Marvelous counting machines everywhere, but what should we count?

From Internet ads to Iraq, we're struggling to figure out what to count.

We have the greatest machines in history. We have a 3,000-year-old toolbox brimming with mathematical and statistical marvels. We have people who create data every time they turn on a computer, whip out a credit card or race through a toll booth.

All the pieces are in place for us to really understand ourselves and turn the messiness of our lives into a science… If only we new what to count.

Jeff Jarvis points to this problem in Internet advertising. Heather adds her thoughts.

But the counting problem spreads far beyond the Internet. How do we measure success or failure in Iraq? How do we measure successful schools? We have trouble even figuring out which votes to count. All the counting and measuring technology is worthless if we count the wrong things. If that happens, we might as well go back to trusting our gut.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.