The Quantified Self: Can Technology Really Measure Your Life?

Over the next few weeks, we will be bombarded with news about the latest smart watches with the Moto 360 and highly anticipated iWatch about to be unleashed on our world that is quickly filled with wearable tech.

I have already talked about the Internet of Things (IoT) but the introduction of more smart watches will also see an increase in the use of more buzzwords such as the ‘quantified self’ which may leave you scratching your heads feeling a little confused and not wanting to speak up through fear of sounding like a technophobe, but equally becoming increasingly curious on what everyone is talking about it.

The Quantified Self (QS) in simple terms is using technology to track measure and analyse data from your daily life. We are already seeing an increase of this activity through apps that manage how many calories we intake, exercises we perform and even how many hours sleep we get each night using wearable sensors.

QS Is also known as self-tracking, auto-analytics, body hacking and life logging as more and more realise they are victims of their self-imposed bad habits or routines and can use their own daily data to motivate themselves to hit the road to self-improvement.

99 Percent of the thoughts, actions and emotions you have everyday are the same as the ones you had yesterday – Eben Page

The range of apps now at our disposal sometimes drifts in the realms of what we would have called sci-fi a few years ago as sites such as 23 and me can now provide a full DNA report that could reveal your ancestry or what diseases you could be predisposed of which is a fantastic concept, but the movie buff inside me is paranoid about the questions surrounding genetic discrimination that were raised in the 1997 film Gattaca.

Simpler apps such as Mappiness will ask you several time a day “How Happy Are You?” Your responses are then put into a report that will allow you to analyse low points or moods in your life. Is there a pattern to what I making you unhappy, are you outdoors, indoors or in a vehicle when at your lowest point.

Our biggest threats to our well-being is our own behaviour so if you can monitor how fast you drive to work, medication you are taking, alcohol you are drinking, how much exercise and how many calories you are consuming each day, there is a strong belief that with self-empowerment you can take full control of your life by making the right lifestyle changes and in the near future your pulse rate might even be emailed directly to your doctor if it reaches a certain range which can only be a good thing if used sensibly.

However critics will quickly advise this is just further evidence of our narcissistic times where everyone is completely self-obsessed and we shouldn’t feel the need to turn ourselves into some sort of data mine and use technology to understand ourselves or the human condition.

People already turn to Google to self-diagnose illnesses and often jump to the wrong conclusions and even early adopters could be forgiven for having data fatigue looking at endless lists of steps taken, calories eaten and minutes slept the night before and there is a growing concern of who ultimately owns this growing amount of big data?

Could it be dangerous to deny our natural human instincts in favour of technology? Concentrating on the pursuit of happiness could be a fruitless exercise where everyone walks around with a perma smile in some kind of creepy Stepford wives sort of way after becoming obsessed with everything about themselves and nothing else.

We also need to remember that some of the finest pieces of art, music, literature or any form of creativity are often born from a moment of despair or unhappiness which could leave you asking the question is one’s self really a problem that needs to be solved?

On occasion, you may have come across people who are so engrossed in their technology that they have become obsessed with facts and data about themselves, but equally have a distinct lack of emotional intelligence and self-awareness which contradicts how they actually see themselves.

Life is often a contradiction but equally dynamic and technology itself will never be able to fully understand the human mind and how complex and illogical our decisions often are but the quantified self is not a silver bullet that can fix all of your problems.

With great power comes great responsibility and if you are guilty of falling into a routine of bad habits without even realising it and can benefit from identifying your habit formations, patterns and routine behaviours, QS can be an effective tool to help you analyse everyday behaviour and tweak so that bad habits are replaced with more positive steps.

What are your opinions on the use of technology for self improvement? Let me know your thoughts on this growing phenomenon.

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