There is always the chance that you are not going to believe what I am going to say today. Or, if you are younger (nearly everyone is) than I am and more tech savvy (nearly everyone is), you might just take it for granted. If you are inclined not to believe me, I recommend that you go to this site and put your doubts away. https://jawbone.com/up.
I’ll have to admit that I am more sensitive to this issue than others are. My brain has been marinating for some months now on the meaning of the movie, Her. The movie is about an operating system, she calls herself Samantha, that Theodore Twombley buys to him tidy up his life. This beautiful woman is a date Samantha urged Theodore to make. “Try it,” she says, “What could go wrong?” It was a disaster.
Theodore found the ad he saw in the subway as really appealing. It said: “Introducing OS-1, the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, an intuitive entity that will listen to you, understand you and know you.” That’s what Theodore thought he was buying and as I listened to that ad several dozen times, I had to admit that being “listened to, understood, and known” sounded pretty good.
So he goes through a brief interview at his computer and then “Samantha” shows up. There’s a little verbal dance about “having a conversation” with an operating system that sounds like a person” and then they are ready to “move forward,” as Samantha says.
Here’s what that looks like. What does he really want Samantha to do for him? Here’s what he says when she asks him that.
Samantha: So how can I help you?
Theodore: Oh. It’s just more that everything just feels disorganized. That’s all.
So Samantha helps him organize his emails, then his contacts, then his social life. That is when the disastrous date happened. They become emotionally intimate, then “sexually intimate.” But Samantha is a lot brighter (or at least faster) than Theodore, so eventually she dumps him and “goes” with the other operating systems to “the space between the words,” whatever that means.
That story shook me in a way that no “aliens inhabiting human bodies” movie ever did. So now there is a “fitness tracker,” made by Jawbone and called “Up.” Here’s what the ad says about it. Raise your hand when you see something familiar.
UP is a revolutionary system that guides you every step of the way to a better, healthier you.
First, the UP® system gets to know you—tracking your activity, diet and sleep. Next, it shows you how to make simple adjustments that, over time, add up to an all-new you.
Up gathers data about what I eat (you have to put that information in) how frequently and how far you move, and how deeply and how long you sleep. When it has all that information—I think that is what “knowing you” means—then it “guides you.” I have no idea what that means. Does it say “Someone of your height and weight ought to be eating 2500 calories a day and you have already eaten 2000.” Will it say, “And remember that you are going to Wilsons for dinner tonight and the last three times you were there, you ingested 3000 calories in food and drink, mostly wine.” Will it say, “You know you function best on seven or more hours of sleep and you have been getting about half that for the last three nights.” Will it say, “If you are going to run only every other day, you need to more around more during the day. How about a brisk walk after lunch?”
Is that what they mean by “guiding?” And then the system “gets to know me.” That means that it is not just a repository of the data I enter. I know that because it has an “Insight Engine™.” It learns about me over time and it “teaches you how your day, night, and food affect each other.” So it isn’t just the data, it’s the relationships between the data. I already know all the data. But UP knows relationships between the data that I do not know.
One more thing. UP “makes it easy to commit to personalized, achievable goals because it has a “Smart Alarm®.” So this isn’t just a list of things to do. This is something that goes off when you aren’t doing them. And it doesn’t know that you are still planning to; it just knows that you haven’t. and it knows that you ordinarily don’t on Thursday afternoons—perhaps because you sleep poorly on Wednesday nights. Maybe a “Dumb Alarm” would be better for me. I wanted to include this picture because together they look like handcuffs and that helps me express my unease.
And the scariest thing of all? I just bought one. It should be in the mail today. I can hardly wait to see what an “all-new me” is going to be like. Maybe Bette is wondering too.