Global Crisis of Measurement

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* Article: Desperate Measures: Global Crises of Measurement and Their Meta-Theoretical Solutions. By Zachary Stein.(Meridian University Center for Integral Wisdom). Paper prepared for the 4th Biannual Integral Theory Conference, Sonoma, CA. July 2015



"Measurement infrastructures come in many forms and impact our lives in many ways, from the intimacy of psychometrics and biometrics, to the anonymity of econometrics and global climate change indicators. This paper explores the need for meta-theoretical approaches that address measurement infrastructures in terms of the ethical, political, and metaphysical aspects of our current global crises of measurement. This term—global crises of measurement—is meant to convey the fact that, despite appearances, the majority of our global challenges revolve around measurement infrastructures. For example, the recent economic crisis was largely the result of inadequate and deceptive econometric practices (e.g., the ratings applied to collateralized debt obligations), while the ecological crisis continues to revolve around disputes over, and innovations in, measurement (e.g., calculations of global temperature changes). Measurement infrastructures function to generate (and impose) a shared understanding of the world, and in so doing literally create realities; whether these realties are true, good, and beautiful is another matter. Measures and their related standards also facilitate complexly coordinated social actions and set the terms by which a wide range of evaluative judgments are made, from those about the self (bathroom scale; IQ) to those about whole countries (GDP). Recent decades have brought a rapid proliferation of measurement infrastructures and related forms of standardization, which impact the most intimate details of our lives and the most significant planetary initiatives. A metatheoretical approach is needed that can expose the false realities created by inadequate and oppressive measurement practices as well as inform the creation of new approaches to the representation of complex global realities, including transactions involving nonmonetary value, psychological interiority, and non-linear dynamical systems. This paper takes the first steps toward outlining just such a meta-theory of measurement, drawing heavily on the work of Ken Wilber and Roy Bhaskar."