The Connected Future Is Now

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Why We Quantify

Digital technologies have super-charged the tracking process, enabling users to passively record and transmit data without direct input.

The quantified self movement encourages the recording of personal metrics for self-reflection, self-monitoring, and self-improvement. The quantified self movement isn’t just about measuring; the larger goal ocuses on making incremental life improvements with data. To quote Ben Franklin, one of the original founding fathers of the quantified self movement, there is an inherent intrinsic value to self-tracking: “I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined, but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.”

Ben Franklin famously tracked 13 virtues in a journal every day, proof that recording personal metrics is hardly a new idea. From Ben Franklin in 1790 to Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007, people have measured their daily activities. For decades, athletes have manually record detailed notes on their training sessions, and similar tactics have long been used to combat health problems for people with diabetes or hypertension. Anyone who has ever counted calories or made a note of her menstrual cycle has also participated in self-tracking. While individuals who have recorded personal metrics through manual techniques have certainly gained insights, manual tracking remains a tedious process that requires active, diligent input. Digital technologies have super-charged the tracking process, enabling users to passively record and transmit data without direct input. This shift toward passive tracking has made it infinitely easier to capture robust sets of personal data and has accelerated the quantified self movement.

The recent growth of passive self-tracking can be attributed to sensors getting smaller and cheaper, the ubiquity of smartphones, and social media and cloud computing making it acceptable— and feasible—to share everything.

— Jeff Squires & Allie Walker