The limits of GDP

Recently the world economic forum has, in collaboration with the UK national statistics office, devised five measures of growth that are better than GDP. These are:

  • Good jobs
  • Wellbeing
  • Environment
  • Fairness
  • Health

In my mind, these are not better than GDP since they seem open to wide interpretation (my idea of fairness may be very different to yours, etc).

However, after reading GDP: A brief but affection history the limitations of GDP as a catchall statistic of the progress of a society were made clear and I think it is right that alternative measures are investigated.

The approach I like would be to have a dashboard of non-partisan factors of societal well-being each backed by a set of maybe 3 – 5 well-defined statistics. For example, the factors could be:

  1. Economy
  2. Education
  3. Environment
  4. Health
  5. Security
  6. Environment

The “Economy” factor could then be supported by combining statistics on for example GDP per capita, inflation and unemployment rates.

Thinking about visualizations

Great piece on selecting appropriate visualizations from the HBR.

First need to consider the aim of the visualization on two axes. Is the information conceptual (with a focus on ideas and an aim to simplify or teach) or data driven (with a focus on statistics and an aim to inform or enlighten)? And do you intend to declare (with a focus on documenting or designing and an aim to affirm) something or explore (with a focus on prototyping or interacting and an aim to confirm and discover) something?

From this it is then possible to define four types of visualizations:

  1. Idea illustration (conceptual and data-driven)
  2. Idea generation (conceptual and exploratory)
  3. Visual discovery (exploratory and data-driven)
  4. Everyday dataviz (declarative and data-driven)

A sensible post about AI

Should we be afraid of AI? is one of the more balanced and considered articles I have read about AI recently.

The article defines two extreme viewpoints that are being perpetuated around AI.

  • AI Singularitarians believe that the creation of some form of artificial ultraintelligence is likely in the foreseeable future and that this might involve major risks to humanities future. 
  • AItheists beleive that true AI is not possible and that there is nothing to discuss or worry about.

The article argues that both viewpoints are extreme and that reality lies somewhere in the middle stating that true AI is not logically impossible but is implausible. What matters is not the possible appearance of some ultraintelligence but the effect that ever-smarter technologies is having on how we live our lives.

The article defines four revolutions in self-understanding:

  1. We are not the centre of the universe (Copernicus)
  2. We are not the centre of the biological kingdom (Darwin)
  3. We are not the centre of rationality (Freud)
  4. We are not the centre of the infosphere (Turing)

The article concludes:

  • We need the smartest technologies to tackle the concrete evils oppressing humanity and our planet.
  • We should make AI human friendly in always treating people as the ends and never as the means.
  • We should make AI’s stupidity work for human intelligence and that the benefits and costs of AI should be borne by the whole of society.
  • We should make AI’s predictive power work for freedom and autonomy.