Your data is valuable to others who want to sell you things. But, is it valuable to you? Smartwatches’ ability to track sleep patterns, movement and heart rate variation give us some greater understanding of our physical health. Netflix and YouTube recommendations sometimes help narrow down the “what to watch” list. A much more valuable use of your data could be to connect you with like-minded people.
A key point to understand is the difference between personal and comparative data. Personal data points can be interesting (“My max heart rate is 220bpm!”), but what’s far more interesting is comparative data. The first step would be to see how your maximum heart rate compares to the general population. That is not too helpful when the population includes both loafers and Olympic athletes (too wide of a range). Therefore, the next step is to put you in a subgroup that makes your data more relevant, such as age, activity level, etc. With the ability to control for these subgroups, you might be able to observe how your performance stacks up against fellow 30-something swimmers, whether you’re “healthy,” stressed at odd times, or capable of winning a marathon.
Health data only skims the surface of what we could gain if we better understood our data and could compare it with others. How we think can be deduced from our Google searches, grammar structure, music-movie-book selections, time spent at given locales, photo taking habits, dietary patterns, etc.
Wouldn't you want to know if there was someone on the other side of the world that was just like you?
The ability to learn might be vastly accelerated by finding a model person to imitate who is more like you than your hero. You might also be able to find the ever-elusive soul mate, business partner, or best friend a lot faster than the brutish ways of modern networking.
Connecting through correlations might prove less enchanting than happenstance encounters. But if targeted advertising sells stuff more efficiently, finding the right people might be aided by knowing thy data, and theirs too.