What do we lose when we embrace our quantified self?

Fitbit image

Fitbit, capturing steps taken, calories burned and distance traveled. Makes exercise addictive with social and syncing capabilities.

Technology is integrated into our everyday life for many of us. For myself in the San Francisco Bay Area, it has become a cornerstone in our lives – an invisible tool that we depend on and take for granted until our batteries have drained out of our smartphone. Going out to eat, I’ve become reliant on Yelp before I eat anywhere. I don’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant without first consulting the Yelp reviews. For me as well as many others, it’s safe, comforting and easy to be able to embrace the best of technology and seek out only the experiences that others have rated as “good” – or avoid the ones that are bad, as the case may be.

 

But is there a chance that we start to lose something in an age of nearly boundless information? Are we forgetting, in our ultra-modern world, to embrace spontaneity and the unknown when we start to rely on technology every time we want to have a new experience? Do we lose part of ourselves or part of the intuition we used to cultivate before our smartphone was our #1 sidekick and we actually had to try out a new place to eat, or venture out on our own to find the best cafe or Chinese restaurant in town?

 

Comparing a near reliance on apps for restaurants, I see this as a possible reality as the healthcare apps and tools that are being developing become more advanced and pervasive in our lives.  I  have heard so much optimism over healthcare technology such as FitBit or SleepBot – new technologies and apps available on smartphones or devices that offer services for a fraction of the cost what only a year ago would have been many times more. These tools are truly impressive, and can help those who are suffering from conditions to better monitor their own situation, or those who are healthy to ensure that they stay that way.

 

Although I am optimistic as a consumer and as an observer of the qualified self movement, I’d like to mention the often overlooked side of this reality, to contradict the idea of the seemingly boundless benefits of technology: sometimes it doesn’t work. It has bugs, it breaks down, it runs out of battery. And sometimes, we need to trust our intuition on how we feel, which is a sensation that cannot always been cleanly measured and charted. We also need to make sure we don’t lose touch with ourselves – that the dashboards and trackers we have don’t obscure our own sense of ourselves.

 

Optimistic, yet cautious, I believe that we need to make sure while we’re heralding in an age of impressive healthcare technologies, the need to use our own judgment to know ourselves without technology still has merit.

 

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