I run with a gps watch that records my location, pace, heart rate, cadence and more. I have amassed an archive of data that I rely on for my marathon training. The data is so addicting that if I am out on a run and my watch battery dies, I want to stop. If the data isn’t recorded it feels like the run never happened.
Sometimes I wonder if I run for the joy of running or because I am a data junky.
The quantified self is coming. When it arrives you will wonder how primitive people functioned in the fog of uncertainty.
It won’t be long until we are surrounded by sensors that collect nearly infinite data, computers that purify it to maximum potency, and invisible devices that pump the data into your brain.
You will trust your devices to tell you what to eat, when to sleep, where to go, what you should know, and how to become the optimized version of yourself.
We already understand how addictive this kind of data can be. The tiny rush you get when someone likes your Facebook post, the irresistible urge to pull your phone out of your pocket, the morphine drip of social networks — that’s not going away. It is going to grow in potency, but it will also decrease in visibility.
While we might imagine our future selves covered in an exoskeleton of tech, it will actually get smaller and smaller until it is invisibly embedded in everything. Today is the awkward phase where we hold computers at arm’s length covered in protective plastic. Tomorrow the data drug will bypass the phone in invisible ways that feel natural.
When there is a computer in your body A/B split testing different stimulus, do you think it is going to curate your thoughts with challenging ideas? Unlikely.
No, it will give you a hit of the data that reinforces your addiction.
This is already playing out on Facebook. Each of us sees a feed that has been algorithmically optimized for our individual pleasure. When we realize that other people see a different stream we shout, “fake news.” We are incapable of seeing a reality that deviates from the data we depend on to define us.
If we can’t see the danger of a data-driven future when it is on our plus-sized screens, how will we be able to battle it when the tech becomes embedded invisibly in ourselves and our environment?
The fruits of data are usually ugly. The internet is covered in ads, click-bait, and dark design patterns. This is where you end up when you are lead by data. Is it a stretch to expect the same corruption of our selves as we become quantified?
I thank you for reading because every Saturday I test the potency of my ideas on my unsuspecting followers and your shares and follows help feed my addiction. Stay creative.