We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip main navigation

Homo Calculator

In this video Viktor Dörfler talks about whether we really want smart technology to calculate everything for us.
5.9
Let’s assume for a moment, that the smart technology is always able to recommend what is the best for you. Now the question is, if this is true, would you like that it does it? So for example, it will tell you what you should purchase, your smart refrigerator for example. What you should get from the grocery shop, and so on. Now if this is done, then you will never try out a new cake, or a new brand of milk, and you will not find out some other exciting things. Now those people who like these things, I call the homo calculator. Steve Baker calls them the Numerati. So these people would like to calculate most things in their lives.
51.6
Of course this is a little bit too much for others. But even those like me, who do not really want to have everything calculated, even I am very happy that my computer can arrange the room choices, or for my hotel accommodation according to the total price. I am very happy if it can recommend a good deal on insurance if I am interested in purchasing insurance, or if I can find the place that I can get my new sofa. Now these are like in some sort of opposite directions. So there are these absolute extremes, the kind of quantified me-type movements, who will try to make you feel guilty, if you are not a homo calculator.
98.4
So, for example, they count all the steps they make during the days, they make photos of their food to calculate the calories, and so on and so on. Now do I want that, or do I want that all the time? My point is that we should not feel guilty if we are not a homo calculator at the time. When I was with Google, they told us about some upcoming features of the Google Calendar. It would, for example, shut off my computer if I was working on it for more than three hours, and it will send me to exercise.
137.1
It will tell me what I should eat in the cafeteria, and it will text my wife when I am on my way home. I only had one question for them, can I turn it off?
According to George Kelly, we are all scientists. This does not mean a profession here, rather a mindset. Just think of those adverts claiming that your detergent kills 99.9% of bacteria or that there is experimental evidence that your toothpaste makes your teeth seven shades whiter. Utter nonsense.
There is worse. I have heard people saying that they hope that happiness or love could be measured one day as we can measure fever. There are things that can and should be calculated. Like your tax allowance. There are things that can but shouldn’t be calculated, like your detergent. Make no mistake here, we are not buying the detergent that kills 99.9% of bacteria instead of the one that only kills 99.7% (or 38.4% for that matter). We are buying the one that was advertised by a lady with a nicer smile or the guy with greater muscles. There are things that cannot and should not be calculated or measured, such as love or happiness. Why would anyone want this? We need to find our own golden mean (or golden middle), like Aristotle did, putting courage as a virtue in-between cowardice and recklessness.
This article is from the free online

Understanding Information and Technology Today

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education