Obsession with measuring everything that goes in and out of the body amplifies obsessive conditions. Personal identity becomes the virtual idealised (perfect) self instead of current physical reality. Devices measure everything and anything about people.
How the scenario could unfold
In this scenario, we can foresee a potential expansion of the quantified self. We already live in an era where our health and wellbeing is monitored based on everything from our eating and sleeping patterns to how much we run, exercise, medicate and increasingly even our genes and DNA.
As these data sources become more sophisticated, we may see the emergence of implants that can monitor and track our wellbeing, bodies, brain and even our thoughts. Alongside this potential trajectory is the opportunity for growth in technologies that allow us to build simulations of real places, cities, events and potentially people.
These conditions combined imply a potential future where not only our health and wellbeing can be intricately and accurately monitored, but also the trajectories of our lives could be mapped, offering us new future scenarios of ourselves, which may inform our decisions about our present lives.
We consider the significance of this context from the perspective of a future character we created based on our research with real people.
What might that mean for Maria?
For someone like Maria, their happiness is connected to their capacity to control the condition of their body and mind through their behaviours. We explore how services may evolve around people’s need for that control.
I track everything and identify my health patterns. My wellbeing is very important to my life, and I need to feel good about myself.
Structured Social Judgement
Constant social media judgement could lead to extended states of anxiety potentially making people attempt to perfect their outward appearance. Data could be collected against people’s will and without their knowledge and lead to further control over people’s behaviour.
People have augmented capabilities that boost their productivity and skills and can become working machines that produce non-stop. For them the line of separation between work and home may fade and financial success could simply allow the purchase of more skills in order to earn more money in a dangerous cycle.
Maria is a freelancer working for a few private clients as a consultant. She is highly invested in her health and wellbeing, tracking her daily caloric intake, sleep quality, exercises, and other health factors. She has an active membership at Soho House, Third Space Gym, and a brand new Colour Therapy Yoga Studio. She follows a strict morning and evening routine, even maintaining a shorter version when she’s on holiday. Technology is her ally to keep track of her health, but she also enjoys meditating in nature when feeling overwhelmed.
Happiness for Maria lies in the thrill she gets from achieving a goal. She believes that happiness derives from being self-aware and maintaining a healthy relationship with herself, so she maintains a strict life schedule and regularly uses yoga for self-exploration.
Maria wants to visualise and monitor her progress towards her long-term goals, and avoid costly, negative moments in order to be in control of her body, life and behaviour.
For people like Maria, their body and mind are vehicles that help them achieve the things they want in life. The easier it is to manage them, the happier they are.
Explorations in ‘Personal control’
We explore the future in this scene by looking for potential points of friction between this scenario of extreme personal control and the needs of someone like Maria. These explorations are outlines of services that act as emerging spaces for solutions or spaces to explore the problems and provocations elicited by the services.
Digital Twin is a tool used to measure real life activities and create a virtual projection of what could happen if you behave outside your routine and patterns. By recognising someone’s actions and behaviours through AI-powered wearables, home sensors and spending, Digital Twin provides a predictive digital simulation and preview of your life in the future, should your behaviour persist. By seeing alternatives of your future self and comparing ‘future you’ with ‘future others’, you can make sure your decisions are based on the long term as well as the short term.
Team: The Lab
Eatopia is a platform with the mission to support individuals on the journey to plant-based diets by promoting a choice of healthy plant-based products over those containing a lot of sugar, fat, sodium and meat. Eatopia learns about users’ behaviour and brings that knowledge back to the food and beverage industry to improve its services. Eventually becoming a potential tool for local health promotion.
Eidos is a personal AI assistant that works with you to understand who you are and to create desired behaviour change over time. Using nudging, predictive, and peer-to-peer techniques, its data creates unique insight for users about how to change their habits. Eventually, it builds commitment and intelligent, highly personalised strategies toward users’ goals.
In these explorations, we consider how future services may establish highly advanced methods for monitoring, analysing and guiding users’ health and behaviour. These services may bring a new level of agency to people’s lives. They can plainly see the impacts of their behaviours, plan alternate actions and overcome their irrational patterns of behaviour by replacing them with preferred rituals. This newfound visibility offers new insight and a new mindset framed around managing your decoded, but irrational self.
The power of the insight from this level of data is potent. It brings a recurring discussion about the conflict between data used by us to enable our agency and data that is used by others to control us and remove our agency. However, inherent within some of these explorations, there are other opportunities to explore the value of interpersonal data trading, which means owning the value of your data.
Another emerging area of discussion from these explorations is the level of investment people may make in these personal mechanisms for behaviour change. With the promise of such high rewards and the option to experience high fidelity simulations of alternate future selves, people may become obsessed by potential versions of themselves and value less their current self.
The final question that may emerge from these explorations is – How might people balance the control of their lives (to reach a desired future self) with their engaged experience of the present day?
Related to ‘Personal Control’
Developing a deeper AI driven understanding of yourself to influence your decisions and optimise for your happiness and prosperity.
Mymes uses an understanding of people’s behaviour to create simulations of their future to help them make decisions and it distills different sides of their character to help them explore who they are.