This quantified life

I believe every day is significant.

My memory sucks.

At least, I'm pretty sure it does. People around me (in general) seem to remember more details, more nuances, more aspects of the things that we experience mutually. This has frustrated me for over a decade. I would like to remember more of my days, more details about them, and why they were significant.

Thankfully, we live in an age of technological abundance, and many of the technologies around us aid the acquisition and retrieval of information. Google for the Web, Wikipedia for human knowledge, Evernote for personal miscellany -- these all off-load memory in one way or another. So, being the human being that I am, I enhance myself with the tools at hand.

I have found through much experience that the perceived significance of my life derives almost exclusively from the sheer amount of details I retain about a particular time period. The more unique details I can remember about a day, for instance, the closer I seem to get to a "replay" of that day in my mind. Other intermediate details then appear between the "keyframes" those major details create, and the narrative reassembles itself like something out of Assassin's Creed. Similarly, if I lose those keyframes, I also lose access to huge swathes of memory, as if someone deleted the index.


So if perceived significance correlates strongly with memory detail, it follows that maximizing perceived life significance requires maximizing recorded details to create memory keyframes. I've learned that such self-recording is similar to what many are calling the Quantified Self movement.

I've been quantifying myself in a number of ways throughout my life. I consider quantification to be anything I personally kept or recorded myself about myself. I can divide up these data segments into roughly four phases of my life.

1988 - 2001

  • Occasional written journal entries, letters to family, reflective school essays

2001 - 2007
Social / Digital Formation

    • AIM / ICQ / MSN conversations
    • Sporadic written journal entries, personal blog
    • Reflective essays, personal bios, emails
    • Workout activity on Palm III spreadsheets

    2007 - 2010
    Conscious Self-Recording

    • Typed chronological narrative journal entries, 1000-2000 words / day
    • Facebook / Twitter activity begins

    2010 - Present
    Self-Recording / Quantification

    This breakdown is certainly not comprehensive, but it's a start.

    More to come. The steady rain tempts me to sleep.