Living in a spreadsheet reality

Hiking away from numbers

Text and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt,

More and more we live in a calculated reality, we invest in our families, we optimize minutes with our kids and at work our lives are on the mercy of how the numbers add up in the spreadsheet… even thrive is something we invest in, to get “better results”  – and in walking, the 10.000 steps a day is going mainstream

Drawing of people with heads as calculators
Are we becoming living calculators

For almost 200 days I kept an eye on my Garmin Smartwatch, as it kept track on my heart rate, my hours of sleep, my patterns of movement and if I kept the minimum of 10.000 steps a day, I had programmed in. On my phone, my laptop and my arm I would constantly get reminders about how to reach the numbers… Then it broke down, just days before my 200′ day of 10.000 steps in a row, suddenly the touchscreen, the heart rate monitor and the screen went flickering and then died… I tried to hit it on a rock to get it back to life… it didn’t help – I had no idea about the numbers… neither did my smartphone, Garmin or all the systems monitoring them.

But it made me tune into numbers and how they have started to define my reality. When I talk with people we talk about how we “invest” hours, energy and emotions in our projects and relationships. How we measure and evaluate the results we get from the time we spent on different things in our lives.  Hiking is just one of those things, but also one of the things that has avoided this logic for a long time.

A few years ago many hikers would actually go for a walk to get away from all this, just to take a break and go for a stroll, experiencing and getting lost outdoors, looking at the clouds and changing weather. Some still insist in turning off their digital gadgets and ever more advanced monitoring sensors when they walk.

And it make sense, now we have the technological option to measure everything on a hike, from the steps taken, to time, (active and rest minutes ) heart rate, energy consumed, GPS track and distance, highlights on the journey ( measured by amount of pictures taken ) and to compare it to both our expected progress and to the progress of others who are also calculating their progress in the same way and in the  same online systems ( there is a lot of competing ones )

Turning off our digital monitoring systems, is harder than it appear, because these systems get integrated into the way we think, talk about and look at what hiking is.  And those patterns gets hardwired into our brains the more we use them.

The result is that today the classic timeless and numberlessness of hiking is fast being digitally transformed into just another thing we calculate into our personal spreadsheet lives. And at the same time it change the way we see, not only the landscapes, the trails and each other, but also ourselves , as living calculators, scanning reality into numbers, statistics and balanced investments, more than on anything else…

Walking away from all this might be what hiking could also be about in the future…


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