Regarding a Human Capital Index - what would be good to measure? (and kudos to forward thinkers here)

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Nov 13, 2014, 1:44:12 PM11/13/14
I was looking to update a draft (and unofficial ) roadmap to a steady state economy viewable here:  

One bit of that was a hypothetical Human Capital Index, as part of changing how we measure progress.  That draft HCI idea from SteadyStaters was put out in February 2013.  Great minds must think alike, later that year in October the World Economic Forum put out a first stab at a Human Capital Index:  

It would be kidding oneself to think the WEF got the idea from here.  But it's nice to reflect upon how groups like this can be way out in front of the herd with new ideas and insights :)

The WEF version has four pillars:  education, health, employment and skills, and a general "enabling environment" such as availability of public transportation, Internet access, the rule of law over the rule of man.

The HCI formula outlined here in February 2013 was similar but did not include "enabling environment" factors a la WEF, while including personal debt load, incarceration rates, and toxin loads per person.   

It would be great to get a fresh sense of what should be the components of any Human Capital Index.  I'd love to hear any thoughts.  Thanks in advance for any input.  My hope is to update the unofficial steady state roadmap diagram with better ideas, in particular ideas that would be somewhat attractive to status quo institutions.

Ishi Crew

Nov 16, 2014, 12:21:38 AM11/16/14
I'm not quite sure what to comment---maybe i'm just speechless.   I have dealt with people in a range os social positions/contexts; so sometimes I'm talking to someone in their 20's with a PhD in mathematics who just got some influential paper published and also won a prize in math;  other times I'm talking to someone in the 50's who just learned to read for the first time and do basic math (and sometimes their motivation for becoming literate is so they can read the bible).  Or one has young people, who are producing little plays, books, or CD's, or doing sports,  with the hope they will have careers in these fields (some at the age of 15 already are designing their own brands of tennis shoes, etc. along the lines of 'air jordans'; I knew who was eventually happy to be a coach at a community college).

There are 1000's of studies of human capital going way back.  Am I supposed to be impressed that the well funded WEF manage to find 4 dimensions to combine into an indicator, or any other kind of recipe for different ones (there's one on the web with 100 dimensions). Or that a possibly volunteer project came up with the same sort of thing?  (And all of these I think more or less are covered by Daly and Cobb etc.)

Naomi Klein has a new book out saying a) she discopvered the problem of global warming in 2008 ---- one of those eureka moments geniuses have--- and b) has decided capitalism is the source problem and c) the solution is to use the 2000 watt energy use criteria developed much earlier for what people need (ie the correct ecological footprint).  Of course, she herself likely cannot nor would actually sacrifice anything so she just wants to put the idea out theere, get a consensus, and another book tour and cash money. This is like Thomas Jefferson---he put it out there that  slavery was an abomination, but he personally needed slaves.  Or Some Ivy Leagye PhD sociologists I have come acrosss---grew up affluent, went to grad school in sociology, and learned that 'inequality' and poverty ' are problems.  Now they want a grant, a research group, and tenure at an Ivy with a large salary plus all the percs (free computing, sectrearial and computer services, janitors, faculty club, conference travel, etc. to study the problem with an aim of solving it.  Lots of people seem to think Piketty discovered inequality.   

One has this huge beurocracy re-inventing the wheel (or like WEF----processing science into 'wonder brerad form' palatable to the general public who  otherwise wouldn't eat flour based food).  

It may be a steady state economy (whatever that is, or which one---i like the 'heat death of the universe idea, where steady state is considered to be thermodynamic equilibrium,. and everything essentially decomposed into a photon gas---no humans, animals, or elements, just heat and light) may have to arise through 'social marketing' in this manner (slavery was partly abolished through the work of early PR people, called pamphleteers, and US democracy via Paine arrived the same way.  Ive known people in math and sciences who say while they do the actual science at their unviersities, the 'human relaions' people, admninistrators, conflict resolution specialists and management consultants, actually make more money and constitute more staff than the people who do the work.  Math people often will say they teach higher  math of various sorts  to many people, but the fact is most people have no use for it in practice, and can never get a job using it because there's only a need for a relativiely few mathematicians in this economy. ITs really like literature quite often (and similarily, like art in general, often noone knows if its any good) .  Is Harry Potter really worth 100's millions $, rush limbaugh john stewart, jayZ , some sports or movie  star?   Someone i came across just wrtoe an intrio econ textbook----i pointed out university libraries are loaded with them.  Why not do something new, like invent a new flavor of potato chip or video game, or organize walmart workers or go to china and work in a factory to provide walmart and lower the burden on sweatshop workers? 

Maybe the solution would instead be to recognize the WEF report is a major advance, and one should hire more staff there and raise their salaries, improve their human capital by having some management consultant come in to teach them how to tie their shoes without getting in an argument, and which fine wines are the most correct and trendy, and hire me to oversee the restructuring (at say 1000:1 salary rastio between me and the lowest paid WEF worker)..         

Cole Thompson

Nov 16, 2014, 1:18:15 PM11/16/14
Yeah, I guess I was having a vainglorious moment there, good catch.  Perhaps there's a way to get the WEF to work in incarceration rates in their index.  That was the thing that seemed like a glaring omission in the context of human capital (and would help focus attention where it's needed)

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Ishi Crew

Nov 17, 2014, 2:09:36 PM11/17/14
i don't have a problem with anyone trying to do anything----i used to try to solve unsolved problems in math and such even though i had relatively little background (ie no phd)---but then i checked out the literature; one thing i found was almost every reasonable idea i had had already been checked out. (some others are still in research phase). 

 i'm not sure what the effect on human capital is of trying to DIY versus researching what has been done before. is it better to reinvent the wheel or go to the store to buy one?) 

 maybe WEF folks could try being incarcerated to see how that works on their human capital (i have been but just overnite for fairly minor infractions like drinking on the street---since its cheaper than going to a bar---and building a fire outside where it wasnt permitted.    being in jail is a waste of human capital, but of course it helps create a class structure. 

Amartya Sen's 'capability' approach (although i'm not a really big fan) i think is the way to go---but its just 'human ecology'. 

   i went to a group just to check it out   ---supposedly about rationality and run in part by phd's in math, etc.  they were talking about 'to do lists'---i thought it was going to be general, but it was more like 'should i do the laundry first'.  i was thinking they were going to talk about 'what to do'---what goes on the list?---and do we need a list?   just like human capital---how many factors or dimensions?  (i also had a problem with some dude cuz last time i tried to go i went to the wrong place, spoke out of turn, and this guy threatened to call the police on me; he was there yesterday and saw me and threatend me again as if he owned the place ,  but its a big place so he left me alone.  the group really sucked (nice people i guess but stupid and boring as f-k)---i know how to do laundry (and i dont use a machine). they are big into internet/programming though so in many ways they have alot of 'human capital'.
    as someone said 'a profusion of means, a confusion of ends' (einstein).
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