Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Way We Live Now

Part of the absurd fun of living after the Enlightenment is the recurring efforts to quantify the unquantifiable. At the beginning of the last century, a Massachusetts physician established to his satisfaction that the soul weighs 21 grams. And thanks to The Atlantic, I learned about this quaint 1930s metric for gauging marital satisfaction.

Two years ago Apple got a patent on sensing systems that will ultimately be able to quantify, say, the effectiveness of a karate chop. And as we all know, courts measure the unmeasurable all the time. Two weeks ago a Michigan court decided someone's mental anguish was worth $750,000.

But really all these issues pale in comparison to the question, What's my life worth? What's yours worth? It depends on whom you ask.

According to the EPA it's $9.1 million. But if you ask the Food and Drug Administration it's $7.9 million. And according to the Department of Transportation, it's $6.1 million.

Oh, well. It's not the first time the public failed to get a straight answer out of the federal government.

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