Our friend Jason Silva gives an interesting argument in this video: Rather than thinking that tracking ourselves — geographically and biologically — will inevitably result in our individual alienation and the ultimate slaving of humanity, he believes that it would help each and everyone of us to realise our full potential.
It makes sense. Used for good, the anonymous — and that’s the key part here, it needs to remain anonymous, although there will be dangers even then — tracking and collection of individual information into huge datasets may have an incredible impact in our lives and the future of humanity.
Here is one example — in 2012 I talked about the implications of collecting health information anonymously with the creators of the Scanadu SCOUT, the first ever Star Trek-style tricorder for human health:
While being able to monitor your own health would never eliminate the need for doctors, it could do wonders for everyone’s well-being. These cheap devices will keep track of your own health but, as I discussed with Scanadu’s founder, they can also be easily used to detect infection outbreaks at a national or planetary level, with people anonymously uploading data to a cloud. The Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organisation can literally keep their fingers on the pulse of the entire planet. The possibilities are truly endless. No wonder Stephen Wolfram is one of their advisors. If they are successful, I can’t wait to see what people can do with all this anonymous data.
This will happen, I have no doubt of it. And as sensors get smaller and technology smarter, it will become ubiquitous and effortless. Built in our phones and watches and morning coffee cup, producing vast amounts of data throughout the entire world. If we can harness all this massive anonymous information for the good of humanity, it will help us get to a new level of well being. It will also help us make unexpected discoveries that will, no doubt, move us forward.
At the micro level, the collection of all this information by an individual will have extremely positive effects too, as Dr Alan Greene, Chief Medical Officer at Scanadu, pointed out:
When it comes to health, averages don’t cut it. Vitals change throughout the day and vary from person to person, so it makes no sense to assume we are all the same. Health decision shouldn’t be based on averages, they should be based on a real, accurate and personalised healthfeed of data, which we now have the power to give to the consumer in the palm of their hand.
It’s a very appealing proposition that may, for example, extend or even save our lives.
Of course, the other side of this argument is using this data mining for less than elevated purposes. But if we manage to survive our own miserable human nature, we may achieve something great.