Wise Metrics

We have started thinking about a Wise Metrics Project. What might it mean to measure societies by altogether different metrics, that put wisdom at their heart, rather than economic metrics like GDP? And how might we go about doing this?

The Vision

Currently, societies are mostly measured against a narrow set of material and market-based metrics, such as their Gross Domestic Product.  This prioritisation shapes and distorts our conception of what a ‘successful’ country looks like: the best society is the one that produces the most. These metrics do not consider a country’s wisdom as important when ranking and measuring success. Although there is a move towards a discussion of ‘Gross National Happiness’, in academic circles and in governments like Bhutan, there does not exist a sustained effort to measure the deeper and distinct characteristic of wisdom. 

At Life Itself, we believe wisdom should be at the heart of the definition of how we measure and value success and progress. Accordingly, one of our ongoing projects is to create the first Wisdom Index: a way to use data to measure and score societal wisdom (and wellness). The purpose of this is twofold. Firstly, these metrics will track our existing progress towards a wiser and weller world. Secondly, placing our emphasis on these metrics will shift the debate on the meaning of ‘success’ and change the focus of the conversation, stimulating citizens and leaders to increasingly consider and prioritise wisdom.


Data collection

  1. Brainstorm metrics that are indicative of a wise society. Some examples include rates of loneliness, percentage of families that eat dinner together, subjective well being, etc. 
  2. Gather sources of global data (the World Values Survey, Our World In Data, European Social Survey, other forms) and search these sources for existing data on the metrics identified in stage one (data sleuthing).

3. Begin to identify other potentially relevant metrics (that were not thought of in stage 1) while searching the sources of global data.

Index generation

Once we have an agreed set of metrics to comprise the Wisdom Index, we will transcribe the data onto an excel spreadsheet. The overall output will be a score for each country that serves to rank it against other countries based on its wisdom. Ultimately, we can identify which societies are presently wise and unwise, and how this has changed over time.

Get involved 

We would love to hear from you and get input on this exciting project. Here are the areas that you could get involved with:

  1. We want to know what you think about wisdom. Which data can we gather to help determine which societies are the wisest? And which data do not yet exist that we should be measuring to help understand what a wise society would look like?
  2. We want research volunteers for the project. Right now, we are looking for people to work on the World Values Survey, a fascinating global questionnaire that is very useful to our project of measuring wisdom. The work will involve reading through and transcribing the questions from this survey, which are organised under headings such as ‘wellbeing and happiness’, ‘social values’ and ‘political culture’. There is a lot to transcribe, so we would welcome multiple volunteers working on the project. It’s not a long task – just a couple of hours here and there would be a great help. We are also hoping to open up opportunities for voluntary work on other surveys such as the European Social Survey, so stay tuned!

If you think you could help us, please do get in touch! Send us an email at [email protected] with ‘Wise Metrics’ in the subject line, and specify how you would like to get involved. We would look forward to hearing from you!