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Author Topic: Can a person's worth to society be quantified?  (Read 1973 times)
They call me PR
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« on: June 27, 2012, 07:13:32 pm »
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I ask this question, because it seems to me that a disturbing number of voices implicitly suggest that this can indeed be done.
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Nathan
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2012, 07:15:15 pm »
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No. The end.
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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2012, 07:15:57 pm »
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I ask this question, because it seems to me that a disturbing number of voices implicitly suggest that this can indeed be done.

Up to a point, certainly, but not like a number on a balance sheet, no. Same concept with the quantifying the worth of posters to this site.
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2012, 09:10:17 am »
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No. The end.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2012, 09:32:50 am »
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Impossible.
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2012, 10:09:24 am »
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Sure, provided you have a specific enough definition of what constitutes "worth" that can be quantified and enough relevant data on the person in question. Of course, since it's hard to come up with a such a definition that will satisfy the majority of people such a quantification isn't going to be satisfying to most people.
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2012, 10:14:36 am »
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I agree with Dibble here completely, and am glad he said it more succinctly than I would have.
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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2012, 10:32:13 am »
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I agree with Dibble here completely, and am glad he said it more succinctly than I would have.
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2012, 12:11:50 pm »
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Well, let me rephrase: Dibble's entirely right with regards to whether it can be quantified, which I suppose is technically the question being asked, but it sure as anything shouldn't be.
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2012, 01:05:25 pm »
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"Worth" is not a thing, so no. I suppose if you came up with a definition thereof you could try.
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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2012, 01:05:40 pm »
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Value of services provided (for others' quality of life etc) minus net pay taken home?

Now all we need is a definition for the first part of that equation... oh wait. Not helping much.
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« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2012, 01:33:32 pm »
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Well, let me rephrase: Dibble's entirely right with regards to whether it can be quantified, which I suppose is technically the question being asked, but it sure as anything shouldn't be.

I can't say it shouldn't be quantified either. It's just data at that point. It's what you do with the data that matters.
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« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2012, 01:35:07 pm »
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Well, let me rephrase: Dibble's entirely right with regards to whether it can be quantified, which I suppose is technically the question being asked, but it sure as anything shouldn't be.

I can't say it shouldn't be quantified either. It's just data at that point. It's what you do with the data that matters.

I'd have to respectfully disagree on that. Bothering to gather such data itself has implications I don't like.
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« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2012, 01:40:45 pm »
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Only if you define 'worth to society' in a way that has very little to do with 'worth'.
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« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2012, 05:46:17 am »
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Is there not though an extent to which, in many of their functions, governments must make judgements as to what persons 'worth' is to society all the time?

Decisions in public health care systems have to be made as to budgets - certain drugs, vaccinations, procedures, etc. may be made available to people at least in part of the basis of their cost. Similarly, decisions on various health and safety matters (mandating the fitting of seat-belts; how much you're willing to spend on fire-fighting services or flood protection; regulations on ensuring various dangerous matters don't enter the food chain) also imply a level of worth on human lives.

Governments must make judgements in terms of the value of individuals outside their societies as well - in terms of how they operate their foreign policies, most visible maybe in decision-making as to various military interventions, or just how much foreign aid they're willing to direct toward saving lives overseas.

Now, obviously, each of these various examples involve decisions relating to all manner of other things as well, but I do think they infer a certain amount of information as to how societies, through their governments, do (and indeed must) maintain some sort of sense as to the 'worth' of the individual.
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« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2012, 05:49:24 pm »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified--but you'd need almost God-like knowledge to do it properly. Without near-perfect information, such a metric would be inherently biased and borderline useless except in highly restricted contexts. So, pretty much what Dibble said.

I'm not sure what the ends to assigning such a number would be though. There are far too many negative uses that I can concieve of whereas there are many fewer positive ones.

Edit: Also, the equations you would have to use would be so interreliant and so multiplicitous that they might not be able to be solved adequately. You'd probably need really complicated vectors and partial differential equations. Not something I'd want to try.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2012, 06:03:12 pm by realisticidealist »Logged

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« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2012, 10:04:17 pm »
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Well, everybody assigns groups of people rough values on first sight; it's called stereotyping.  The idea that stereotyping can be refined to a scientific discipline should come as no surprise.  Data mining companies already exist to track your every move on the internet, constantly building a profile of you for add targeting.  I don't know why a government could not take that data and run it through an algorithm to assign you a "value" based upon certain measurements.

Would such a "value" mean anything?  It would certainly have any real world ramifications.  We have already seen something similar with Klout scores, where tweet-padders get prices reduced on goods and services.  If the government or major corporations were to assigns scores based upon all of the data that miners collect on each one of us, the consequences could be much more profound.  Imagine if you were denied higher education because your hypothetical "score" was too low.

