Other potential usages of your information could be more annoying than nefarious—like when your cloud-processed data rains back down on you in the form of endless targeted commercial offers. Say the cloud knows that Andrew Paulus couldn't sleep last night: It could lend the data to Bed Bath & Beyond, which might then try to sell him a new pillow. The auto-insurance broker Progressive already offers an electronic device that can lower your insurance rates based on how you perform behind the wheel. It's not much of a stretch to imagine a wearable health monitor that affects your insurance premiums—and maybe even delivers reports on your sexual performance to a Big Pharma company, which then e-mails offers for discount erectile-dysfunction meds. And it's unnerving to imagine scenarios in which other people in your life get hold of your info: What if your employer accesses data showing increased perspiration and heart rate and figures out you were out late drinking? Or if your spouse finds your location data and realizes what you were really doing last night?
Revenue streams have yet to catch up to the data sets that are growing by the second, but the potential is obviously there: Zeo, the maker of a popular sleep-tracking device, was sitting on statistics for more than a million nights of slumber (the company recently shuttered, and who will ultimately snatch up this gold mine of data is anybody's guess). Nike, the granddaddy of biodata-mining thanks to its popular FuelBand device, has 11 million members in its Nike+ community—a number that figures to grow because of the company's new Accelerator program, which aims to replicate the success of Apple's app store by allowing developers to find more uses for the Nike+ platform and, ultimately, more users. Google, perhaps the most established Big Data company on the planet (your e-mails and Web searches bounce back at you in the form of personalized ads), is looking to dig even deeper with Google Glass, synced eyewear that will have the ability to store images and sounds you encounter in the physical world in the cloud for future use. (A Google spokesperson says the company is not yet ready to share all the specific details about the device's functionality, but cofounder Sergey Brin has promised that it will be commercially available before the end of the year.) And Apple is rumored to be readying its own watchlike device that will contain sensors for biodata collection and sync with your iPhone. The possibility of your feeding the Big Data beast—whether actively or passively—becomes greater every day.
Near the end of the QS conference at Stanford, Kevin Kelly compared the potential impact of all this data collecting to the explosion of an atomic bomb. The 600 enthusiastic self-trackers sat listening even as they tapped on tablets, tweeted koans, and transmitted data to the cloud for future mining, harvesting, and monetizing. "But unlike a nuclear explosion, which only lasts a few seconds," Kelly went on, "this is an explosion that's been going on for years and is still going. That's how much data we're making. It's a nuclear explosion that's going on forever." And there's a good chance it'll wind up consuming all of us. "I don't know if we'll be calling any of this the quantified self in 50 years," Dave Asprey says. "We might just call it being human."