Happiness metrics have often been thought of as these things that are lofty or ridiculous or simply idealistic. Maybe they are to some extent.
Anything not directly tied to money or some economic growth standard doesn’t seem to merit the weight and attention of the general public. Sadly, psychologists contend that most people don’t think of themselves as deserving of happiness, in whatever form that may be.
A simple response to those notions would be that people need to discover their happiness in more creative ways, and that happy people make better products and provide better, more meaningful services, which can only do great things for an economy.
Gross Digital Happiness is a concept I’ve been playing with for a while now that merges GNH (Gross National Happiness) metrics, social network metrics and economic metrics (or more clinically defined as econometrics). It’s a behavioral precept for monitoring patterns that link us to “happy actions”, with the intent that these actions occur in physical spaces and are then reported or tracked in online spaces.
And here’s the catch: it shouldn’t feel only like an application. This isn’t just about collecting data, it’s about aligning emotional values.
I’ll give you a personal example.
Not a lot of people know this about me, but I’m an artist. Naturally, I feel different types of emotion when I draw or I paint. It would be great if I could express those feelings to other friends or acquaintances, and connect with people on deeper, more emotional levels, say, through social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Tumblr or G+. The way I can make those connections is both through what I create as well as expressing how I created it, or better yet, why I created it.
A few critical dynamics occur here:
First, I can realize that I am emotionally not alone, particularly at certain times of the day.
Second, I can relate to other people going through similar emotions or emotional states.
Third, if companies insist on using my data to keep slinging me stuff to buy, then they might as well understand what truly makes me, and my friends, happy.
Or, what makes us creative. Or sad. Or pissed off. Or whatever.
What’s nice is that commercial technologies are just scratching the surface in similar ways.
Facebook released a Gross National Happiness app back in 2010 that shows leaps in positivity and negativity.
Feliscope is a system that measures “prosperity, happiness and felicity” based on individual inputs.
A number of biometrics platforms have been developed, such as Auraware, that intend to show how certain activities and body functions contribute to our spiritual well-being.
Happathon is a crowdsource community that is devoted to building apps and platforms around metrics that promote “well-being versus wealth”.
Other platforms, such as Myo, are using gestural control to explore a wide range of physical and emotional functions, replete with acute data sets that can transform industries like health and medicine.
And again, it’s not just about data — it’s about the patterns that reveal new narratives about what happiness can mean for people in different contexts. Narratives such as:
- The various dimensions of love;
- What positive sacrifice means between life and work;
- The meaning of gifts;
- The joys of freedom;
- What creativity means to each of us;
- Living a healthier life;
- The science of making confident decisions…
… Etcetera, etcetera.
In a era when industrialism is arguably still making us “dumb and numb” in various ways, I would hope that this would contribute to the development of emotional intelligence, or emotional I.Q., both at the individual and collective levels. More importantly, I’d love for us, as a society, to establish happiness as a goal, not just an ideal.
It’s about time we started using various cognitive and wearable technologies to understand these deeper layers of ourselves. After all, isn’t that the point of technology… To actually help us make our lives better? To enable happiness?