The idea of quantified-self has to be the least thorough theory we’ve explored. Saying that I am 5.5 feet tall, have an average bp of 110/70 and sleep approx. 6hrs a night is no more useful in defining my ‘self’ as it is to say that I’m of Italian heritage, born in Queens and like Vanilla ice-cream.
Sure all of these things are details that have some value but none of them are, nor do the sum of them equal, who I am. None of them give any clarity to the sort of thing we generally mean when we speak about self and self-hood. They don’t show what distinguishes my ‘self’ from another Italian-american self with 110/70 bp.
I can understand what the videos from this week are getting at, and can even agree that this kind of knowledge can be immeasurably valuable for things like managing ones health, coping with stress etc. But combining the quantifiables of life into a theory of self just seems absurd. At least in the case of neuroscience, which I also feel falls short as a theory of self, can explain, or attempt to explain, thoughts, emotions, individual frame of reference and many other things that simply can’t be quantified but, I think, are obviously important to a study and theory of self.
Its easy to see, esp. in today’s society, how many people can be caught up in this, for lack of a better word, fad of quantifing self. Numbers are easy to share and understand relationally. They make us feel better about managing our health in a hypochondriac society. They make goals easy to set and follow (whether its getting 100 on a test, losing 30lbs or making $50,000 a year). Maybe on a more subconscious level, it even gives us the sense that all problems can be solved (like a math problem) or that everything will balance out (like an equation). But just because its an easy answer doesn’t make it a good answer. Quantified self is as silly an idea, to me at least, as numerology (in fact I’m not sure there’s that much of a difference since both assign meaning to numbers that just isn’t real).
Is quantifying life a useful tool? Absolutely, in many ways and areas it can be helpful.
Is it anything more than a tool? Is it a theory of self? Absolutely Not!