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The Quantified Soul

James A. Reeves, Broken Scales:

If I have a soul, what are its measurements and boundaries? I close my eyes and try to imagine it. Perhaps this is a fool’s errand, a pointless exercise in metaphysical speculation. Then again, there’s the 21st-century joke—or horror—that our search histories might be the most accurate portrait of our souls.

All the little gestures and routines that define me—listening to music, walking, running, meditation, writing, reading, sleep, even breathing—can now be quantified via a weirdly persistent army of devices and apps that want to tell me how fast, how long, how far, how often, and how many people.

While I wasn’t paying attention, my life became gamified into metrics and streaks. But turning myself into a scoreboard has led to blinkered thinking: a binary view in which every activity becomes about the accretion of data, not the mystery and mess of life itself. Maybe we’re not meant to know so much about ourselves.

Satan would be deeply envious of the soul-harvesting and corrupting prowess of social media companies.

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