Friday, February 27, 2009 - The Ultimate for the Modern Obsession to Quantify all Experience

People have oft lamented the current generation's obsession to quantify all of its achievements. I remember when a friend of mine setup an online page to track how many UNESCO World Heritage sites his friends had been to, and how compelling it was to rack up a higher "score." Books for 1001 places to see/things to eat, etc before you die fill the bestseller list. Some may lament this obsession--I'm sure Sontag would, arguing we should live life in a state of Being as opposed to always counting--but I am happy that the new site embraces it. It is a site of lists of life's experiences, designed to help you figure out new things to try, primarily by incentivizing you to fill up lists with your accomplishments. And of course, being a new web startup, in throws in a mix of social networking and Web 2.0.

I dunno, as an economist, I think quantification of stuff is great. It was nice going through a list of things to do before you die. I have always felt I've lived a pretty full life, but nice to see that out of the top 100 for example, I've done 80+, from try scuba, to dine at the White House, to be on tv, to see the redwoods of California, ride a horse, take a dance class, go hawaii, learn html, hit 21 playing blackjack, etc. Part of it is just quantification to make yourself feel good, but it does also introduce new things I want to do (run a marathon, visit the pyramids, visit every continent, go to the olympics, etc.) that I may not have thought of. Also a good chance to sit back and reflect on good memories, and good times.

The list of 100 things to eat is also fun, each bringing back a rush of memories (my first "real" tomato, fresh berries with R's aunt and uncle atop a mountain we spent 8 hours hiking, root beer floats with my grandmother in Taiwan at age 8, vodka shots at a party freshman year, grasshoppers at part of Jose Andres' contempo empire, shark's fin soup on my night in Beijing, single malt scotch at the scotch bar with R-'s friends in Baltimore, Abalone at our Hong Kong wedding banquet, the tasting menu at Jean Georges, Goulash in Hungary, rose water ice cream where I accidentally ate the cloth rose petal, Sacher Torte at the hotel Sacher in Vienna, deep frieds Snake from the art festival in Baltimore, GiFilte Fish with a couple jewish friends during passover, baked alaska on the cruise ship).

Kinda neat.

(And relevant to my research, there is a "showing" off angle to it. It is interesting to think about how conspicuous consumption works with experiential goods. Well you can still use experiential goods to signal, you just need the right opportunity to talk about it.)

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