Misery index and happiness

The original misery index was developed by the economist A. Okun back in the 1960s. Okun, who is mostly known from his Okun’s Law on unemployment and GDP, defined the misery index as being the sum of the rate of unemployment and the rate of inflation for any given time. For instance, the latest misery index for the US is 6.13:

5 [unemployment rate] + (1.13) [inflation rate] = 6.13 [misery index]

The idea behind the misery index is to capture what hurts most the ordinary people: that is the unemployment and inflation. The interesting thing is that when governments try to reduce unemployment then the inflation can increase – so ideally they try to take balanced actions that will keep both of them relatively low.

Screenshot taken from miseryindex.us

The new challenges that economies face, however, are more related with things like the deficit and GDP. So, analysts at Moody’s proposed in 2009 a new version of the index that uses the unemployment rate and the fiscal deficit as a percent of the gross domestic product. According to Moody’s this new index better reflects the challenges that the major economies of the world expect to face over the next decade or so.

Taken from http://www.economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/a-new-misery-index

Spain makes it to the top of the list, while Ireland and Greece also have high positions.

But what makes us happy really?

Now, for the longest ever study on happines see the presentation by Robert Waldinger on TED.

And we’re constantly told to lean in to work, to push harder and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life. Pictures of entire lives, of the choices that people make and how those choices work out for them, those pictures are almost impossible to get.

They set up the Harvard Study of Adult Development and for 75 years they have tracked the lives of 724 men, asking about their worklife, life at home, and health.

The main result of the study is that good relationships make us happier and healthier.

Social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.


It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.


Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.

Confronting stereotypes

Binyavanga Wainaina is a Kenyan writer and founding editor of the literary journal Kwani? in Kenya. A couple of years ago one of his articles appeared in Granta and since then it continues to inspire and provoke the literary world.

The article was titled How Not to Write About Africa where he confronts outdated and dangerous Western stereotypes of African-ess.

After celebrity activists and aid workers, conservationists are Africa’s most important people. Do not offend them. You need them to invite you to their 30,000-acre game ranch or ‘conservation area’, and this is the only way you will get to interview the celebrity activist. Often a book cover with a heroic-looking conservationist on it works magic for sales. Anybody white, tanned and wearing khaki who once had a pet antelope or a farm is a conservationist, one who is preserving Africa’s rich heritage. When interviewing him or her, do not ask how much funding they have; do not ask how much money they make off their game. Never ask how much they pay their employees.

Thought provoking, inspirational and humbling.

The fact of the matter is that many writers tend to use clichés when writing on cultures they are least used to. Not bothering to make the distinction between one headgear and another, between one type of dance and the next.

Not willing to take the time and put the effort for such distinctions results in just bad writing, and this holds not only when writing for different cultures but genders too.


From egalitarian to Iron Law?

Is it possible for a platform based on egalitarian principles to evolve to something of an Iron Law?

According to a recent paper by Bradi Heaberlin and Simon DeDeo in future internet, the wikipedia has gradually evolved away from its founding egalitarian ideals to a more or less corporate bureaucracy.

Wikipedia remains in principle a self-governing community, relying primarily on social/peer pressure to enforce the established core norms. However the development of its social hierarchy structure and online behavioral norms among its editors is changing.wiki

You start with a decentralized democratic system, but over time you get the emergence of a leadership class with privileged access to information and social networks.

The authors identified approximately 100 founding users that set the core norms governing the Wikipedia community. The community has now more than 30 000 active members.

Their interests begin to diverge from the rest of the group. They no longer have the same needs and goals. So not only do they come to gain the most power within the system, but they may use it in ways that conflict with the needs of everybody else.

Check out the extensive article from Gizmodo!