None of that is to say that such a score would be meaningful from a philosophical perspective.  You are you, and comparing one person proves little.  But humans will be humans, and I worry attempts to assign people artificial values without their knowledge is one surprise the future has in store for us.
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« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2012, 01:56:53 am »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified
I think hyper-rationalism like this is misguided.  Some things aren't quantitative, and to try to make you are asking for distortion and neglect of something important.    A person's worth to society is a fuzzy concept outside of a particular tradition about it.  You can limit your definition of worth to things that can be quantified, and limit your definition of society to some discrete, static entity in a transactional relation to an individual.  But that just answers the question with a tautology. The only thing you are measuring then is the extent of your own model.
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« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2012, 02:36:40 am »
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     Probably in some sense, though I question the usefulness of such a measure. If you want to talk about the worth of other people, your own point of view as a human being is what's most relevant, rather than that of any such abstract entity as "society". Unless you're an android, your assessment depends on subjective, non-quantifiable factors.
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« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2012, 10:23:33 am »
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The very concept of 'worth to society' is useful only in revealing the utter cluelessness of those who believe in such a thing.
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« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2012, 02:02:33 pm »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified
I think hyper-rationalism like this is misguided.  Some things aren't quantitative, and to try to make you are asking for distortion and neglect of something important.    A person's worth to society is a fuzzy concept outside of a particular tradition about it.  You can limit your definition of worth to things that can be quantified, and limit your definition of society to some discrete, static entity in a transactional relation to an individual.  But that just answers the question with a tautology. The only thing you are measuring then is the extent of your own model.

Good post.
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« Reply #21 on: July 03, 2012, 05:12:28 pm »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified
I think hyper-rationalism like this is misguided.  Some things aren't quantitative, and to try to make you are asking for distortion and neglect of something important.    A person's worth to society is a fuzzy concept outside of a particular tradition about it.  You can limit your definition of worth to things that can be quantified, and limit your definition of society to some discrete, static entity in a transactional relation to an individual.  But that just answers the question with a tautology. The only thing you are measuring then is the extent of your own model.

Did you read the rest of my post?
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« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2012, 05:17:21 pm »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified
I think hyper-rationalism like this is misguided.  Some things aren't quantitative, and to try to make you are asking for distortion and neglect of something important.    A person's worth to society is a fuzzy concept outside of a particular tradition about it.  You can limit your definition of worth to things that can be quantified, and limit your definition of society to some discrete, static entity in a transactional relation to an individual.  But that just answers the question with a tautology. The only thing you are measuring then is the extent of your own model.

Did you read the rest of my post?

I certainly did at least and still think it is wrong (misguided, really).
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Quote
Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2012, 05:29:51 pm »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified
I think hyper-rationalism like this is misguided.  Some things aren't quantitative, and to try to make you are asking for distortion and neglect of something important.    A person's worth to society is a fuzzy concept outside of a particular tradition about it.  You can limit your definition of worth to things that can be quantified, and limit your definition of society to some discrete, static entity in a transactional relation to an individual.  But that just answers the question with a tautology. The only thing you are measuring then is the extent of your own model.

Did you read the rest of my post?

I certainly did at least and still think it is wrong (misguided, really).

My point is that it is hypothetically possible to quantify anything in the general sense of the term, but that it's effectively impossible to do so with any accuracy without omniscience (ie extremely detailed and accurate data), which doesn't exist for humanity. In that sense, I agree with shua's post. However, I disagree with the notion that unquantifiable things exist; I believe that some things are insufficiently quantifiable to an objective standard, but that doesn't mean you can't, through some process, assign such a value. To me, saying you can't quantify something at all says that you aren't trying hard enough. If that's misguided, so be it, but it's generally a moot point anyway.
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« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2012, 07:43:57 pm »
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Of course it can--anything can be quantified
I think hyper-rationalism like this is misguided.  Some things aren't quantitative, and to try to make you are asking for distortion and neglect of something important.    A person's worth to society is a fuzzy concept outside of a particular tradition about it.  You can limit your definition of worth to things that can be quantified, and limit your definition of society to some discrete, static entity in a transactional relation to an individual.  But that just answers the question with a tautology. The only thing you are measuring then is the extent of your own model.

Did you read the rest of my post?

I certainly did at least and still think it is wrong (misguided, really).

My point is that it is hypothetically possible to quantify anything in the general sense of the term, but that it's effectively impossible to do so with any accuracy without omniscience (ie extremely detailed and accurate data), which doesn't exist for humanity. In that sense, I agree with shua's post. However, I disagree with the notion that unquantifiable things exist; I believe that some things are insufficiently quantifiable to an objective standard, but that doesn't mean you can't, through some process, assign such a value. To me, saying you can't quantify something at all says that you aren't trying hard enough. If that's misguided, so be it, but it's generally a moot point anyway.

I understand what you are saying but it is complete nonsense. The reason why we can't quantify 'value' is because simply the term has no fixed meaning and can only be based on entirely subjective premises. "Value" is an abstract concept like "love" or "happiness", now I don't suppose you can quantify either of those two even if we were omniscience.
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Quote
Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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