Visualisation of the Quantified Self

Part 2 – a Vision of the Future Self

As part of the Quantified Self “self-knowledge through numbers” movement, people have been subjecting themselves to regimes of quantitative measurement and self-tracking that go far beyond the ordinary. It has influenced the development of statistics logging and monitoring, for example in health data on our smartphones. Until recently, however, there has been no convenient, affordable way to log body measurements.

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, “What you can measure you can manage.”

By being able to track accurate information on the size and shape of the body and visualise it, we can better understand ourselves in an objective sense. The rise of technologies such as body scanning allow for this, now giving us the ability to accessibly and accurately measure and track biometric data once hard for the average person to capture with any degree of consistency.

Many of us have reached certain milestones in life where we notice that our bodies are changing. Perhaps aches and pains begin to show up at times, or we start getting a little thicker in specific places. Today, however, “because I’m getting older” is no longer a reason we must unquestioningly accept.

Even more so when improved technologies exist that make us technologies make us better at pinpointing them – to ultimately act on the information. 

As an example, certain metabolic conditions can manifest in a change in the shape of the body, without necessarily being noticeable to a physician without expensive and invasive tests. Having access to clear information on how the body has changed over time gives new insights into what may be happening to the metabolism. That’s where technologies like Shapewatch come into play. Shapewatch is an innovative 3D body visualisation tool that enables users to scan their bodies, monitor key biometrics and see their body shapes in 3D through a personal, customisable avatar. Additionally with the recent inclusion of Dynamic Movement Assessment, Shapewatch also provides the ability to analyse functional movement, thus providing applications around rehabilitation, pre-habilitation, wellness and performance.

Often, we have a longstanding self-concept that doesn’t always meet with present reality. Sometimes, an unflattering photo can make us keenly aware of ourselves in ways that a mirror does not. The Shapewatch system can interpolate between different measurements over time, to show what changes have occurred, and where. To help our internal self align more accurately with our external one.

An accurate self-concept is key to taking care of our health but it depends on having empathy with our future selves, that can forego a little comfort in the short-term, for greater happiness in the longer-term.

The question is how will people react to these virtual guides? Machine Intelligences are increasingly acting as our advisors, fulfilling the roles such as butlers, nannies, and aides-de-camp that once only the wealthiest had access to.

Intelligent assistants will become more common place and will guide us to greater sustainable fitness, and a more sophisticated understanding of our bodies, and how various interactions of behaviour and environment affect us.

Furthermore, digital scanning and visualization techniques can enable us to project ourselves into virtual realities, either warts-and-all or with a generous soft-focus. Naturally, as one may track recent changes in ones’ body, we may also predict the future, to visualize our ideal, achievable, realistic future self that we can keep in mind as we work towards the goal. Being able to look our virtual future selves straight in the face is a powerful way to build empathy with that future happier, healthier us.

part 1 – Capturing the body in 3D


About the author

Nell Watson is an engineer, educator, and tech philosopher who grew up in Northern Ireland. She is the Co-Founder of EthicsNet, a non-profit, building a movement of people who are committed to help machines understand humans better. This community acts as role models and guardians to raise kind AI, by providing virtual experiences, and collecting examples of pro-social practices.Nell lectures globally on Machine Intelligence, AI philosophy, Human-Machine relations, and the Future of Human Society, serving on the Faculty of AI & Robotics at Singularity University.


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