Does love need a countermovement?
The quantification of life was a great promise. Everything should get better. Work, health and ultimately people. Apps and programs can control performance, blood pressure and sleep. But the datafication of the workplace now goes far beyond anything that could have been measured with conventional techniques.
Sociometric applications such as the "Meeting Mediator" record who dominates the conversation in conferences, and so-called Mood or Sentiment Analytics measure emotional vibrations over the course of the working day. That may seem like digital Taylorism, with data analysts as the bureaucrats of the network economy, but ultimately it is a logical extension of the maxim of modern management: "You can only manage what you measure."
Algorithms can do everything. But they have no compassion
The resistance, however, is growing. Not only because secret services use measurability for total surveillance. Companies, too, arouse fear and anger with their control mechanisms. During the hostage drama in Sydney last winter, the taxi service Uber temporarily increased its prices in the city due to increased demand. The Australian public was outraged.
Facebook aroused similar resentment with its personalized annual review. Every year the social network compiles a kind of "best of" updates for each user and presents them as a colorful and happy album. When the American Eric Meyer opened his personal 2014 highlights, he was suddenly confronted with a photo of his daughter who died last year. As with Uber's mistake, there was an algorithm behind Facebook's unfortunate decision. He can do anything, just no compassion, and in a blog entry Meyer spoke of "inadvertent algorithmic cruelty".
Algorithms are the little catalysts of big datafication. Together with big data, they are the design tools of our time. They help to measure, understand and utilize the world. Amazon and other online retailers reduce us to a series of clicks in increasingly narrowing "filter bubbles" in which intelligent "recommendation engines" give us to see what we have already seen. Google claims absolute algorithmic truth for itself and is starting to rank search results not only by popularity but also by "truthfulness".
The Applewatch marks the beginning of a new era
And even Apple, which under Steve Jobs was still surrounded by the aura of mysterious genius, is characterized above all by its efficiency machines under his successor Tim Cook. The Apple Watch marks the beginning of a new era: It serves the "quantifiable self", the idea of total datafication of all areas of life and permanent data-based self-optimization.
We have come back to a point of disenchantment that occurs every hundred years. In view of the rationalization and standardization compulsions of the industrial age, Max Weber lamented the "disenchantment of the world" in 1919. And he wasn't the first to do this. In the late 18th century, the romantic movement in England and Germany had previously turned against the regime of empirical reason and enlightenment, against a disenchantment driven by rationality.
Even today, a new form of romanticism could become a counter-movement to the threatened total quantification of our lives. For a long time it was a nonsense, suspicious, because it symbolizes an exaggerated feeling that one wants to allow in love but not in life. But now the engineered society needs them more than ever.
From the romantic poets of the past to the romantic heroes of pop culture, the defining characteristics of the romantic have remained more or less the same over the centuries: an emancipation of the emotions and the senses from the intellect. There is also an interest in the foreign and in (world) strangeness, the pose of contradiction, an appreciation for the sublime, mysterious and secret and the belief in imagination and beauty as ways to spiritual truth. Common to all of these traits is the pursuit of a more fulfilling life that leaves behind the limits of rationality, social norms and cognitive and emotional coherence.
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