Optimizing GDP is silly. All anti-capitalists know this.
Optimizing GDP is silly. All anti-capitalists know this. First of all, it does not take into account untraded value. If you cut your own hair, cook for your child (and don't charge the dinner from their pocket money), or contribute to wikipedia or linux, you produced value for someone, but did not increase GDP.
Second, GDP does not take into account how much natural resources were used up during a commercial activity. If you happen to be born on an oil field and sell this to oil miners, you earned money but you did not yourself do anything useful. The value of the oil already existed before you started working with it.
So a better measure for how much value is created in the world would be to add up the value each person creates. If you cut your own hair, you saved 10 or 20 euros which a hair dresser of the same skill level would have cost you.
There are of course some jobs only you can do (e.g. taking a shower), so there it's not so easy to see how much it would have cost to make someone else do it, but there you could maybe see how much time and effort went into them, to estimate their value.
Some activities just create value by being fun. Playing a game, for instance. They don't necessarily produce any value that outlasts the activity itself. Having fun creates value, but it does not produce value. I think a good measure to optimize (as a replacement for GDP) would be the sum over all members of humankind, of how much value each of us produces.
A lot of value we produce is not everlasting. If you build a house, this will last for, say, 100 years, and after that its value has been consumed. The builder of the house produced value, but its inhabitants consumed this value again, and the total end result is a value of zero, produced by that society as a whole.
There might be a civilization that appears on an island, lives there for a while, and then disappears again. What is the value that was produced by that civilization? They probably produced mainly garbage on the island, and disturbed its ecosystem. But even that effect will be back to zero if you wait 100 or 1000 years after they are gone.
Some activities destroy value. After you mine an oilfield, it's gone. You extracted pre-existing value rather than creating it. But on the other hand, if nobody uses these oilfields, they are useless. They are underground in a place where they don't affect the biosphere.
The damage comes when using oil leads to exhaust fumes and climate change. But even climate change is in itself likely to be only a transient effect. What are the everlasting effects of our labour?
I think there are two: the creation of public knowledge, and the destruction of natural beauty. Adding to wikipedia or linux, you produce value that will likely live on, probably through numerous transformations, for thousands of years. Destroying biodiversity and untouched landscapes by cutting down rainforest so far that they can't grow back and species go extinct, is damage that is equally irreversible.
We will probably manage the transition to a world where we have run out of oil, and climates tend to change back and forth in less than 100 years as well, so instability from greenhouse gases may also be reverted after we stop the damaging activity.
What will the past century be remembered for in 1000 years from now? I think quite a lot: the invention of electronics, the moonlanding, the rise of capitalism, and the rise of global travel and communication.
The coming century may be remembered for the depletion of the oil fields, the destruction of the rainforest, solving the drinking water problem, the rise of veganism maybe, and the completion of capitalism as everybody will become so rich and so eco-aware that money no longer controls their actions so much. Who knows. :)
The effect of most of our value production will be long gone in 1000 years. It's only production of transient value. The total output of a century of mankind is in what everlasting value it creates (public knowledge, including software and art) and in what everlasting value it destroys (natural beauty, including biodiversity and untouched landscapes).