From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Quantified Self: The sum of my percentages

(Blame him...)
To look at today's data-driven culture, one might think that life's new adage reads something like this:  I compute, therefore I am.

James Wolcott tried this quantified lifestyle while researching his Vanity Fair article, "Wired up! Ready to go!"  He strapped a Fitbit Ultra activity tracker to his right wrist to record the number of
steps he took, stairs he climbed, and calories he (hopefully) burned. On his left wrist was a Jawbone Up bracelet, which recorded some of those very same (momentous, no doubt) actions (albeit with some very different results – which leads a body to wonder: what's wrong with this picture?).

In case all that self-tracking had become stressful, Wolcott came prepared.  He carried with him an emWave2 pocket-size Personal Stress Reliever, which "measures heart-rate variability (H.R.V.) and doubles as a biofeedback meditation assistant" (don't leave home without it).  For those who still have their poetic sensibilities in tact, Wolcott offers this description:  It's like a mood ring for the heart.

Now you can blame this all on modern-day technology, but the truth is that self-analytical types such as Benjamin Franklin have been tracking their lives for centuries.  Franklin's system was a bit more all-encompassing than Wolcott's; it attempted to rate such things as temperance and sincerity (a bit harder to do
than counting heartbeats).

Whereas Franklin might have asked himself, "Have I been optimally virtuous today?" – the trinity of questions from the Quantified Self movement (the "Self Knowledge Through Numbers" folks) drones on like this: What did you do? How did you do it?  What did you learn?

After attending some Quantified Self "meet-ups" (which he described as "Weight Watchers exponentialized,
an emerging neuro-cellular confraternity"), Wolcott made this prediction:  The future belongs to cool foreheads and crisp numbers – and worse yet (for some of us who prefer "moonbeams in a jar"), the future is now.       


Copyright May 8, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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