Do you wear a smart watch? Use a fitness tracker? Have a smartphone? If you answered yes, sophisticated algorithms are helping you make intelligent decisions to increase your productivity, expand your network and improve your health.
And yet, recent evidence suggests that current devices are merely facilitators and not drivers of behaviour change. Limited to tracking and self-quantification, they are good at collecting data but poor in providing informed, actionable insights and, since their design is not based on habit formation science, they fail to make lasting change to our motivations and behaviours.
Advanced personalised smart-devices, powered by sophisticated algorithms and data science could change this paradigm.
😏 Never lose an argument.
Are there times you wish a little voice in your head would stop you from rolling your eyes in disgust or getting irrationally angry?
Technologies from companies like Beyond Verbal use emotional analytics to monitor call center agent and customer’s verbal tones to determine their emotional state and provide real time feedback with prompts like, “Stop! You are losing your composure. You are getting carried away by an annoyed customer.”
Their analytics engine taps into more than 400 variants of verbal intonations to identify a spectrum of emotions and attitudes and deliver real time cues. Agents use the feedback to regulate their voice and tailor their language to stimulate the desired action from the customer. Check out their analysis of Steve Job’s emotions as he discusses the tablet versus the phone in an interview.
It is conceivable that emotional analytics can be rapidly adapted for personalised use and train us to manage our emotions in real time.
🍰 Feed your body fat, sugar and cholesterol.
@ Kim Brown describes a future in personalised nutrition where an embedded chip in your tooth monitors saliva for cortisol and testosterone, tracks caloric intake, and provides insight into stress, sleep patterns, inflammation, and immune system and feeds it to a futuristic digital nutrition assistant called Tailor that applies sophisticated algorithms to make food suggestions.
Sounds fantastic? Consider the fact that researchers at Tufts School of Engineering have developed a tooth mounted sensor that can tell how much sugar, salt, and alcohol we have consumed and, saliva testing is already used for detecting hormonal changes, HIV antibodies, DNA analysis, alcohol screening, and drug testing and may soon be able to diagnose obesity, inflammation, and insulin-resistance.
We can envision a world where our food choices are based on what our body needs, making us self-styled nutritionists with improved health outcomes.
😥 Defeat negative thoughts before they occur.
Sensors in everyday devices, such as phones, wearables, and computers, leave a stream of digital traces that can be collected and analysed to identify human behaviours, thoughts, feelings, and traits. Researchers at the Center for Behavioural Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University, specialising in digital mental health, have shown that sophisticated algorithms applied to mobile phone sensor data can be used to identify people who may be at greater risk for depression.
Their mission is to make personalised, digital mental health available to all people allowing for automated interventions when needed most.
🏃♀ Better, faster, smarter. A more intelligent you.
Research shows that new habits are developed by mere repetition of a simple action in a consistent context. Once initiation of the action is ‘transferred’ to external cues, dependence on conscious attention or motivational processes is reduced. Therefore habits can persist even after conscious motivation or interest dissipates.
Algorithmically driven, ubiquitous sensors would autonomously and consistently trigger in specific contexts (e.g. emotional or hormonal change) and initiate a behaviour modification based on insightful and individualised recommendations (e.g. personalised nutrition or mental health). They would also reinforce desirable actions with information based rewards.
Regular use of smart-devices, based on habit-formation science, could “train” the users inherent cognitive and emotional abilities to adopt new behaviours, even after the device enabled trigger or conscious motivation is removed.
❓The Intelligent Quotient (IQ) conundrum.
The OECD 2016 Survey of Adult Skills tested 200,000 adults in 33 countries and found that 1 in 10 adults performed at the lowest level in reading and math and older generations in the UK and USA performed better than 16–24 year olds in reading and math respectively.
And yet, the Flynn effect states that over time average IQ scores have been increasing in all countries at a rate of approximately three IQ points per decade. This implies that an average individual today would have an IQ of 130 by the standards of 1910, making them more intelligent than 98% of the population at that time. Equivalently, an individual alive in 1910 would have an IQ of 70 by today’s standards, which would be low enough to be considered intellectually disabled in the modern world.
In his book What Is Intelligence? Beyond the Flynn Effect, James Flynn notes that much of the gains in IQ for American children have come from engagement with technology that leads to improvements in tests of abstract thinking and only a small portion is due to improvements in information, arithmetic and vocabulary.
👋 In conclusion …
Technology enabled abstract thinking results in higher IQ scores and algorithmically driven, personalised smart devices have the potential to make us smarter, healthier and emotionally more resilient. The future of digitalisation is bright and we should actively embrace algorithms and smart-devices to become more intelligent.
What do you think? Are we becoming more intelligent in the digital age?
This is part of a series of blogs on human digital intelligence and its impact on modern day workers as part of my doctoral research at the Copenhagen Business School. Your thoughts and ideas are an integral part of this research and are deeply appreciated. Connect with me on LinkedIn or say hi on Twitter, mentioning this story. More about me and my company can be found at Drive Change.
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Pietschnig, Jakob, and Martin, Voracek. One Century of Global IQ Gains: A Formal Meta-Analysis of the Flynn Effect (1909–2010). Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2015, 282–306. doi:10.1177/1745691615577701.
Silver, Mike (2018). Scientists develop tiny tooth-mounted sensors that can track what you eat. Tufts Now. Retrieved from: https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/scientists-develop-tiny-tooth-mounted-sensors-can-track-what-you-eat
OECD Skills Matter (2016). Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Skills Studies. OECD Publishing, Paris. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/