The Selfish Ledger (Google X ~2016)

X, the moonshot subsidiary of Google responsible for big dreams, created an intriguing, thought-provoking video back in late 2016 describing the idea of The Selfish Ledger.  In the video, the basic idea presented is simple:  In the future, as The Cloud knows increasingly more about us, wouldn’t it be very easy to create a world where we are continually “nudged” towards healthy and productive behaviors?  (Of course, this begs the question of who gets to determine “healthy” and “productive” but I guess… Google!)  This day and age, we are continually putting more and more data representing our preferences and beliefs into the world.  What YouTube videos we watch, we news articles we read, what new Spotify songs we listen to.  The world is so large and overflowing with content that you’d need multiple lifetimes just to consume it all.

Enter: Google’s Selfish Ledger.

“Content discovery” is the new billion-dollar industry.  Whoever can help make sense of all of the noise in the next few decades is going to become king.  Right now, the entire enterprise is driven by advertising.  People who are willing to pay a pretty penny are able to get their material “highlighted” and featured on main landing pages.  But what if there were another way?

Switching gears, I think one very promising aspect of “The Selfish Ledger” is if Google could figure out a way to predict your mood and propensity for certain activities.  If the user is wearing a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, then Google (or Apple) likely has a user’s health data and could detect when a user was sleeping poorly or irregularly.  Likewise, Google also owns Google Maps, of course, so they would totally know every time you visited a hospital or doctor’s office or Walgreens to pick up prescriptions.  Thus, Google could –from reading your online activity and personal health metrics– determine when you were feeling unwell and suggest more “comfort” activities for your consumption.  Either “feel-good” crowd-pleasing movies through Google Play or Nyquil and other medications from Amazon.  Foodwise, Google could also offer you ice cream and other delicious foods that aid in your health recovery.

I feel TSL is an inevitability that is good.  Since man first walked this earth, he’s done so alone, unable to connect himself with all of the wonders that the world has to offer.  Instead of seeing ourselves as individual actors on a stage, TSL asks us to view ourselves as mere hosts that are carriers of preferences, opinions, beliefs, and information.