Ever since I was conceived I have been producing data. My mother’s doctor began by taking notes when she saw him about her morning sickness. Even before that I was generating information that back in the 60s nobody was tracking; new genetic code strings, physical trajectories, chemical changes I was inducing in my mother, measurable rates of cell division, numbers, mathematical patterns, nutrient levels…
Upon my delivery, hospital records were created and the government collected a bunch of details for my registration of birth. From that day forth, everywhere I went I produced and deposited data – data that directly influenced businesses, governments and me.
Every cent I have ever spent generated bookkeeping records and sales figures. My school reports informed education departments and helped them modify curriculums. My census and tax returns impacted (albeit infinitesimally) policy decisions of governments from John Gorton onward. I have filled out surveys, been ticketed, counted, measured, rated, scored, ranked and photographed – and that was all before the advent of the digital age!
Now, it is getting ridiculous. Every mouse click is generating log files on my ISP and the stats package of the website I am visiting. Driving my car feeds countless cameras, sensors and toll-paying accounting systems. Shopping with an EFTOPS card provides the supermarket with a rich profile of my diet and lifestyle. With time stamping of every record these days, the whole concept of an alibi is as relevant these days as typewriter ribbon, inkwells and anvils. My data trail is stalking me.
This information is and always has been valuable. Not just to those who have been happily and freely collecting it for their own use or misuse (half the time without my consent or knowledge), but to me, for self-management, self-development and self-control. There is a growing mobilization of citizens who are waking up to this. Information is power, as they say, so the best place to start getting empowered is with the information I create.
www.quantifiedself.com is a community of users and toolmakers, who see the value in self-tracking, from health benefits, to better life-decisions, to sheer fascination and fun. www.personalinformatics.org is a wellspring of tools designed to harness human-generated data. Programs like www.patientslikeme.com are achieving phenomenal results by crowd-collating medical information to discover optimal treatments for a wide range of conditions that no clinical trial could have possibly figured out.
Here’s a tip; there are going to be huge opportunities for businesses who can offer services to help people manage all this newly collected personal information; aggregating, packaging, on-selling, interpreting, analyzing and providing tools to help us change our own numbers for health, wealth and happiness. It’s already happening, so strap on your data collection devices, put on your thinking cap and find new ways to share, manage and feed back this infinite data set of our lives back to us.
New paradigms will arise, questioning such things as how to control copyright of the data we produce, how to collect royalties from those who are already using our data for their own benefit and what risk we face, producing information that somebody doesn’t like, or would like to use against us. All of this screams opportunity to me; opportunity to learn, grow, evolve and self-actuate in a way that was unthinkable all those years ago. It’s data mining time!