Ed Finn: The Outsourced Self

We are increasingly outsourcing our identities to computers and algorithms, argues Ed Finn, Director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and Assistant Professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English. What we traditionally think of as our real physical self coexists with numerous digital “shadow selves” that help store our memories, evaluate our financial reliability and tell advertisers what products we might want to buy, or which TV shows we’ll want to stream next. “Our digital breadcrumbs now tell stories about us that are deeply secret, moving, surprising – and often things we don’t even know about ourselves,” writes Finn in a Future Tense article for Slate. This outsourcing of selfhood to digital repositories can be disastrous in cases of hacking and identity theft, but the horror stories are only part of the picture. Instead, Finn likens our current relationship with our data to adolescence: “our data is sprouting up in all sorts of weird and awkward places, pumping out signals about us we can barely understand, much less control.” Read the full article at Future Tense to learn more about lifelogging, using data to construct our own narratives, and the need for all of us to upgrade our algorithmic literacy. Finn’s article is part of a series exploring this year’s Emerge theme, “The Future of Me.”   Image courtesy of infocux technologies, used under a Creative Commons license.