"I have no surprises in my life at all," my friend Ryan said. "We can’t go out and do anything anymore without knowing exactly how it’s going to go."
I reflected on that statement for a moment. The night before, my Google Now notification told me — by searching my inbox and checking against my recent Google Maps search — that I was a 13-minute subway ride or a 20-minute Uber ride or a 24-minute bike ride from the place where I had a dinner reservation. And a Yelp review of said restaurant showed me what the exterior would look like, what was on the menu and what to expect of the staff. And after I ate a delectable seared tuna dish followed by truffle oil mac n’ cheese, I got a MyFitnessPal notification that I’ll gain four pounds in six weeks if I keep eating like this.
All the unpredictability of life has started to escape me
My night out was revealed to me with incredible accuracy 30 minutes before it even began.
Somewhere, somehow, all the unpredictability of life has started to escape me.
This would seem to be our future — a quantified society. And it’s only going to get worse. More apps, more crowd data, more predictability. And for what purpose? Efficiency?
Life’s greatest moments come from the unexpected — and instead, we’ve written down every moment we could possibly have in life and put them in Foursquare tips, just to make sure there won’t be any surprises. Yes, it’s made life less risky, but nowhere near as rewarding.
And it’s not just crowd data — we’re doing it to ourselves, privately. We get Mint notifications when we’ve exceeded our coffee budgets. We track how many calories we eat and how many hours a night we sleep and how far we’ve run and how much farther we need to run this month to get a cool new badge on our profiles.
Maybe, just maybe, something will surprise you and inspire you
Sure, there are benefits. But to keep our humanity intact, we’re going to have to make a conscious effort to be human: get out of your Uber a few blocks early, just to see what you stumble upon. Ignore the Mint notification that you exceed your gas budget for the month and go explore the world. Find your way to dinner without directions. Watch a movie without reading the reviews. You might be late, you might eat a crappy meal, the film might suck, but maybe you’ll stumble upon your new favorite book store or find a piece of street art or have a conversation you hadn’t planned on. Maybe, just maybe, something will surprise you and inspire you.
Because if we have no surprises in our lives, we’re doing it wrong.