This week on Mindful Cyborgs, instead of bring on a guest, Chris Dancy and I discussed news stories such as Wired’s story on meditation in Silicon Valley and The Verge’s Union 2.0 story.

The highlight of the show may have been our discussion of the way that quantified self and augmented reality could unite to emotionally handicap us — much the same way GPS can damage our sense of direction. This after Chris explained that he gave a speech during which he was displaying vital stats like skin temperature and heart rate to the audience (something we actually talked about in our first episode):

Chris: One day they came up to me and said, “You know, at the end of your keynote I could tell you’re a little emotional and what really moved me was seeing how your body was reacting because I could hear it in your voice, but seeing it really made me think twice about how much that meant to you at that moment.” And it just stuck with me that literally there could have been tears and that’s not what she remembered. She remembered seeing the numbers. I mean, are we to the point where people need to see it to believe it?

Klint: I don’t know. Yes, that’s a really interesting reaction, or not reaction but I guess it’s an interesting thing for her to remember to impart. If that is the way we’re going to start seeing each other as streams of data instead of as the actual emotional cues that our bodies send off in a non-machine readable way. That’s some pretty profound implications for how we view each other and how we interact with each other.

You can download the episode on Soundcloud, from iTunes or download the MP3 directly.

Show notes and full transcript inside.

Episode 7 –Handicapped quantified emotions, Environmentally conditioned educators and Coming out of your Buddhist closet.

HostsChris Dancy and Klint Finley


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Has anyone pointed out how our pets are actually kinda cyborg? I mean, hell, we put microchips in them.” – Flynn/@threadbare


big pharma -Pharmaceutical industry


  • Buddhist geeks August 16-19 Boulder (Mindfulness)
  • Quantified Self 2013 – October 10-11, 2013 -San Francisco-


Mindful Cyborgs – Contemplative living in the age of quantification, augmentation and acceleration, with your hosts Chris Dancy and Klint Finley.

CD:Welcome to Mindful Cyborgs, Episode 6. Hey, Klint.

KF:Hey Chris, how is it going?

CD:Still suffering from a jetlag and overwhelmed by the great conversation we had with Ernesto Ramirez.

KF:Yes. I don’t know why I said last time that I was getting up from my jetlag because I feel like it’s truly only now that I’m finally starting to get over it, but we can even still feel it around the edges so this might be an interesting show.

CD:Well, it is an interesting show. It’s show 6, we’ve been exactly two months and five days and in this show we have no guest. We’re just going to catch up on some news and some things that are interesting to us. When we left off the last show I wanted to find out more about your presentation at BDigital.

KF:BDigital Global Congress.

CD:It was in Barcelona and you had a session on quantified — I’m sorry I don’t know the exact title. Can you just catch us up on what you went and talked about?

KF:Sure. In a lot of ways my presentation was an extrapolation of the article I did on you and then the article I did on that company, Citizen. I kind of combined those and tried to add some more context to talk about a couple of other companies that I found out about since then, like Evolv (which is spelled like the word “evolve” but without an “e” at the end). It’s a lot of stuff that we’ve been talking about how employers are increasingly able to either quantify the employees they already have, or try to quantify employees that they don’t have yet, either by automatically processing resumes through algorithmic system to try to predict how good of an employee they’ll be based on things like their address and how far they live from the workplace or things of that nature, or using something like Klout or Kred to see how influential somebody is in their community or that they’re knowledgeable about the topics that they claim to be knowledgeable about.

I talked a little bit about some of those types of activities as well as some of the problems that’s trying to rely on data for that sort of thing. The reason I was even invited there actually was a Forbes blogger did a story, “Top 20 Influencers on Big Data” and I was #3 on that list.

CD:No way, congratulations!

