Observations and Maps
Humans are intrinsically curious about the world around them. We explore this world through our sensory organs. To explore is to make mental observations. This is hot, that is green, and this other thing smells.
Our observations lead to the formation of mental maps about the world around us. We perceive that these maps are concrete. This is why we become irate with our spouse when they are late, but would not care so much if a complete stranger did the same – there is discord when our finely-tuned spouse map no longer matches our observations. We have no map for the stranger, so there is no discord.
It is an evolutionary mechanism that we do not stop to question our observations – stopping to question everything in real-time would: a) use a lot of calories; b) make us question our sanity; and c) require too much time to do anything useful. For example, we do not question why the spouse is late; we simply know that they should not have been.
If I see a brown dog, it must be brown. If I see a blue bird, it must be blue. Until it isn’t. The discovery of tetrachromatic vision in birds should have sent a very clear warning to humans. Do not believe everything you see.
The Data Problem
Our obsession with data has grown out of a way to track and understand our observations. In the “Information Age,” it is cumbersome to have humans measure and record data, so we have enlisted [disposable] electronics to do it for us.
Smartphones and “home assistants” are constantly monitoring you. “Smart devices” such as Internet-connected appliances are collecting data on you. Social media services store everything you post as data for analysis.
Just as we use observations to make sense of our world, data points are used by corporations to make sense of you. They expend considerable energy and natural resources to devise maps that allow them to sell you a product or service. From your view, this sale is perceived to address an unmet need.
Humans are flawed creatures, and we automatically attach believable to likeable. Now that society is constantly “seeing what we like” through the fractured prism that is the Internet, social media, augmented reality, and virtual reality, we have more reason to believe everything we see.
So your data (or outcome from said data) is likeable. What is the harm?
People love data and patterns. Would you watch any sport if the scoreboard evaporated? As I previously wrote, we no longer question if the data is valid. We like our data and we like collecting it.
It is as though we are collectively going through life colorblind, simply wanting to see as many things as possible instead of questioning if there are colors missing.
Consider one basic example. School is supposed to build skills. Skills translate into grades. Grades are supposed to measure learning outcomes. Despite this, school has nothing to do with learning, and grades do not translate into skills.
Need an acid test? Teachers, tell all of your students that cheating will not be punished because such actions would only cheat their future. Read the above linked article if you have not yet.
That grade is measurable data. A grade-less child might lead to a panicked parent – how will the parent know that learning is taking place? We hold on so tightly to the concept of a grade, even knowing that it is meaningless, because we have nothing more suitable to take its place. Useless data is more reassuring than no data.
Some things are not meant to be measured. Doing so silently shifts a burden onto us, increasing our colorblindness.
Data Took Your Humanity
Data is extrinsic. Human happiness is intrinsic. As we rely on extrinsic items as a vehicle to satisfy unmet needs, we suffer intrinsically. There is an irony here: studies contain data that shows suffering caused by data.
The operative goal of the Information Age is data-for-the-sake-of-data. We love our data.
This data is used to curate addictions that deprive you of a happy life. How many times have you checked something on your phone while reading this post? Are you reading this post on a phone?
Part of the recipe for happiness with Jade is a minimalist approach to data. Jade cultivates learning, not education; happiness, not pleasure; development, not rewards; entertainment, not distraction; participation, not passive observation.
What makes people genuinely happy and able to function well has everything to do with the immeasurables. It has nothing to do with data. Current trajectories want more data from you to feed more manipulation. This is a future with augmented reality and virtual reality.
I guarantee that these new technologies will not restore what was stolen from you. They will demand more.
Shift Sight has a different trajectory in mind. Jade is for humans.
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.