Many of us are enrolled in the modern school of metrics. 
Measurement. Statistics. Data and Data Visualization.

When we come upon anything complex, all of us use various metrics in an attempt to characterize it, understand it, shape it and forecast it.

Here are five examples of commonly used metrics.

1. Blood Pressure

Force originating when the heart‘s pumping pushes the blood against the walls of the blood vessels. Their stretching and contraction help maintain blood flow. Usually measured over an arm or leg artery in humans, blood pressure is expressed as two numbers; normal adult blood pressure is about 120/80 mm of mercury. The higher number (systolic) is measured when the heart’s ventricles contract and the lower (diastolic) when they relax. 

2. Gas Mileage

The ratio of the number of miles traveled to the number of gallons of gasoline burned.

3. Profits

The excess of returns over expenditure in a transaction or series of transactions; especially
: the excess of the selling price of goods over their cost.
: net income usually for a given period of time.
: the ratio of profit for a given year to the amount of capital invested or to the value of sales.

4. Calories

According to the National Data Lab (NDL), most of the calorie values in the USDA and industry food tables are based on an indirect calorie estimation made using the so-called Atwater system. In this system, calories are not determined directly by burning the foods. Instead, the total caloric value is calculated by adding up the calories provided by the energy-containing nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol. Because carbohydrates contain some fiber that is not digested and utilized by the body, the fiber component is usually subtracted from the total carbohydrate before calculating the calories.
The Atwater system uses the average values of 4 Kcal/g for protein, 4 Kcal/g for carbohydrate, and 9 Kcal/g for fat. Alcohol is calculated at 7 Kcal/g (These numbers were originally determined by burning and then averaging). Thus the label on an energy bar that contains 10 g of protein, 20 g of carbohydrate and 9 g of fat would read 201 kcals or Calories.

a : the amount of heat required at a pressure of one atmosphere to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius that is equal to about 4.19 joules —abbreviation cal —called also gram calorie, small calorie
b : the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius : 1000 gram calories or 3.968 Btu —abbreviation Cal —called also large calorie

a : a unit equivalent to the large calorie expressing heat-producing or energy-producing value in food when oxidized in the body
b : an amount of food having an energy-producing value of one large calorie

5. Dow Jones Industrial Average and Stock Prices

The Dow Jones Industrial Average or simply the Dow, is a stock market index, and one of several indices created by Wall Street Journal editor and Dow Jones & Company co-founder Charles Dow. It was founded on May 26, 1896, and is now owned by Dow Jones Indexes, which is majority owned by the CME Group. It is an index that shows how 30 large publicly-owned companies based in the United States have traded during a standard trading session in the stock market. The average is price-weighted, and to compensate for the effects of stock splits and other adjustments, it is currently a scaled average. The value of the Dow is not the actual average of the prices of its component stocks, but rather the sum of the component prices divided by a divisor, which changes whenever one of the component stocks has a stock split or stock dividend, so as to generate a consistent value for the index.
Along with the NASDAQ Composite, the S&P 500 Index, and the Russell 2000 Index, the Dow is among the most closely watched U.S. benchmark indices tracking targeted stock market activity. Although Dow compiled the index to gauge the performance of the industrial sector within the American economy, the index’s performance continues to be influenced by not only corporate and economic reports, but also by domestic and foreign political events such as war and terrorism, as well as by natural disasters that could potentially lead to economic harm.


Each of these metrics catastrophically fail at systemic accuracy:

• Blood Pressure
• Gas Mileage
• Calories
• Profits
• Dow Jones Industrial Average/Stock Price

And many more commonly used metrics also fail the proof process of systemic accuracy:
Poverty, Child Development, Cost, Temperature, SAT Test Scores, Cleanliness, Global Warming, Water Quality, Disability, Audience Size, Internet Useage, Unemployment… 

No single metric, ever, accurately signifies the comprehensive systemic contextual understanding of anything complex or important.

Blood Pressure

Many blood pressure measurements do not accurately measure blood pressure. Errors in equipment, cuff placement, body positioning, patient stabilization, multiple readings, consistency across readings and body nuance can lead to significant inaccuracies in data capture.

If the blood pressure measurements are accurately captured, which they most often are not, they may not represent a stable average that can be referenced as the basis for intervention. The patient’s state, the time of day, the choice of arms, the positioning of the cuff, the positioning of the patient, prior exercise/food intake/stress, different equipment, different techniques etc. all may cause inconsistent readings across time.

If the complex process of obtaining an accurate and consistent basis reading of blood pressure is achieved for an individual, longitudinal readings captured using the same process need to be compared for the determination of individual norms and change.

Every person is different.

As people age, blood pressure often changes as a result of age. Some people live their lives at higher or lower blood pressures than the standard. Different countries may use different blood pressure standards. An individual’s blood pressure pattern should be captured over their lifetime as context. We do not mean to discount medical advice that high blood pressure is indeed a significant contributor to various health risks and future problems.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, accurate blood pressure readings do not tell the whole systemic story. There are family histories, genetics, predispositions, symptoms, behaviors (smoking,exercise, diet etc.), stress, infection, disease, arterial plaque, arterial wall changes, that all have to be taken into consideration. Blood pressure is a useful health screening marker if accurate and longitudinal, but it cannot be relied upon to define the state of health of a complex human being without many more metrics, and even more dynamic systemic semiotic modeling. 

Gas Mileage

The average measurements of gas mileage does describe the efficiency of the automobile in a standard way.

