Quantified [insert everything]

boss with magnifying glass

We know all about the Quantified Self movement. People today are tracking their every move for the (perceived) benefit to their daily lives. Their routines run smoother, they have statistical proof that they need to lose more weight, and they have visualized motivation to do so. But the Quantified Self movement has transcended to other areas of our lives. Enter, Qualified Work.

An interesting article in Wired has reported on the influence of the Quantified movement on the lives of employees of certain companies. For example, Tesco, a grocery chain from Great Britain, uses digitized armbands to track the performance of their employees. For every task that an employee does, points are assigned. Complete the task in the time allotted, win 100 points. Complete that same task in half the time, receive 200 points. 25 minutes for break. Go to the bathroom and don't register it as a break? You just lost points. One employee has described the atmosphere as a bunch of sweaty, tired, speeding workers that sacrifice the quality of the work for the speed. "Everyone's just throwing things around."

Tesco's not the only one. Call centers have long had metrics that measure the performance of their employees, such as call time. Darpa (US Government) wants to implant soldiers with little biosensors that would measure health and stress levels. IBM can tag disgruntled employees through quick scans of emails and using Big Data software. Fitbit will give employers fitness reports about their employees on a non-individualized basis.

Data on such a scale would've become available to the masses eventually. It's clear that's where we're headed. All of this accessible and easily analyzable data has given huge advantages to employers and businesses to be "in the know" without having to involve expensive agencies or go through hoops with their IT team. The efficiency that can be had by statistical analysis is just too attractive, and so people will go there. The simplicity with which one can visualize and interpret large amounts of data  is pretty much a click away nowadays. But at what point does Quantified turn into Big Brother? One Twitterer thinks that point is now:


#QuantifiedEverything, is that where we're headed? Go ahead and run the Twitter search #bigdata #bigbrother. So many who think that we're going to become a world of grayscale and precision. While that's an interesting (and a little pessimistic) take on things, we try to look to a brighter future, not a darker one. We welcome the advent of world-wide access to big data, not only because we're in that business but also because opendata is the only way that this world will keep spinning once we're finally saturated with it. But it's an interesting thought... will there come a time when quantified/collated/recorded won't be just a saying but a stark reality? Probably. But what will differentiate the world from George Orwell's dark 1984 and a world that's smarter, brighter, faster, simpler, and more efficient will, undeniably, be the humans who use the technology.

Alas, it all comes back down to this. Good? Or evil...

Your objective (but good) data superhero,

Captain Dash