Measuring - Scott Adams' Blog


Humans are obsessed with their weight. I think a big part of that obsession is the simple fact that weight is easy to measure. Scales are relatively cheap, accurate enough, and sitting right on the floor next to your shower when you need them. And you don’t even need a scale to tell you when you’re putting on a few extra holiday pounds. Generally speaking, we care most about the things we can easily measure, even if we know other things are more important.

The measurement bias is one of the problems with selling a concept like global warming to the masses. Individuals can’t measure global warming, and it doesn’t change much from day to day. Many people aren’t even sure it’s happening. That’s why a link that a reader left in this blog’s comments caught my attention. I don’t have any affiliation with the company I’m going to mention, and have no opinion on its products or pricing. But I love the concept. It’s a way to measure your household energy use and compare it to
your peers.


The service is in beta, and you can think of ten ways you’d prefer to see the data, but it looks like a step in the right direction. As soon as people can easily measure their energy use, it will become as much an obsession as weight and baseball stats and the stock market.

I harp on this theme a lot. I think that government in particular needs to provide a web-based dashboard of stats to its citizens so we can see how the country is doing. Trend graphs would be ideal. That would make clear where we need to put more resources. But it would also expose which politicians
aren’t doing their jobs, so I doubt the government will ever create such a tool. And if a private group creates the dashboard, the data will be presented in a biased way. It’s a tough nut to crack, but one that seems
essential to me. If you look at the evolution of democracy, the next logical step is providing useful data to the voters.