The Quantified Self: Personal Choice and Privacy Problem?

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3 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    I just finished reading Super Sad True Love Story, and while I didn’t find it particularly super, it is definitely sad to see that it’s coming true. Thanks for this post, I guess.

  2. Frank says:

    You’re right about all these pressures, Scott. I think one of the only ways to stop the process is to forbid employers, etc., from asking for these types of profiles. EMR expert Sharona Hoffman has recently warned that “Employers or their hired experts may develop complex scoring algorithms based on EHRs to determine which individuals are likely to be high-risk and high-cost workers.” It’s a really worrisome trend.

  3. Frank Pasquale says:

    Oh, and a few other items that might articulate cognate discomforts:

    1) You might like this book: You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier, nicely reviewed here by Zadie Smith:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/25/generation-why/?pagination=false

    Smith’s key point below

    “Lanier is interested in the ways in which people “reduce themselves” in order to make a computer’s description of them appear more accurate. “Information systems,” he writes, “need to have information in order to run, but information underrepresents reality” (my italics). In Lanier’s view, there is no perfect computer analogue for what we call a “person.” In life, we all profess to know this, but when we get online it becomes easy to forget. In Facebook, as it is with other online social networks, life is turned into a database, and this is a degradation, Lanier argues, which is based on [a] philosophical mistake…the belief that computers can presently represent human thought or human relationships. These are things computers cannot currently do.”

    So, perhaps, people might maximize “quantified health” in ways that don’t really do much for their real health status. Or they might maximize “mental health” along the lines suggested in Radiohead’s OK Computer. Or they might write lots of short articles on controversial topics to get more downloads from SSRN. Both “downloads” and “links” strike me as very reductive measures of work’s quality.

    2. Here’s another interesting take on tech here:
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/romance-in-the-information-age

    “The other destructive tendency our technologies encourage is over-sharing—that is, revealing too much, too quickly, in the hope of connecting to another person. The opportunities for instant communication are so ubiquitous—e-mail, instant messaging, chatrooms, cell phones, Palm Pilots, BlackBerrys, and the like—that the notion of making ourselves unavailable to anyone is unheard of, and constant access a near-requirement. As a result, the multitude of outlets for expressing ourselves has allowed the level of idle chatter to reach a depressing din.”