KF:But here’s the thing though. It was generated with a data aggregator called Tracker, similar to Kred I think but it’s really geared towards PR or marketing people, I’m not sure. I think it’s actually a Spanish company too by the way. So it auto-generated this list of influencers and just based on my own knowledge of the scene, if you will, I can tell that it wasn’t a list that really reflected reality very well. I don’t think that I’m being modest in saying that I shouldn’t have been #3 on that list.

CD:Well, I don’t know. I mean —

KF:There are a lot of people who are more influential than me who weren’t on the list at all.

CD:Yes, I agree with you.

KF:That’s the thing because there are people who clearly should have been on there. Derrick Harris from GigaOM, for example. The fact that he wasn’t on there to me just shows that trying to algorithmically determine this sort of thing is not very effective, and part of the reason I think that he didn’t show is he wasn’t very active on Twitter back then. So somebody who’s really influential but doesn’t spend much time on Twitter is just not going to be a blip on the radar.

CD:What’s interesting about that is when I went to New York and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. When you check in on Foursquare now — somehow it’s tied to Klout and maybe it’s because I tied the two together at some point. But it always tells you who’s influential where you check in, which is really interesting now for people who check in at their employers because they get to see who with their company they might not know of as influential. But what I found so amazing about checking in at the Waldorf Astoria is the rich don’t care. Obviously most influential person at the Waldorf Astoria and I doubt that was true.

KF:Right. The point I was trying to make though is that I had benefited greatly from being on that Forbes list, and there are other people who deserved it more than me who did not benefit from that. I don’t know if that particular list is a zero-sum game where somebody is like actually suffering because they weren’t on the list but there’s definitely people who aren’t benefiting from that list who should have been. I think that we would see a lot of that sort of thing if data-driven hiring, data-driven evaluations really took off that there would be people who would benefit unfairly and there would be people who would suffer unfairly if there’s not a reasonable amount of human review and people who can actually look at these things and say, “You know, here’s a reason that the data doesn’t reflect a particular reality…”

CD:Interestingly enough, I was involved in a project recently and I can’t really go much more into that where I was asked to do something similar about evaluating people’s influence. I basically broke it down into the online influence themselves and then a manual review of five or six of the top public social, then I used internal collaboration tools — Box, Chatter, Jive — and then I used content systems, so they would create blogs, audio and video.

That was a lot of work, but I didn’t want to just rely on Klout because some of these people did everything inside their company. But when I got all done it was really amazing to see just how different you could be really influential internal to an organization when I did these exercises recently or really outside where you could do a lot of content, or you could be really big in one of these Klouts or Kreds. But very rarely with someone across all four and if they were, their numbers would just be so bottom of the barrel that they would just level set on all four they were really nothing. So it’s going to take a lot for employers to get there, but it’s going to happen, in my opinion.

KF:Also, the other point I made is that, as employees, it’s time to start thinking about how you reflected on social media, on public social media, as you told me for that article you have to start seeing yourself the way an algorithm would see you.

CD:I’m just now finding out about your speech in personal. I didn’t know I was part of it so I’d love to see the slides. It’s like don’t spring the stuff on me on the show live. Just never again please. I’m obsessed. Like you said, I died literally. I had to say what would an algorithm look at me and what would I look like? I don’t know. It seems normal, but we’re normal now than did two years ago. So that was about BDigital.

Just real quick now before we get on the news. It’s something that I wanted to share with you and I forgot to share with you the last time. I had a conference over in the UK last week and the STI Conference debuted this kind of this next gen version of my quantified life which is kind of using existence as a platform, so tying the internet of things into the quantified self, and how I’ve done that and how I use it to kind of either assist reality or make reality adapt to me.

One of the things I did for that keynote was I allowed them to project my heart rate and calories burned and a bunch of other statistics up on the big screen with about 500-600 people at the conference. I used a Romo which is a little robot guy that did face tracking and other stuff. I had my slides and me presenting. I had two separate data streams. One is just kind of a little robotic image of watching me and then my physical body. I’d never seen anyone do this, but I thought if I’m going to talk about data and the data-driven life and all these things interacting, this would be a good way to show it. I put it right up on the screen.

