Happy Statistics

Some weeks ago I was browsing through the categories of TED Talks and was surprised to find an entry on statistics – which is regraded to be a very boring topic by most people.

The talk I chose to watch was by Nic Marks – as I tried to avoid yet another Hans Rosling talk.

Apart from Marks’ sweeping positive charisma, what struck me most, was the very relevant question, why we choose measures like GDP or NASDAQ to measure our “wellbeing” – as these KPIs mostly measure how efficient we destroy our (or others) environment or how much we increased the imbalance of wealth within our societies.

After watching the talk I ended up at the happy planet index site, and found myself flipping through their report. On page 16, I found Figure 2, which kind of blew me away.

I don’t want to get into moral preachings here, but take your time and rethink your life and attitude and try to come up with some explanation and projection of what has changed over the last 45 years – I am curious to see your comments.

Sometimes even very simple statistics make you think hard …


  1. Georgios says:

    Martin, thanks for sharing this great thoughts! I am sure that most people agree that this development goes in the wrong direction, especially when being confronted with the collateral effects. But, at the same time most will have a sound explanation why being well off financially is existential.
    My action 1: further spread this questions. My action 2: Replace a certain amount of financial optimization with a meaningful philosophy in everyday life.

  2. Xan Gregg says:

    It’s too bad there’s not earlier data in the graph. The high value for developing a meaningful philosophy could very well be a peak due to the 60s counterculture, with a gradual return to normal(?) levels. The rise of “well-off” importance may be independent and representing the erosion of America’s middle class: perhaps after the stagflation of the 70s, middle class was no longer enough to live comfortably. Another factor on both questions is that more people started attending college, especially during the 70s (+50% college vs +10% US pop), so the bar has been lowered in a sense for those participating in the poll.

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