Every photo you take increases my life expectancy…thanks

Posted on July 23, 2012. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

I watch the diligence and intent with which human beings take photos and I cannot help but wonder what it is that drives us, on a seemingly instinctual level, to capture a representation of our physical environment AND that which is going on within it.  Even before photos, we could trace whatever serotonin drip comes from taking a photo back to actions like writing, drawing, painting and so forth.  Why do we love to capture each moment of life? Sure, there’s remembering…or the subtle thought of some future application to these actions, but I think it’s deeper than that.  If you were designing a system with 7 Billion nodes (human species), how would you enable system level decision making to happen most smoothly?  It definitely starts with communication of contextual information between nodes…and I believe that our instinct to photograph and capture is a physiological design that basically says “when node sees something, report back to system.”

If you believe that thought as a premise, an examination of the speed with which these recordings/reports are sent back to the system is a fascinating trend to examine.  It used to be that a recording made by one human being could only reach and inform the decision making of those physically proximate to him (with some dissipating extension attributed to word of mouth), but generally if a caveman drew a painting on a cave, he was only influencing the thought and decision making of a subsystem which was his “neighborhood.”  As more advanced and portable recordings developed, recordings could not only reach a larger population and penetrate subsystems across far distances, but the speed at which the broader systems “received word” of what was learned or observed increased.  Even 10 years ago, with advanced camera technology, recordings only reentered system level consciousness after 72 hours of photo development…

With the advent of digital photography, both the number of nodes serving as recorders as well at the number of recordings per recorder have increased to a point where I’d venture to say, when combined with textual recording and voice based dissemination of information, basically everything that is occurring within the environment in which our system operates is being “observed and transmitted” back to the system in some way….and the speed at which information enters back into the system is essentially “real time.”  So we have this network of little worker humans who are feeding the system real time contextual information essentially reporting back to it it’s own health and status…we are monitoring ourselves and the frameworks we have built to sustain us….i know it doesn’t seem that way, but imagine if every cell in your body was communicating it’s health and the health/transpiraitons of it’s immediate surroundings back to your brain…cancer would be detected instantly, you’d know exactly what food your body needs at any given moment, etc…as it currently stands, the human physiological system does not receive and decide in “real time”, but our broader system is getting there…

We started by recording and pushing “what happened” and that informed our system level decision making somewhat inefficiently but still effectively.  We then move into a state of recording not “what happened” but “what is happening” and that shift is responsible for something of a renaissance in system level consciousness and self-optimization…basically, the speed at which our system can react to it’s context has shrunk to near zero…If I extrapolate out, once we are recording and pushing back to the system in perfect real time with perfect coverage, I believe we will move from a phase of “what’s happening” to “what will happen.”  By applying machine learning principles to billions of real time feeds of “what’s happening” we will start to see machines anticipate the future with statistical significance…there are already examples of this occurrence in datarich, heavily monitored contexts such as financial markets…but soon we will have similar insight into previously “unrecorded” contexts.  More photos, more push back to the system, new sensors, Nike Fuels, Jawbones, Smartphones, all driven and adopted by that same physiological urge that makes us take photos, perfecting system level monitoring of our context, carried out by human nodes, leading us into a world where the system will have a better view into an individuals life (the complete sensory recording of one node) than that individual has about his own context…

Afterthought: anyone seen fmri/chemical studies of what’s happening in the brain during the act of photography?

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6 Responses to “Every photo you take increases my life expectancy…thanks”

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Maybe they just like taking pictures

most everything else you do that you “like” has a phsyiological underpinning and reason…sex, eat, etc…

I can see this occurring at some point in the (not too distant?) future but not today. Perhaps Color would have had a lot more value under this type of scenario when “we are recording and pushing back to the system in perfect real time with perfect coverage.” Sifting through this rich data and finding patterns could certainly be useful for making predictions about “what will happen”.

Pretty interesting. Tangentially: it seems like one of the most common motivations for taking and sharing photos isn’t about pictures themselves, it’s about capturing and sharing experiences. By experience I don’t mean reality – “what you saw” – so much as the feelings that our interpretations of it generate. A filter doesn’t just change the look of a photo (and definitely doesn’t bring it closer to some objective representation), it changes the *feel* of it, and so becomes a less-poor representation of what we’re trying to share.

The design of the system is emergent. It’s not that there’s some systemic intent behind the desire to share these experiences. It’s: what does it mean for society when these base motivations are harnessed in these ways and directions?

From my perspective, the good news is that the desire to share experiences indicates a system-wide desire for empathy and connection. The challenge – this is laden with both danger and opportunity – is that the decisions that we make now, as designers and founders and manipulators and technologists, effect the system design outcomes. We can make a more empathetic, sympathetic, loving web/world, or a darker, more vain and sociopathic one. This is just a piece of what other folks have been talking about, e.g. http://bit.ly/ISRI5G

The last two paragraphs are rad, too. Sorta funny that the panopticon will be decentralized. Who would’ve guessed? Scary…but that’s why it’s important that we make it human.

Agreed with @lately, it’s an emergent system, you diest. 🙂

Regardless, interesting evolutionary perspective on “sharing,” something that has typically been examined from the individual’s perspective.

What are the recursive implications of your predictable future? What happens when Marty McFly knows which races to bet on?

Also: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57540826-83/u.s-looks-to-replace-human-surveillance-with-computers/

f*ing creepy. Jordan want to another pass at that ‘market for privacy’?

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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