Of course people were pretty blown away just whenever they first hear this but when they see it it’s like anything out. But I think the thing that really made me think twice about this lifestyle — I’d call it an orientation, not a lifestyle, but that’s another conversation. This data orientation of this lifestyle was that I knew at the end — I thanked a few people who had invited me to the conference and I was kind of emotional because it was really weird to have this much information display on two big screens next to the stage. For the next two days, people come up to me and shake my hands and say, “You know, it’s just amazing.”

One day they came up to me and said, “You know, at the end of your keynote I could tell you’re a little emotional and what really moved me was seeing how your body was reacting because I could hear it in your voice, but seeing it really made me think twice about how much that meant to you at that moment.” And it just stuck with me that literally there could have been tears and that’s not what she remembered. She remembered seeing the numbers. I mean, are we to the point where people need to see it to believe it?

KF:I don’t know. Yes, that’s a really interesting reaction, or not reaction but I guess it’s an interesting thing for her to remember to impart. If that is the way we’re going to start seeing each other as streams of data instead of as the actual emotional cues that our bodies send off in a non-machine readable way. That’s some pretty profound implications for how we view each other and how we interact with each other.

CD:It makes you wonder in Nathan Jurgenson’s world of pathologizing online and offline, you just said in a non-machine way or are we going to have this quantified self fetish? Where if you see someone’s data versus seeing someone, is that really a fetish between real life and online? Interesting times.

KF:I said in a non-machine readable way, I mean there’s a more technical distinction of just data is machine readable and just stuff that happen doesn’t necessarily machine readable. That’s the other issue that sensors are getting better now at picking up things and turning into data, things that we’ve previously considered non-machine readable.

CD:I’ll put a link to the Shownotes because I tweeted out the keynote stats. I burned 257 calories. My heart rate max 110, minimum 65. They measured me for an hour and two minutes. Also, it was tied to a photo of me presenting this with the temperature in location in it. Pretty fun stuff. I don’t know. Maybe in the future keynotes would be an employee. Yet again this would have been great because I would love, instead of feedback forms, if everybody else was wearing some type of disposable sensors.

KF:Yes, to see how algorithm is reacting.

CD:Exactly. She’s going to ignore me choking up and just look at my heart rate and skin temperature. But then, do I really have to look at her feedback? So you’ve got some new stories for us. We went ahead and pulled out some of our favorite tweets this week.

KF:I think the most interesting story since last time we talked was Noah Shachtman’s article on mindfulness, meditation and Silicon Valley. I found it disturbing and depressing because I’m already cynical and I thought I’m trying to see the upside to it and not pathologize other people’s mindfulness practice. It’s hard for me to kind of look at it I guess partly because I see a certain amount of it reflected in me and that I’m not a religious Buddhist but I meditate and I do hope to get benefits from it beyond just spiritual benefits. At the same time, looking at this stuff and kind of seeing the way people talk about it is like a networking opportunity to go to these conferences and a chance to become like a supercharged better worker by meditating — I don’t know. It just bugs me. What do you think?

CD:When you and I talked about starting this podcast, last year every July I read up the topics from the keynotes the following year and last year July I was going to do this thing called “Buddha had an iPad” and I delivered this presentation. Actually it’s one of the biggest viewed slides I have over in Slideshare and it’s about mindfulness and using this. I don’t make the case that you can become a supercharged worker. For me, I needed to really come to grips with the mindfulness practices because I found myself so rarely in the moment that was presented to me. And whether that was in relationship to someone standing in front of me or in a podcast or a telephone line, or even if I was just on my phone looking at stuff I wasn’t even at that moment. So I don’t know if I’m a better worker because of it, but I do think I’m a kinder person at times.

