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Quantified Self: The algorithm of life by Josh Cohen

Quantified Self (QS) is a growing global movement selling a new form of wisdom, encapsulated in the slogan “self-knowledge through numbers”. Rooted in the American tech scene, it encourages people to monitor all aspects of their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, domestic and working lives. The wearable cameras that enable you to broadcast your life minute by minute; the Nano-sensors that can be installed in any region of the body to track vital functions from blood pressure to cholesterol intake, the voice recorders that pick up the sound of your sleeping self or your baby’s babbletogether, these devices can provide you with the means to regain control over your fugitive life.

This vision has traction at a time when our daily lives, as the Snowden leaks have revealed, are being lived in the shadow of state agencies, private corporations and terrorist networksoverwhelming  yet invisible forces that leave us feeling powerless to maintain boundaries around our private selves. In a world where our personal data appears vulnerable to intrusion and exploitation, a movement that effectively encourages you to become your own spy is bound to resonate. Surveillance technologies will put us back in the centre of the lives from which they’d displaced us. Our authoritative command of our physiological and behavioural “numbers” can assure us that after all, no one knows us better than we do.

Sifting through the talks, blog posts and articles daily uploaded by Quantified Self disciples, you soon become aware of an anxious insistence on numbers as a means rather than an end. All this data is meant to spur us to love ourselves better and run our lives more efficiently. And yet it’s hard not to hear, lurking in this promise of self-possession, the threat of numbers dispossessing us, of becoming a feverish addiction we can’t kick. Can even the most adept multi-tasker really live the life that they’re simultaneously tracking?

That question is addressed by the tech entrepreneur Charles Wang in a talk posted on the website of a California-based company called Quantified Self Labs which acts as a global hub for the community. Wang is the co-founder of Lumo BodyTech, a company that produces pioneering devices designed to enhance a user’s posture. Their lead product is the LUMOBack Posture Sensor, which triggers warning vibrations the moment you slouch. Given that poor posture is a key symptom of compulsive absorption in our laptops and phones, this product is not merely a physical corrective, says Wang, but the harbinger of a new “mindfulness”, a means of awakening the self from its high-tech slumber.

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Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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