I very much enjoyed listening to the QS TED talk of Gary Wolf (below), esp given it was dated 2010.
But as I've gone on record as saying at IEEEISTAS13- what's so new about QS and inward reflection?
I don't buy the argument that QS gives us an ability to do "better" inward reflection. The average person relies on software written by someone else to do their analysis of the self.
Do I trust a program to tell me that I am doing OK? Simply "no".
Do I trust a program to tell me I am within a 'give or take' 20% over or under of a given average... "maybe"... depending on how the numbers were derived and analysed.
Would I change my lifestyle if I did not do enough "steps" in my day or didn't get enough sleep each night? "Possibly at times"... but I do this with/or without QS tools/applications/devices because I *try* to listen to my body.
Having spent many years engaged in experiments and field observations with my students at the University of Wollongong, I can go on record as saying that the use of these tools/devices/applications are not as effortless as some people might think. Sure I can run some off-the-shelf analysis on my human activity to monitor what I do, to improve the self but the collection of this data can also be stressful (ah that battery problem), and the results even for some "depressive" (even "addictive").
Left to my own devices, I could even pour into the data being collected and make up my own assessment of things, if I am mathematically inclined to do some basic descriptive stats analysis.
But I personally cannot see the value of all of this.
And I also don't buy the argument that quantified self is really deep down about telling you more about who you are. Do we really need these statistics to tell us when we are doing something or not? The QS movement for now might well be innocent, but I highly doubt this will be the case as commercialisation kicks in big-time and becomes outward facing to private business or even public health systems.
Self-awareness and spiritual intelligence and self-reflection is a practice deeply rooted in many "ways of life". Max Weber for instance talks of the "inside world", while others translate the German from Weber to mean: "inner-worldly".
Ascetism is an ancient practice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asceticism I spoke of "askēsis" (derived from the Greek) during question time in response to the brilliant talk delivered by Natasha Dow Schull from MIT.
In my open comments at ISTAS13, I also referred to the ancient practice of hesychasm. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesychasm
No surprise- that the outcome of using these QS tools is usually striving for self-improvement etc. But who will ever reach the perfect physical state, if there is such a thing? And even if we do hit that equilibrium on doing x or y according to FITBIT or according to x or y device we are carrying, so what? What does that really mean? That our life is perfect? That our life is complete?
So we go back full circle- and no surprise there- wellness is not about the number of steps that you do, and success in one's life is not about hitting the "target" on human activity (it may be a part of it), but usually "wellness" has to do with mind and body and spirit. It is that last part, "the spirit", which is not handled well at all by QS, and yet the number of times I have heard individuals claim to me that QS *is* ultimately about the spirit...
So how do these devices "quantify" meditation / prayer? Simply they do not, and cannot, even if I flip a switch during my prayer sessions, what does that really mean to my QS totals/averages? Prayer, is that part of our inward life which is so very much important to aiding in our physical health- do I really need a sensor/GPS to tell me about my spiritual well-being?
It kind of reminds me of the movements within the Human Resource/psychology space... we began with rational intelligence and then moved onto emotional intelligence, then we moved onto the more funkier wisdom intelligence, and today people speak of spiritual intelligence... it often dumbfounds me to consider it took hundreds of thousands of scholarly hours of research to get to this final point of which we are now talking about spiritual consciousness.
"Spiritual Intelligence is becoming more mainstream in scientific inquiry and philosophical/psychological discussion. It is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences because it becomes the source of guidance of the other three. Spiritual intelligence represents our drive for meaning and connection with the infinite.
Spiritual intelligence also helps us discern true principles that are part of our conscience, and are symbolized by the compass. The compass is an excellent physical metaphor for principles, because it always points north."
I do not discount the benefits of simple QS tools like "pedometers", such as the many that were handed out to employees during the Global Corporate Challenge, GCC, which give you an indication of whether or not you are walking enough each day, but devices that are connected to the Internet, are GPS-enabled, provide physiological monitoring are perhaps left best alone, or applied to niche fields like advanced athletic training. I don't personally see the point of all this information gathering that will ultimately be on-sold to third party providers. We can spend a lifetime worried about all of these aspects, and the usage of all this technology may/may not be beneficial to our life-expectancy. But ultimately it is our spiritual health that matters and that cannot be quantified.
I refer here to a post I wrote before ISTAS13 when my beloved father-in-law passed away... he hardly "stepped" out of his Reno Cafe in Newtown, NSW, Australia, but he had the most incredible and most fulfilling life. At 89 years of age, most would say he lived a full life- more than half of that was spent serving others in his 72-seat Cafe... http://veillance.me/blog/2013/3/10/memories
My father-in-law's death had a profound effect on me, especially because it was unexpected (despite his age), and it occurred during a time I was swamped in ISTAS13 conference preparations with Steve Mann on the theme of wearable computers in everyday life... When all is said and done, when we depart this earth, it has very little to do with QS, and more to do with the condition of our heart. The former we can achieve through technological means, the latter can only come from prayer and meditation and the like. QS can make us more self-aware, but true self-awareness will not come from technological apparatus but a spiritual inquiry stemming from within.