KF:That’s actually kind of what I hope, whatever optimism I have for this, that some of the people that are doing this will kind of end up becoming better people despite themselves, despite whatever they’re hoping to get out of it. Shachtman does point out that Steve Jobs meditated for decades and it didn’t necessarily make him a better person. You hear these stories about people, gurus or whatever, using their power with followers all the time so meditation doesn’t, in and of itself, just magically turn you into a more compassionate and kind person.

CD:I get it. I’m not a Buddhist and I don’t know what any of this means. I cognitively stutter to try to describe any of it. But Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of the first people I was introduced to when I came to mindfulness and I watched the talk he did at Google. I think it was 2010 when he did this talk. He was very clear about the goals for mindfulness and the goals for meditation. There are none. The minute you try to get something out of it you kind of defeat the purpose of even beginning to start.

KF:Sure, yes.

CD:In his view, the purpose is to be nothing, to be thoughtless. For me, just coming back to that as often as possible really helps. I find my speech slows down. As someone who quantifies a lot with their body and their life, I find everything changes. There is no purpose to this which takes us to impermanent and a whole bunch of actual Buddhist stuff that I read about. But it’s good stuff and I’m going to the Buddhist Geeks Conference hopefully in August if my body holds out. So we will see. I don’t know. My biggest conferences, do you have to be a Buddhist to go to a Buddhist Geeks Conference? I don’t know.

KF:I think they’re pretty inclusive and also the definition of Buddhist is a pretty broad concept. I personally don’t identify as a Buddhist but I might be one. And you might be too, whether you know it or not.

CD:If I come out of my Buddhist closet I’ll call you first.

I’ve got an older story. This story actually goes back sometime but it got revived in the news. There were just some great lines in this I wanted to run by you and get your thoughts especially with quantificational work. You know Bill and Melinda Gates have a foundation where they have given about $4 billion in efforts to transform public education and basically they’re working with this company that creates Q sensors. Basically it’s a wristband worn by students in middle school that sends a small current across the skin so they can measure subtle changes in the sympathetic nervous system. When students are learning they can actually collect the feedback. Much like we were talking about with the audience members and me measuring them. Prior to this, they had spent two years videotaping about 20,000 classrooms and breaking down minute by minute watching the students on how they respond to teachers but before they actually had a technology to slap these wristbands on kids.

When I read the story — when I originally read it and then reread it in what’s called “measurement mania” and then the AllThingsD announcement of Disney with their “MagicBand” and how you can get rid of your money and you can get rid of the need for tickets at the part, and I thought, “Gosh, you know, it’s not going to take much more to slap something like this in a Disney MagicBand and kind of measure your experience at the park, and then it gets into “was it okay at the park?” or “is it not okay at the park?” “Is it okay for a kid in a classroom to be measured this way?” or “is it not okay?” Buddhist will fly at a company or would you — like the Tesco, your article that you originally with me that Tesco people were wearing armbands. Where is the line in this case with children and biosensors and trying to make education better? It just really made me think. We should start Klint Essential Thoughts.

KF:Oh man, that is a really difficult area. But the problem I think is that people really don’t like this idea being persistently monitored by somebody. It’s one thing maybe if you’re persistently monitoring yourself but to be persistently monitored by an employer or by a teacher just really inherently bothers people.

CD:Yes, and people hate the idea or dislike the idea of being persistently monitored but they love to engage in it, they love to watch other people who are being monitored. When the legislature or that person out of Texas — I can’t remember her name now — people watched her for 12 hours. We’ve got this weird society, not like reality TV but we want to live like it. I don’t know. I agree with you but there does seem to be kind of this disconnect between people’s ability to not want it but then willfully go into it, like standing in line for a cup of food at Costco. I don’t know. It’s pretty obvious what you’re doing there.

KF:One of the biggest worries too is how this is going to affect people’s ability to make a living in so far as if your employer can monitor whether you’re paying attention can they start to only pay you for the periods of time that you’re paying attention and just whittle down your compensation.

CD:Which brings back mindfulness.

