Wednesday, April 22, 2009

21,108 Days Remaining, 13,305 of Them Happy

I got a very strange email the other day. The subject line was: [Reminder] 10,000 days alive @ Sat Apr 11, 2009. After racking my brains and asking a few friends if anyone had hacked my google calendar, I eventually concluded that I set this reminder myself. I used to work with a lot of time data and it would have been a trivial task to write a little computer program to tell me the date of my birthday + 10,000 days. Today, Earth Day, April 22, 2009, I am 10,011 days old.

According to the Happy Planet Index survey, this means I have 21,108 days remaining. My overall score was 54.7, which I have equated roughly to "years of sustainable happiness." If we assume that I've already used up some of them by living happily 2/3 of the time, then I have 13,305 days of happiness remaining: about 2/3 of the total days I have remaining, which is a comforting thought.

I stumbled across the Happy Planet Index , ironically, not really thinking about Earth Day at all.

GDP is frequently used as an indirect measurement of happiness. And whenever you can only measure the success of a goal indirectly,i.e., by measuring something which is related to the goal, sooner or later, there will be a subtle shift in efforts from achieving the ostensible goal to achieving increases in the thing being used as a proxy for that goal. And so, in an effort to measure how happy people are, we measure the GDP. Except that somewhere along the line increasing GDP replaced our happiness as the end goal. And now, the entire economy is hell-bent for election on increasing GDP without regard to how it affects our happiness.

There has got to be a better way, I thought. So I started looking into it. It turns out that the wikipedia article for GDP contains a list of alternatives to the GDP. I strongly urge you to check out any or all of them. The one that struck me as including most of the things that are important to me while still being simple enough to calculate with real data was the Happy Planet Index. It includes both subjective happiness and objective sustainability.

So if you didn't do anything else to celebrate Earth Day, go take the test. And if you did do something to celebrate Earth Day you'll get a better score on the test. And isn't that the important thing? Getting a better score?

2 comments:

Justin said...

I scored 44.4 because I drive to work, eat meat, and have flown in the past year. The survey's wrong I don't have too much space, it's just not well insulated.

You almost hit it on the head; the important thing is not getting a better score, it's scoring better (and possibly more often) ;)

Andrew said...

Man.. I scored a 22.3. I guess I fly too much (though I kinda like flying)?

Though it is true, that I'm not particularly interested in what I do for a living...