Chuck Wendig has written a splendiferous account of how little any of us knows about the fuck that is going on. His focus is on writing. And includes such delightful mountain-based metaphors as this one:
There exists no well-marked, well-lit path up the mountain. You will find no handy map. No crafty app for your smartphone. The terrain shifts after everyone walks upon it. New chasms. Different caves. The ice weasels become hell-bears. The sacred texts we find in the grottos along our journey are sacred to us but heresy to someone else.
It got me thinking about the world’s, and my own, continuing obsession with data. Perhaps, brought on by three reasons.
1) I enjoy paying attention. Collecting data is one way of paying attention. One of my early heroes in the world of data was Benjamin Franklin who, as I’ve probably mentioned before, really loved schedules and diaries (which, for the Brits, is really the same thing, but, well). I wrote a thing about him for Strange Horizons many years ago called, “Imagining the Perfect Man…” which sort of leads me to believe that if he were alive today he’d be like that guy who early adopted cyborgness and have day fully calendared, his nutrition fully planned and documented, and his life, in general, fully scoped.
2) There’s also my EG’s well into data and the visualisation thereof, and so I started reading more about the business of data.
3) For some time, some time ago, I used an app, Human, to track my daily activity: the length of my moving about, the calories burned, the distance traveled. I wanted to know more about me because it seemed cool, and everyone was doing it, and also I thought, while I have always enjoyed going for walks, maybe it would help me make sure I walked enough, whatever enough walking might be. Perhaps, also, I just wanted a record of when and how and where I walked because it was fun to see my walks mapped out. It was, also, honestly, a bit creepy. I wondered, sometimes, what the humans at Human did with all that they knew about me and my fellow lower-case h humans besides create beautiful visualizations from their data-ing of us. They do a very cool thing in allowing you to see your raw data if you are so inclined.
Sometimes I’m pretty sure that no amount of knowledge will save us from ourselves. Sometimes, I think, that we will lose ourselves in the stream of data. That knowing ourselves in purely numerical terms may, in the end, blind us to some other kind of knowledge. That maybe knowing too much about some things about ourselves might erase who we are.
But, then again, I’m all about consciousness. And data appeals to me because it’s a way of being conscious. I suppose, what I try to remember, to be conscious of, is that there are infinite ways to be conscious, and it doesn’t do one any good to become too attached to any one way of knowing yourself, or the world. Because, as the man says, we don’t know what we’re doing. But, we’re trying.