KF:Yes, or the other side of the classroom thing is what does that mean for the teachers if they find that students aren’t paying very much attention to their lectures, does that mean that the teacher is going to get fired and the teacher will get dock pay or something. Is the blame going to end up being laid on the instructor?

CD:Scarier for me is really not the instructor being blamed. If I was an instructor in the scenario, I think my first reaction would be to worry about am I going to be blamed for this. My second fear, and I think my biggest fear, with all this monitoring, but it’s also my biggest hope so that’s kind of strangeness for me. If I were the teacher, would I then become more animated? So would I become super kind of energized to keep the attention of the kids? So does it actually then not blame me but do I then become a conditioned response to the room?

KF:Yes, there’s clearly some upsides to it. If the teacher can tell that these kids are becoming disengaged and they can try to tailor their performance of that.

CD:But at what point do you become of gesture in the king’s court?

KF:That’s another issue.

CD:There should fire out of your mouth now, no one is paying attention.

KF:From the kid’s point of view, I mean what if you’re getting like an attention score on your report card as well? So not only that you’re being graded on attendance, being graded on how you actually did on the test, but now you’re going to get a score for how well you paid attention also. I mean, where does it add?

CD:If you do that algorithm, better have a big pharma delta. If the kids in the room were doped on something, to your story about the Adderall love affair over in Technoccult, I want to know that. Good stuff.

Hitting the top of our time here and we’ve got stories we didn’t cover which is always the case, we’ll have to do that next week. Got any tweets for the week for me?

KF:Yes. This comes from a guy called @Threadbare. Has anyone pointed out how our pets are actually kind of cyborg? I mean, hell, we put microchips in them. My wife and I have cats and we have chips in our cats and I know you actually put sensors on your dog.

CD:Yes, my dog is both chipped and sensored. Yes, I mean, I think definitely from a cyborg point of view, that would count. But, I think my house is now completely wired up. The Romo, I’ve got this great slide in my presentation and I tried to put a copy in the Shownotes. The house is completely wired up, the dog is completely wired up, I’m completely wired up and half of the devices in the house are completely giving me status updates and activity alerts. We’re all basically sharing the same plane of existence, so I don’t know. Is my house a cyborg? Who knows? Good stuff though. Any events coming up for you?

KF:No. I know we ran out of time for the stories of the week and I do want to just briefly mention this browser plugin for people who work on Mechanical Turk programs to rank the people who pay them. I have to admit I haven’t actually read the story yet, but the whole idea of it is really interesting and it plays into that Data Darwinism stuff that we were just talking about, like are you going to get paid just for how much time you pay attention or what if your boss is constantly monitoring you? I like the idea of at least giving the workers a chance to rate their bosses as well.

CD:I’m big on that. In the first time I ever came across the concept of rating your boss, it was the company that Salesforce bought and I can’t remember what they were called before they had bought them but they are called now.

KF:Yes, Rypple.

CD:Rypple. I loved Rypple. Man, I remember telling people this is the best thing ever that’s happened to the enterprise. The fact that I could work with you and so, you know, browser plugin is good stuff.

I was supposed to be up at World Domination Summit and I’m going to miss that. And I was actually doing a thing in Australia with Amber that I’m going to miss because of some shoulder surgery I’m having. But I’m going to try to make and at least in our Mindful Cyborg calendar we’ve got Buddhist Geeks in Boulder, August 16-19, and then obviously we’ve got the Grand Puba Conferences — probably not the Grand Puba. The Quantified Self Conference, October 10-11 in San Francisco. And then not only it accounts as a conference but October 5 you’ve got the next running of Singularity University out of Moffett Field. So, good stuff coming up.


CD:We’d like to thank Aaron Jasinski, the artist for our Mindful Cyborg’s logo, Ross from Brownhound Media for our mixing. And thank you Klint for all the time you put in for making this a successful show and bringing some really thought-provoking stuff to our industry. Even though you might not be #3, you’re #1 with us.

KF:All right. Thank you, Chris.

CD:See you, guys. See you next time.