10 Feb 2016

Progression - a development toward a destination or a more advanced state, especially gradually or in stages.

I need a progress tracker, not a progress tracker in the traditional sense,but one that keeps me honest about my personal progress. Often progress trackers focus on targets and goals that you set for yourself, but don’t actually track the things you don’t realize about yourself, your unspoken habits. Real progress, is an assessment of the things that you’re doing regularly and, they are often in the form of the habits that we form, they are the things we do daily often without thought. If there were a way to simply have a machine analyze your habits and vend out a series of possible long term outcomes, that might lead to critical self assessment and adjustment, to change your progression.

How would this work?

Let’s take a simple tangible example. Let’s say we have an objective way to measure someone’s health. We decide to measure it through pulse and general activity rates using accelerometers and sensors. The software would simply analyze the output and determine that the user is getting healthier as the activity rate increases and the pulse rate decreases, this increase/decrease would indicate the user is progressing towards better health and the inverse indicates otherwise. Other factors might also include age of the person as well. If we have population averages, we can say that you might actually rank in some fitness level, your activity rate could indicate that you’re progressing towards being able to run a marathon or fight a kickboxing match. It could even suggest activities based on your progression, if there were a metric that allowed you to see the activities of other users with similar characteristics.

Look at the aforementioned example, a little more closely, the information that was required to mark the progress was the following:

  • Well defined data
  • Well defined metrics
  • Access to time ordered data points that refer to one person
  • The software’s ability to understand the data
  • A deeper understanding of what is expected to happen

From the list above we run into the limits of utility for our progress tracker. We’re limited to objective progress tracking, we’re limiting our progress to be those aspects of life that are measurable and quantifiable.

  • Your pulse is not subjective
  • The speed in which you run a mile
  • Your blood pressure etc…
  • The amount of money you make
  • Your timeliness
  • We could even make comparisons between other users and say you’re becoming like a certain population group or demographic average or norm.

The question I have revolves around, how do we make this more useful for the things, that we might not know or understand so well. **how do we mark progress when there are no objectively measurable values to obtain ** ?

We need a way to obtain signals for answering the question of how do we become better than, what we were the day before and how do we head in the direction we believe we would like to go. I can track becoming stronger,healthier,smarter, richer, but can I track being kinder , meaner , helpful, or the number or people’s lives I’ve changed everyday.

To flip the script, I think the solution is to simply embrace the subjectivity of the data, and serve the data and questions about the data to the user at the end of the day, for which the users own sake might be answered honestly, and help the user come to a conclusion that might be unexpected given the data at the end of the day.

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