Quantified From Birth

Quantified Self

Image Courtesy of FlowingData.com

There has been a lot of buzz in the mobile industry about quantifying oneself. There is copious amounts of data you can collect about where you have been, how you felt when you were there, what things you saw, what route you took to get there, how fast you got there and who you were with while at your destination. Each day we choose to participate with tools and applications that have become an extension of our minds and body so that we can track our digital footprints as we trapse through the real world. People feel they need to know this data, many are not sure what they will do with it, yet they trapper keep it with plans to one day analyze or use it. For some that day will come in the form of health care analysis, sports training or memory lane perusing, for others it will just remain bits of data suspended in the cloud like raindrops waiting to fall, but never quite do.

When I started this blog much of the idea was born out of motherhood and the facination I felt watching my babies grow up as not only digital natives, but mobile natives. I was intrigued by the ability that they had from birth, or really me as their parent had, to track their interaction and history with the world from anywhere anytime in a way I was never able to do as a child.  My parents didn’t even have a video camera when I was growing up so there is no known video footage of me until I turned at least 18. I am sure somewhere out there someone caught a glimpse of me at a birthday party, sporting event or a wedding but I have never seen any footage nor am I sure any exists. I didn’t want that for my kids. I wanted them to read about how they grew up, see and hear their own laughs in video format, and  have pictures of their growth not just pencil marks on a door frame. I wanted them to have their documentation papers and their digital DNA in a sense mapped forever in time so they could look back on it and decipher it when they were ready to understand it, as if it was their own modern day scroll.

Just think about that story for a second. I have NO known video of myself before 18! Yes 18! There are only a few places remaining on the globe where this is still conceivable. Even third world countries are adopting mobile devices and smartphones at an alarming rate. In fact this year the number of activated devices has been widely predicted to outweigh the worlds population.

Like most parents, the day my first little boy was born, I video taped him as he opened his eyes and took in the world around him for the first time and there that moment remains time-data stamped and stored in the cloud for life. By the time my second son came around, he was video taped and photographed straight into the Facebook and Twitter matrix for all my 600 closest friends to see and as this blog or my Instagram feed demonstrates, I have not slowed down with the digital documentation of their lives.

Lately I have been pondering the quantified self a lot and whether or not people will start to experience data fatigue and yearn to go back to a simpler time. There is something to be said for not having that first 18 years of my life documented forever. I, like most kids, made some mistakes or said some stupid things in my teen years, but because it wasn’t documented I don’t have to live with them permanently on my social record. Those immature experiences were able to disappear with my childhood, but this new mobile native world won’t be so kind to my kids.

As a parent I have been fascinated with quantifying my kids since birth, but what if they look back when they are older and wish I hadn’t? It is not like I am asking their permission and even if I did, they wouldn’t even understand the request I was making. What if something I document about them as a toddler is held against them by a character assasin later in life? Will their be a time where everyone’s inevitable mistakes are so widely documented that your social profile and quantified self slate is just voided or wiped clean? Only the future knows the rules, I just hope I am not breaking them for my kids before they are able to make their own self quantifying decisions.

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