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Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics


Uncritical Strategic Dependence on Little-known Metrics
Gaussian Copula: investment risk
Kaya Identity: emissions
Sustainability metric
Other fundamental "metrics" ?
Secret formulae?
Metrics: a measure other than human?

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Produced on the occasion of the problematic culmination of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (2009) apparently based on a particular use of a single metric.


The unprecedented financial crisis of 2008 revealed the uncritical dependence of the global financial community and, by extension, the economic system, on the innovative risk-management formula of David X. Li known as the Gaussian Copula function -- subsequently described as "the secret fomula that destroyed Wall Street".

The debate on climate change, informed by the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, culminating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009), has essentially been based on the Kaya Identity. This is an equation, little known to climate debaters and negotiators, relating factors that determine the level of human impact on climate, in the form of emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

As metrics both formulae have been positioned, with little question, as fundamental to global strategic initiatives. The first example indicates the danger of such dependence. The second raises questions about the coherence of the debate on climate change -- at a time when scientists are vigorously claiming a global consensus on the matter. But of greater concern is the possible existence of other such metrics which have been placed at the heart of strategic initiatives -- unknown to those who might question this tendency to single-metric dependence, the validity of the metric, or the use of other such metrics as the basis for other vital strategies, whether now or in the future.

The theme follows from an earlier exploration of Comprehensive Formulations and their Cognitive Challenge (2009), itself part of a continuing interest summarized in Unexplored Potential of Mathematics and Geometry -- in reframing psycho-social challenges (2008). It also relates to concern for indicators of the capacity to act in the light of indicators of problematic conditions, as originally explored in the context of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development ( GPID) project of the United Nations University (Remedial Capacity Indicators Versus Performance Indicators, 1981).

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