Unmeasurable Distances

I wrote earlier about the many different ways to measure distance. One way I didn’t include is unmeasurable distance.

Sometimes A is

  • tastier,
  • sexier,
  • cooler,
  • more interesting,
  • or otherwise better endowed

than B … but it’s impossible to quantify by how much. No problem; just say that A≻B but that |A−B| is undefined.

It’s still the case that if A is sexier than B and B is sexier than C, it must follow that A is sexier than C.

Symbolically: A≻B & B≻C A≻C.

This concept opens up many parts of human experience to the mathematical imagination.

I will also express my view on moral rates of income tax using orderings ≻.

Oh, and if you’re into this kind of thing: using orders instead of measurable quantities kind of saved the economic concept of “utility”. Kind of saved it. At least instead of talking about 174.27819 hedons, nowadays you can just say X is lexicographically preferred to Y. Ordinal utility instead of cardinal utility.


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