 39
- Uruguay 37
- El Salvador 37
- Sweden 36
- Guatemala 34
- Canada 34
And these lists are by the UC Berkeley professors, teaching “Science of Happiness” EdX MOOC:
- Costa Rica
It’s been more than seven months already and I finally found some time to blog about our Italy and France honeymoon trip in May, 2013.
We wanted to see many things, but didn’t want to spend the entire holiday in a car, so we tried to leave some time to chill. This resulted in the following plan:
Rome and Vatican → San Marino → Bologna → Florence → Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore → Monaco / Menton → Nice.
I would like to devote this post to Japanese temple, imperial palaces and just gardens. I believe, you can enjoy their beauty and sophistication regardless of your attitude towards monarchs, religion or concept of God in general.
A couple of words about religion. Buddhism and Shinto prevail in Japan, so these are the ones that I’m going to cover here. However, in general Japanese tend to associate themselves with few religions at the same time. Moreover, only 20% of population actually believes in any God.
Well, you need to be the Captain Obvious to state that Japan has a very original and delicious cuisine. Variety of fish and seafood, unusual soups, seaweed, sashimi and of course sushi. Everything is fresh and delicious. You will like it if you’re open-minded in the first place.
Fortunately, we had an opportunity to try it all: the authentic cuisine in the expensive traditional restaurants, cheap fast-food-like cafes and a regular bento (Japanese lunch box) in the shinkansen (Japanese high-speed train). And all were good.
My plans to visit Japan turned into reality! Thank you all for your recommendations! If I were to describe the trip in one word I would call it unforgettable. We usually slept for 4-7 hrs a night trying to experience as much as we could.
Let me answer expected questions right away. How did I get there? Well, have been a PhD student in Higher School of Economics during the last year and a half. As I surprisingly still didn’t get kicked out I decided to participate in the organization of the student exchange with the Japanese Masters and PhD students in June 2009. Took days off at work and helped guys to get around the city and see lots of cool things.
Then, there was a long delay with no news. So, I saved some money and vacation days at work. But after 10 months the reciprocal trip was organized! And it was organized on the breath-taking level!