Meet the Feedback Loop

About a year ago, right after The Decision Tree book came out, I realized that a concept I touched on in the book had far larger potential. The Feedback Loop, it struck me, had potential as a framework for improving human behavior throughout our lives. Indeed, feedback loops could be put into action beyond health, into areas such as productivity, energy consumption, and other categories where human behavior plays a pivotal role.

So it only took me 15 months, then, to tap out the article that is now the cover story in the new issue of WIRED: The Feedback Loop: How To Get Better At Anything.

This is a classic tech/trend piece, but one that I'm especially proud of, because I think it represents some thinking that goes way beyond my meager brain. It is, as much as anything I've ever written, very much in the zeitgeist in Silicon Valley. The idea is simple: Tracking our behavior can help us improve it. (This is the essence of the Quantified Self meetups that my pals Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly have curated). But the opportunity today is profound: New sensors can help us track our behavior more readily than ever before - and, moreover, that tracking can extend beyond the Silicon Valley crowd to the population at large. Feedback loops can be incorporated into all sorts of experiences and tools, and can be readily understood by all sorts of people. Thus, all of a sudden, a rather geeky idea starts to get rather universal. And that means SCALE, and that's where it starts to get interesting.

One thing I was sorry about in the Wired story was that I couldn't give full voice to the vast historical and contemporary context of feedback loops, exploring their roots in 18th century engineering and 20th century military strategy and contemporary philosophy and behavioral science. There is a HUGE amount to talk about in terms of feedback loops - where they come from, what they draw on, what they help us with today, and what they might enable tomorrow.

In other words, there's a lot more to say here. It's almost like there's another book in it....