Musing #6 The “Quantified” Life

Recently, there have been news reports about Google’s new privacy policies, Google’s street view project intercepting Wi-Fi content, Facebook’s general “thank you, that’s mine” approach to what you do and where you go on the internet and then today, I saw this article on “The Quantified Life“. This is also known as “lifeblogging”.

I don’t get it. 

Why would anyone want to record everything they do, said, to whom they said it, or where they went? What need does this satisfy?

Some of the comments to this article are … at best, naive. One commenter said this would really help us to “know ourselves” better. Really?? No. I don’t think so.

You come to know yourself by taking the time to focus the reflective part of the mind on the self as you evaluate experiences you have had and the associated emotions they are wrapped in. Introspection does not need a realtime recording of all events in the day you experienced. If it did, you would never complete a reflection as it would take just as long to reflect as it did to experience in the first place. [We do need some time to sleep 😉 ]

Another comment from a “future economist” stated he was “blown away” by what we can learn “from the data”. Really? I don’t think economics suffers from a lack of data, it suffers from a lack of understanding about how humans make decisions. [IMHO, this is due to separating our emotional motivations out of the economic algorithms]. Since lifeblogging of all events in your day does not convey the emotional state of you or other people involved (and thank goodness for that), it adds little useful learning to economics as best I can tell.

And finally, this article is more interesting due to what it does not say. It does not talk about the destructive power of this information. If it’s digitally recorded assume it can be used by anyone for any reason. If it’s centrally stored, it is very easy for any government entity to get access. Finally, why would you ever provide this much personal information about your going and coming to any commercial enterprise? Do you think their motivations are more noble than the government?  Really? Truly?

I’m left with several questions:
– Is the interest in lifeblogging a symptom of an inability to be comfortable in your annonimity?
– Does it reflect a deep longing to have your existence acknowledged despite your ability to text and tweet at will?
– Are people uncomfortable with quietly engaging in deep introspection to make sense of their emotions, decisions and interactions with other people?

To quote Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”:
“Curiouser and curiouser”. 

And even more to the point:
I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

Indeed, that is the great puzzle, but I doubt a quantified life will help you put the pieces together.


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