In a previous post, we explained that Quantified-self is reinventing human memory. Wearables and sensors offer us the possibility to keep a complex register of what happens in our daily life; but is this the story of our life?

To this respect, there is a very interesting article written by Michael Humphrey in which he analyses the relation between Quantified-self and personal history. Despite all our life (what we have done, what we have liked or who we have met) is part of a great amount of documentation, Humphrey states that only us are able to tell our own story.

Data versus history

Everything that happens to us is stored in external companies that we embrace as a part of ourselves, an extension of our minds that is becoming more reliable to us than the imperfect human mechanism. Humphrey wonders if, in the near future, a robot would be able to tell our story better than ourselves. This means, will we be able to rewrite our history through data?

As we have already said, Humphrey argues that’s not possible. In order to explain it, he makes a difference between two essential aspects:

  1. Lifelogging. On one side, we have data collection of different aspects of our life and their storage.
  2. Storytelling. On the other side, we have the way in which we shape those stories. Narration comes from lifelogging and takes shape through the selection of events that the narrator makes. This is where factors such as interpretation or point of view enter the game.

We can recreate our story based on data, but data can never be our story. The narrator extracts little parts of the huge amount of data and gives them meaning, turns them into experiences and shares the story with the rest. As Humphrey states, when we tell stories ‘what comes up is not a quantified-self, but a qualified self‘.

The human factor

It’s up to us to embrace the vision that an algorithm gives about our own experience. Although Quantified-self can be a revolution to memory, algorithms cannot replace consciousness. Data can help us tell our story, but we are the ones who have to tell it.


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