Life By Numbers

Future data-gleaning devices will optimize the way we live, work, and play.

With thousands of metric-generating smartphone apps and dozens of data-harvesting wearables, it has never been easier to track, measure, and quantify every facet of our lives. As analysis algorithms become more sophisticated and devices more accurate, the feedback loop of personal information and improvement will increase to a remarkable degree. In just a few short decades, technology will calculate the optimal levels of everything from food intake to work hours, fitness, and face time with friends. It’s a future where numbers provide the framework for everyday life.

Imagine a contact-lens-camera paired with a microscopic throat implant that automatically analyses and records everything you put into your body—not only enumerating the macro-level names of food (1 kale serving, 1 beer) or estimated calorie counts, but recording the very chemical makeup of every particle you ingest. You’ll receive notifications about mercury and pesticide consumption and review charts detailing your sugar, fat, and water intake. The settings of your in-eye augmented viewer will know to automatically obscure any menu items that would tempt you to stray beyond the bounds of moderation, while food-printing machines will whip up nutrient rich meals according to the specifications of your data.

The presumed objectivity of computational analysis will result is less homogeneously structured work and social lives. If the data clearly shows that your optimal working hours are between 8pm and 2am, how could your employer argue? The same programs enable your boss monitor your focus and productivity levels. Hourly pay disappears in favor of quantifying the mental and physical effort contributed to a specific project. Mood-tracking apps will counsel personal days and happiness-boosting activities when they detect levels of stress or low spirits, automatically updating your work availability to accommodate.

Hundreds of sleep-monitoring apps and ECG devices can already calculate your optimal rise-and-shine moment. But future iterations will integrate seamlessly with your work and social applications to match the ideal activity for each moment of your body’s energy cycle. Alternative sleep cycles like polyphasic or diphasic sleep will become mainstream and technology-induced lucid dreaming will become a popular, therapeutic pastime.

Exercise time is automatically scheduled according to your personal energy rhythm, making you commit to an appropriately active lifestyle. While your daily fitness metrics will influence recommended travel routes to ensure that you reach activity goals.

Social tracking algorithms will seamlessly coordinate get-togethers tailored to your immediate emotional and intellectual needs, like exceptionally attentive parents scheduling amazing play dates. The social analytics of your friends will serve to ensure that all interactions are calculated to provide the optimal combination of connection and entertainment. The same apps will identify likable strangers at concerts and cocktail parties and display a list of suggested conversation topics in your in-eye augmented viewer. Your mood levels will automatically identify particularly special moments, triggering image and data capture so the memory can be tagged and archived for posterity.

And all of this will be free. Companies already provide search and social services in exchange for data. The vast sea of detailed information generated by these integrated quantification devices will be used by food and drug companies to create and market next-generation medications and enhanced edibles, marketers and retailers will use the data to make and sell personalized products, and social scientists and economists will look to it to respond to shifting social structures.

The capacity for self-awareness and reflection is our defining human ability. In the future, technology will flawlessly integrate more of the valued actions that fall through the cracks in today’s world: eating right, sleeping more, exercising enough, connecting with friends.

After all, what are these devices for if not to make users better and challenge us to do more of the things that really matter.

This quantified future got you hooked? Here’s more:


Neural Control
A future interface that taps directly into the human nervous system


Plugged-In Pets
How animal-aimed technology is transforming the lives of our furry friends


The Quantified Self
The popular movement behind “self knowledge through numbers”

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