This is essay #6 of 7 as part of The Tech Progressive Writing Challenge. Join the discussion with build_ in the Discord.
Software eating the world means quantifying the world. It means tighter feedback loops, as you can see a key number go up or down, and easily project where the trend is going. It makes life more like a video game. Like you’re a character in a video game taking on quests and leveling up. You have your stats on the screen: number of followers, amount of digital currency, number of steps per day, screen time on distracting apps.
We’re approaching each person having a personal dashboard. Currently we just have some meters here and there and we’re not assembling them into a coherent whole, a dashboard summarizing the vitals. Creating a dashboard forces you to decide what matters, what you’re holding yourself accountable to. How you’re measuring your life. Hard, objective numbers, not fuzzy thinking and rationalization. Basic negative feedback on poor performance and positive feedback on good performance.
Dashboards already guide businesses, which can afford to assemble and massage and analyze data. But they’ll increasingly guide individuals outside of work contexts. The step counters that are built into smartphones are a basic, but useful gauge of how much you walk in a day. Early adopters are layering on detailed sleep tracking with EightSleep or just an Apple Watch or Fitbit.
Individual dashboards can feed into group dashboards and become even more powerful. Friends can track their runs together like people do on Strava. They can take on challenges together, like a writing challenge. They can hold each other accountable and support each other.
Life isn’t as simple as constructing a slick dashboard, of course. But it’s helpful to have a solid, objective sense of how you’re doing, which you can easily share with other people.