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This is definitely a good idea. ESPECIALLY if you were gagged or banned or something ya know, or you're very popular and get notifications call day though the having to click to different pages in an inevitable thing you have to do.
For activity, the number is going to be high and fluctuate constantly, as activity occurs all day. So i'm not sure how useful it would be for that. But for personal alerts it could be useful.. Personally I just roll over the nav when I see it is glowing, not sure how much knowing the number would help me.
Does not seems like something really nessesary to me. I mean, if you want to know how many notifications you did not see, you just have to open the menu and see which ones are not marked as read and/or highlighted.
Besides that... I would hate to see that similarity with other social networks. In my opinion GB is a place to get away from such networks.