I have a new friend. Kaas. This is the name I have given my new sports watch. Kaas doesn't leave my side and knows everything about me. Well, not everything, strictly speaking, but a great deal. For example, he knows that I go running regularly, when I am worrying about things and when I've had a bad night's sleep. Often these wearables are presented to us as if, given time, they will make us very fit, and thus happy. But is this really true?
Although Kaas is certainly a factor in why I feel fitter, he now occupies such a prominent place in my life that I often wonder whether I shouldn't be less happy with him. This is because Kaas also makes me aware of my lazy moments, and regularly breaks my concentration (‘MOVE!’) when I'm in a flow, working. How far do these watches really go in adding something good to our lives? Do they really make us fitter, and thus happier, or it the delight mostly short-lived?
It's a very broad question to which a column can give only a fairly basic answer. Besides privacy and data issues (read: what does happen to the data our activity trackers and sports watches are generating?), which are already being extensively examined, there is another aspect to this technology, a moral aspect. Over time, does this technology truly make us happier?
It is evident that these devices are already fairly entrenched in our society. The sight of one of these watches on a person's wrist no longer elicits surprise. But where might this trend lead? On a global level: will the trend currently emerging in the US catch on in Europe? Will scenes occur here like those at Amazon, where practically everything about every employee is monitored? Will our salary soon be related to our BMI, and how will this impact our health insurance system? At the micro-level, from the perspective of the individual, am I now genuinely happier thanks to my watch?
Well, when Kaas starts to vibrate to let me know that I have reached my stairs or step goal for the day, he can actually register a peak in my heart rate #fitgirl. So yes, Kaas is making me more aware of my ‘good’ behavior and he regularly encourages this, which in turn helps give me a positive feeling.
On the other hand, he also alerts me to my ‘bad’ behavior (read: lack of exercise), which gives me a bad feeling. It's tricky, because drawing my attention to my ‘bad’ behavior is actually necessary to encourage my ‘good’ behavior. Does the ultimately positive outcome (increased fitness) justify inflicting these negative feelings on me? Or would blissful ignorance be more desirable in this instance?
Tricky. For the time being I'm going to keep Kaas close to me, until I'm such an independent 'fit girl' that I can manage absolutely perfectly without my friend.