However, if real life does not follow a standard, and it never does, then even the basic calculation of gas mileage has to consider tire inflation, tire characteristics, driving patterns, terrain patterns, automobile maintenance, the weight of passengers and baggage, traffic patterns, road materials and wind/rain, etc…

From a societal point of view, a systemic point of view, there are alternatives that all need to be considered and compared. A complete assessment of the vehicle and the form of transportation needs to consider and measure at least the effect of combustion on health and climate, the average miles traveled by drivers, the source and cost of the fuel, the process of producing the fuel and its effects, the time expended on fueling, the cost of fuel transportation and storage, the maintenance of roads, crash injuries, lost time in a box,  the effect of the fuel on ground water, the effect of fuel vapors, the valuation of alternative forms of fuel and transportation, speed limits, traffic and idling controls, vehicle shape, size and weight, vehicle resistance, tires, combustion temperature output, etc.

The systemics that accurately characterize the choice of fuels and modes of transportation, their costs and benefits relative to other choices, are complex and essential to model via dynamic semiotics. Simple metrics mislead, misinform and misjudge the importance of comprehensive understandings.


Calories are a very rough approximation of what happens to food as it is processed in a person’s body. We know the basic caloric categories used by the food industry do not accurately describe differences among  foods in the same caloric grouping.



We know people have different metabolisms. We know the biotic makeup of people’s food processing organs can be very different. If we are most interested in how what we eat contributes directly to weight gain, or health, or where the food nutrients go and what they do, or how much of the food mass is expelled as waste, it can be studied and systemic models can be constructed specifically for each person or class of similar people. Food input, processing and output must be measured in context with exercise, eating habits, systemic cycles, alternatives etc. Calories do not accurately correlate with weight gain for every type of food, calories are not indicative of the systemic benefits or detriments of a particular food or diet, and calories do not characterize the individuality of every body.

The distorted and primitive way we measure calories and apply that single number to our selection of foods for our own body is a crime against systemic knowledge. We know the single measure of calories is inaccurate and grossly inaccurate systemically. We deserve a dynamic systemic way to view all of the variables in play before they go into, through and out of our body.


The measure of profits invites the user to believe profits is the essential component in the measure of the health or performance of a corporation. We know, however, that profit reporting can and is adjusted and manipulated within sometimes large tolerances, that nuances of accounting and law allow certain significant adjustments and manipulations of the reported metrics, that large profits today coupled with large avoidable losses tomorrow make the measure of those large initial profits misleading at best, and that investments in people and quality and society and future performance mask through profit the more accurate measures of a company’s health.

And systemically, we must know that a pure focus on profit for profit’s sake, or growth for growth’s sake, as THE objectives for shareholders and their anointed corporate hierarchy, is human suicide. If the achievement of profit and growth despoils the earth, bakes the planet, poisons the life, extracts wealth from all but the 1%, denies investment in nurture, equality, the pursuit of truth and systemic continuity, values paper wealth versus people’s health and wellbeing and rewards harms and governments that enable harms to be committed, how is this not suicide by proxy.

Dow Jones Industrial Average/Stock Prices

The DJIA is based not on company performance but on stock price. It is not based upon profits or dividends or strategic positioning, but on current stock price. Stock price is based upon current events, large institutional objectives, algorithmic predetermined stock purchase optimizations, cyclical reporting motivations, growth potential vs performance potential, future threats and more…..

The DJIA reinforces the inherited idea that a stock market is the best metric to gauge the success or failure of a company or even an economy. The DJIA serves the market and the shareholders in the market. It does not provide an accurate indicator of anything beyond how a small number of influential people in the specific market value certain companies. It has become more of an insider owned game, a ponzi scheme of sorts, with the potential for large growth trumping the value of a solid sustainable company treating its employees as precious shareholders, treating the people of the earth as precious shareholders and treating itself as an agent of the people, not as a rogue nation doing whatever it wishes for its own benefit. 

There can be alternative ways to invest in a company. There can be alternative ways to benefit from the performance of a company. There can be alternative objectives and metrics to assess the value of the company to society, to the community, to the employees and to its future potential. 
Companies can be assessed by the quality of its products and services, by how it treats its employees as well as its shareholders, by how it interacts with the world around it and adds value.

And in case you forget, companies are a concentrated group of people with SWAY. And companies exist because we, the people, through our government, also people by the way, invented a structure and system of reporting and regulation that conceived the corporation as an organizational extension of individual human potential. We can, and we must, reshape the objectives of government, and corporations, so that they mature into something more than a few metrics that benefit a few people at the expense of most life on earth. Governments and their Corporate inventions should be an extension of our principles and objectives – ones that embrace nurture, equality, the pursuit of truth and the systemic achievement of their potential – not simplistic metrics that are easy, effortless and disasterously schmetric.


We believe that simple incomplete metrics need to cede to systemic pattern visualizations.

We should not rely on archaic metrics to understand things that are important and complex.

We should rely on systemic models that represent the key variables, the state of those variables, the interplay of those variables, and the entire picture set against a clear set of NETS based objectives.

Semiotics. Models. Systems. Patterns. Visualizations. Complexity. Relationships. Proofs. NETS. 



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One thought on “Metrics Schmetrics

  1. Vernon E. Weckwerth of the University of Minnesota came up with a schema in the 1970s to improve accountability of nonprofit and public sector organizations.

    If I recall right, he noted that all activities can be evaluated at the following levels —

    1) Benefits (subjective utility – this level is not measurable except by each individual affected)

    2) Outcomes (externally measurable changes in the status of the target group, such as literacy rates, longevity, reduced recidivism, etc).

    3) Outputs (products such as numbers of schools, clinics, etc that are ostensibly related to outcomes)

    4) Processes (the workflow and rules that organize people, equipment and resources in creating outputs)

    5) Inputs (funds, information, people, tools etc)

    6) Intentions (the reasons people feel moved to take action)

    Many of the problems in society arise from tracking performance in terms of statistics and anecdotes from levels 3-6 (Outputs, Process, Inputs), rather than at the highest measurable level of systemic impact: Outcomes.

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