Democratizing Personal Data

self-knowledge systems

THE DOMESDAY BOOK was an 11th century English census and land survey.  Horrifying.  Apparently having your data registered felt so catastrophically awful to regular folks that they named that book after the actual Apocalypse (Doomsday). 

Our species has very mixed feels about numbers. 

On the one hand, we are painfully aware how often our lives can be interfered with by incompetent, sociopathic or poorly incentivized people who get their hands on our data.  Especially in an age of mass surveillance and algorithmic brain-hacking.  AND most people feel that our authentic human experience, and deepest values, must be safeguarded from becoming merely instrumentalized numerical quantities subordinate to a technical mentality. 

Yet, at the same, our values cannot be recognized by the System unless they speak themselves forth in the language of numbers.  Without translating our most important things into quantities, they will continue to be ignored by the calculations of the world. 

Consider the argument from ecological economics

If you do NOT quantify the market value of a living tree, then it automatically counts as zero.  That means it is very profitable to cut it down.  Lumber has numbers.  On the other hand, if the standing tree in the forest has a definite quantity of recognized value (connected to the work it is already doing) then we must calculate whether it is worth it to cut it down.  You might be losing money by converting it into lumber...

This is an old problem.  Obviously, you can't put a price on happiness.  Or health.  Or meaning.  Or love.  Or being a good parent.  Unfortunately, if these things have no quantified value then the so-called Invisible Hand of the political economy will not recognize or value them.

Even your own body and personal habits contain important information that cannot contribute directly to wisdom & well-being unless it is translated into numbers.

The theory of the quantified self runs into those classic problems associated with left-brain quantification and the control of our personal data.  However it is also a very promising approach to life.  The ancient philosophical project of Knowing Thyself might have a quantitative dimension (what Ken Wilber would call The Lower Right Quadrant).

Do you have predictable cycles of mood that keep catching you by surprise?  Are you less competent if you have a second cup of coffee?  Do you sleep better the day after you have sex?  How long has it actually been since you went for a walk in Nature?  Are you groggy if you do not get enough sodium?  How much difference does your meditation practice actually make to your anxiety levels?

Even an expert at direct phenomenological introspection might not pick up any of these patterns about themselves.

So it might be good if there was a free and safe way for you to track/correlate these things.  An approach that protects your data sovereignty, empowers you with quantified self-knowledge, customizes itself to map variables that concern you & potentially contributes to a increase of understanding about human beings that is not captured by mainstream institutions.

Quantified Citizen claims to be a platform to disrupt and democratize health research.  This project & app provides wellness analysis and life-tracking within an ethical ethos.  It has studies you can participate in (and generate) such as the relationship between meditation and microdosing (there's a pretty heavy emphasis on psychedelics in the project so far) or comparing the difference between modalities for treating PTSD.  And they claim to anonymize your data so that it can contribute to general knowledge without compromising your data sovereignty. 

So if you're a citizen scientist swayed by the arguments
that self-knowledge, and an emerging wisdom-civilization require a dramatic but safe increase of quantified information about valuable dimensions of our lives -- this might be a project to explore. 


Imagine a world where non-intrusive wearable tech gives you nuanced, livestreaming private data about your brain functioning in a manner that allows you to optimize, through neurofeedback interfaces, for any particular mode you prefer.  Get really good at flow states?  Learn to make your body warm.  Stay in the mood you had when you hit the ball perfectly, defeated those gaming rivals or won the lottery?  Maximize focus, calmness, excitement.  Or anything else you can think of...

A civilization of uncontrolled free-range (feral?) yogis.  
Words by
emerge is convening a field of metamodern praxis