The Uses and Abuses of Measurement

with Myron Rogers

In the West, we live in a culture that is crazy about numbers. Starting in the sixth century B.C.E., numbers became the means we used to see reality. But over time, numbers became the only reality. Today, we make something real by assigning a number to it. Once it’s a number, it’s ours to manage and control. The poet W. H. Auden years ago wrote about this Western obsession: “And still they come, new from those nations to which the study of that which can be weighed and measured is a consuming love.”

The search for measures has taken over the world as the primary means to control systems and people. We depend on numbers to know how we’re doing for virtually everything. We ascertain our health ...

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