Using data to understand quantified others makes us realize how small we are. But it also teaches us that we never act alone.
These are Washington’s raw coronavirus case counts, a record of the spread of the disease that neither of us has yet been infected with. Ben has been racking his brains over the city’s slight fluctuations in her R0 for a while. As laboratory data became less reliable, the two of us established ourselves as experts in hospitalizations, but what these “lagging indicators” really seem to indicate I’ve often worried about whether it really shows . When the first Omicron wave hit our city in December, we anxiously tracked the number of available ICU beds, keenly aware that our healthcare system was collapsing.
Neither are epidemiologists nor are they trained to parse this information. At least Ben works with money, but I’m just a former English professor turned newspaper editor. It didn’t have to be an expert, though. We have shared these numbers to keep you in touch during the downturn of the pandemic. More importantly, we were trying to map the space between us. That space was occupied by people we don’t know.
Why We’re Worried At This Stage Of The Pandemic
As I realized, Ben and I weren’t trying to diagnose the situation, but were struggling to portray the fictional character I call the Quantified Other. The Other is a composite entity whose life, by definition, is separate from our own even though its intentions and actions structure our experience and thereby delineate our world. . The Quantified Other is really just a patchwork of information, so we can only know it numerically, and trace its contours through mathematical speculation — astronomers discover a newly discovered exoplanet attempts to determine whether it can accommodate life by studying the wobbly rotation of its star.
Ben and I were mostly concerned with the safety of us and those around us. In other words, our quantified others are all strangers whose choices and experiences have determined whether, when and if we go out with masks. It meant to take the place of a person. meet. As I write this, even though I know that in Washington DC he has 192 people hospitalized with covid and he has 17 of them in her ICU, the world outside my door I don’t know much about the specific people you might meet at. But it does tell me a little bit about how others have navigated that world.
We all have our own version of the quantified Other. Perhaps you read polls on issues of interest and build your own opinion as you try to predict national trends. Or you might find it in studies that track unemployment despite having stable employment.While the former may reveal troubling things about the health of our democracy, the latter may help us understand the strength of our economy. your Neither reacts meaningfully to your actions, but both have the power to influence you.
In other words, these numbers tell us what we’re not doing while limiting what we can do. Others are quantified with water counts and wastewater data (which are pretty much the same thing). We have suffered a particularly large amount of suffering, like when we learned that more than 150,000 people in Mississippi lack access to safe drinking water and that 5,000 square miles of the Amazon have been lost to deforestation in 2020 alone. Identify quantified others in numbers that tell us about and loss. Such statistics overwhelm us not only because of their enormity, but also because they explain the choices we didn’t make and the consequences we couldn’t forestall.
I name this phenomenon as a counter to the “quantified self” movement, which claims that you can live better by tracking the numbers your body produces. When recording volumes, monitoring blood pressure, or recording sleep cycles, perhaps think in terms of your quantified self, from the assumption that by observing yourself carefully you can overcome your limitations. Yes. Journalist Gary Wolfe declared on the topic in a 2010 TED Talk: “So if you want to act more effectively in the world, you have to know yourself better.”
This is a belief system emboldened by technological innovations such as sensors, monitors, and apps, but its origins lie in the fact that the only thing we can really influence is our own actions, and therefore we panic. It stems from the prevalence of the ancient Stoic assumption that one must endlessly monitor oneself, like a gardener forever weeding. Periphery of their plot. Similarly, accepting the quantified self-mind is to claim that even if you can’t control the actions of others, you can at least regulate your own, and that’s where the good life lies.
Risk calculation method in the long-term corona era
Quantified others, by contrast, offer no such comfort. As I watch anxiously the temperatures in Seattle as the historic heat dome rises over my mother’s house, I refuse to intervene. And when I monitor air quality during wildfire season in Berkeley, Calif., where my girlfriend’s parents live, I’m not trying to improve myself. It recognizes limitations and recognizes that many of the forces acting on us are collective consequences and therefore do not respond to individual actions. Our helplessness is based not only on what we as individuals cannot do, but on the countless actions taken by people we do not know. The Quantified Other reminds us how small we are and how small our possibilities are.
But this need not be a concept rooted in despair. If the quantified self has its origins in Stoicism, the quantified other has its roots in the ideas of his 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. As a result, reason can determine what it can and cannot do to relieve emotion. ” In other words, we can only live well if we are in control of how we are. to be influenced — how we feel and how those feelings make us act this way or that way. But in order to do that, we also have to recognize that our emotions are determined by how others behave. influence It moves us physically and mentally.
Simply put, we never act alone. We can move only in relation to others, sometimes cooperating and sometimes conflicting, here driven by their passions and stopped there by their pain. As explained, it subverts the assumption of quantified self-movement. For Spinoza, isolated self-knowledge is inadequate and perhaps impossible in a data-driven vacuum. Only by acting as such and learning more about the factors that drive them to do so can we understand our own behavior. becomes more reasonable. And the more rational our actions become, the more benefit others will receive. Therefore, understanding that we are never masters of our own destinies is a basic condition of ethical behavior.
You don’t always have to push an object back with the same force when something moves it. Yet we always react, just like marbles always react when they meet. Only when we strive to understand why can we respond appropriately. Concrete images of the unimaginable forces acting upon us help us remember why we do what we can.
It can also be very small, but it doesn’t really matter. My friend Ben received my recent panicked letter about the Covid-19 statistics, and instead of responding kindly, suggested that it might finally be time for me to come for a glass of wine. I’m here. My mom saw a worrisome poll out of Virginia and ran out to knock on a candidate’s door. Neither directly affects numbers, but it starts with understanding the emotions they create. They act the only way any of us can. others.