Life Logging – an urge to create a sparse but useful dataset?

I have a strange urge and desire to life-log, which I am unable to explain. Since I was very young, I have always kept a journal of some form or another. More recently I have moved to a digital journal format.

In my very young days, I would keep a diary because I was told to. Later, in high single-digit and early teen years I would keep a diary because it was somewhere I could write private thoughts, fulfilling the role of what some might have thought of as an ‘imaginary friend’ – I very much talked to my journal in a ‘dear diary’ style, as though it understood my concerns about the world.

My recent reasons for logging have generally been because I’m very busy, I’m enjoying life, and I’m doing a lot of things. I find it great to read back over my journal entries and relive the experiences. I especially like comparing the anticipation of an event with the memories of how it went and what I learnt from it. It really reinforces the idea of events which you may be nervous about never being as bad as you expect. It can be a really insightful thing to do.

Last weekend I spent a lot of time scanning old photographs into digital format. It’s amazing how each photograph opens up an entire set of memories, thoughts, and feelings. I’m also scanning my entire back archive of paper artwork (hundreds of a4 and a5 images). I like the idea of having all this stuff in a digital format such that it may eventually be tagged and have a proper semantic referencing system, when an appropriate framework for this kind of thing is developed.

However, I have a slightly more practical (and somewhat more controversial) reason for lifelogging, which I would like to explore in the next few years (or maybe decades).

Creating an upload from an extended lifelog

I like the idea of creating an AI that could take all this data and infer things from it. It could perhaps infer what kind of a person I was, and what kind of a person I am now. It might be a useful dataset for an AGI trying to understand human development, or developing itself.

An even more interesting idea is to create a virtual version of yourself by giving it access to all this information and a timeline. (You’d effectively be giving it memories).

One currently in vogue lifelogging technique is recording your entire set of experiences using an on-person video camera with built-in audio. However I feel that this method has its flaws. The stream obviously only records external input. You would ideally have a technique which also monitors streams such as internal reasoning, understanding, feelings and personal thoughts. Some of this could be automatically recorded using secondary effects, for example heart rate, hormone levels, blood sugar levels. But even those techniques just can’t capture that oh-so-elusive personal subjective experience.

Journal keeping is one way to do get around this problem, but you have to learn to write your journal in a very specific way. So something like “I listened to some music today” would be pretty information lean, whereas “I listened to song X today and it made me feel rather melancholy because it reminded me of the time when I first heard it, I was doing Y, and that inspired me to draw this piece of artwork Z. Now everytime I hear that piece of music I’m inspired to create more artwork”. In addition, I think that tagging stuff will be easier in text and image formats than in a video stream.

A dream diary can also contribute to the dataset, as it could give an AI more data about how the subjective experience during sleep can be different to normal.

In short, there’s no way to create an exhaustive dataset, but a sparse one may still be useful. I guess I’ll continue doing it as long as I find it fun.

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4 thoughts on “Life Logging – an urge to create a sparse but useful dataset?

  1. ommadon says:

    Text shouldn’t really be a problem. There are papers on extracting terminology, relationships and hierarchies from domain texts, figuring out the semantics and what-have-you. I see no reason it shouldn’t be possible with natural language soon enough. Pick the right ontologies, you’ll even be able to automatically combine it with your video :)

  2. Creating an upload from an extended lifelog is a cool idea (I am sure you are familiar with Martine’s writings http://mindclones.blogspot.com/ and her CyBeRev project http://cyberev.org/) but I am afraid acquiring enough information to power up a upload with a sufficient degree of preservation of personal identity would take ages.

    I believe uploading via extended lifelogging will become viable when next generation BCI devices (EPOC http://emotiv.com/ on steroids) will permit mind-to-computer data transfer rates orders of magnitude faster, including emotional states difficult to express in words.

  3. Utopiah says:

    Well you are not alone in the process, there is the IRC freenode channel ##PIM dedicated to Personal Information Management and its wiki http://ourp.im/ , feel free to join.

    If you are in the Bay Area there is also http://www.meetup.com/quantifiedself/ and also the now classical http://www.quantifiedself.com/ .

    Cheers,
    Fabien aka Utopiah , fellow wondering life-logger ;)

  4. TransAlchemy says:

    Dear Diary has turned into “Dear Internet” I have recently scanned all my notebooks for you and slowly in a controlled and discrete manner you are welcomed to retain it forever…

    I, find myself too prolific on the internet not to consider the possibility of an upload being created out my information. I speculate at times your “control” of such a thing/entity, could I encode an upload to finish my work should I…

    And how do I know I’m not an upload myself ;-)

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