new economic metrics

Trust Is Not An Algorithm: Big Data Are Hot, But They Also Miss A Lot


[Illustration from http://www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/hdi/] By some accounts the world’s information is doubling every two years. This impressive if unprovable fact has got many people wondering: what to do with it? Many big brands hope that the analysis of Big Data will give them a ‘360 degree view’ of customers: Who they’re interacting with, where they shop, how […]

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Healing The Metabolic Rift: Designing In Social-Ecological Systems


The term metabolic rift describes the alienation between humans and nature that opened up with the growth of the the modern economy. Could the growth of bioregionalism, and research into ‘social-ecological systems’, be signs that the rift may be healing? And if so, what are the opportunities for design to contribute?  [Picture: The Stockholm Resilience […]

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A Reading List for Mr. Monti

When the new Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, gave his acceptance speech to the Italian Senate before Christmas, he used the word “growth” 28 times and the word “energy” – well, zero times. Why would this supposed technocrat neglect even to mention the biophysical basis of the world’s economy? Well, Mr Monti is better […]

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Toxic sludge machine

I was critical last week of commentators who describe the financial crisis as “psychological”. Those who blame a “lack of transparency” are on stronger ground – although ignorance of the facts or the law is not a valid excuse in other domains of life. The process chart above describes something called a Financial Products Markup […]

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Measuring what matters

Totally lost amongst the financial news last week was discussion of a new report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb). According to this EU-commissioned study, the global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis. The report puts the annual cost of forest loss at […]

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In place of a “less bad” economy

“A thief who tells a judge he is stealing less than before will receive no leniency. So why do companies get environmental awards for polluting less – even though they are still polluting?”. Gunther Pauli is scornful in his new book The Blue Economy of the “do less bad” school of environmentalism. “It’s an approach […]

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Balanced budgets?

A few weeks back I was talking to Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, a partner in the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, when we were drowned out by the roar of a Eurofighter passing overhead. “One of those costs the same as a medium-sized opera house”, Kjetl observed drily. Kjetl should know: he designed this medium-sized opera house […]

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In the Palace of the Popes

Is culture something that’s produced to be sold, or a description of the ways people live? It’s an old question, but last week’s Forum d’Avignon (see also my story below) put a new spin on it: could the culture industries lead the way out of the economic crisis? The debate did not take place on […]

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Post-GDP: metrics, aesthetics, or ethics?

So on Friday I’m immoderating a panel discussion about “After GDP” at the Forum d’Avignon, a uniquely French event which brings the worlds of culture, economy and media together in the Palais des Papes. By way of throwing an advance stone into the pond, I wrote this short background article for Les Echos. The French […]

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