When Worlds Collide

by francine Hardaway on May 4, 2013

Yoga is the place I go to disconnect. Admittedly I have been known to check my phone for messages if I leave the yoga room for any reason, but in the room I never do.  I’m not one of the people whose phone rings randomly in mid-pose because I forgot to put it on vibrate.

Lately I’ve been wearing fitness monitors, however, and I seldom take them off during class because I always want to know if yoga gives me fuel points, or steps, or whatever I happen to be monitoring this week. My monitoring addiction began with the Fitbit, which was sent to me to try when it was introduced into the market. The Fitbit monitors steps, and sleep effectiveness, and calorie intake if you tell it what you ate.

I took off the Fitbit after I realized I knew exactly how I slept, what I ate, and how much I walked — but so what? Nevertheless, I’m a gadget geek, so when the Jawbone Up came out, I bought one. When it fell apart, I switched to the Nike Fuel Band. I liked that okay, despite not knowing what “fuel points” are.  But then I heard about the Basis watch, which also took your heart rate, and I ordered one of those. And then I bought the second, more durable Jawbone. Mind you, I haven’t really learned anything new about myself in two years, and every single one of these devices is ugly by female standards. Clearly they were designed by male engineers. But I am now addicted to things on my wrist that tell me things I no longer need to know. Wearable computers.

Somewhere in the middle of all this fitness hysteria, I backed a project on Kickstarter called the Pebble Watch. Enough other people backed it to raise Pebble $10 million, and the founders retired to China to figure out how to manufacture a smart watch.

The Pebble Watch isn’t really a monitor like the others. It only monitors what’s happening on your smart phone, and communicates notifications to you through the watch face. It’s more like the overhyped Google Glass. The Pebble  can remind you of appointments, tell you who is calling, and send your text messages. Think of it as a Dick Tracy wrist radio. Like the others, it’s pretty ugly, and like the others, it has been designed by and for boys.

But it only arrived yesterday, and I was wearing it and learning it when I went into yoga this morning.

We were laying on the floor toward the end of a yin class heavy in Chinese traditional medicine lore, concentrating on opening our Meridiens and freeing our chi. Completely in the right brain.  Never mind what all this means. Just know that it’s serious, and the room is silent.

I must have pressed a button that activated something (I don’t know, because my eyes were closed), because all of a sudden my watch began reading aloud from “The Signal and the Noise,” a book by the totally left brain statistician Nate Silver about economic forecasting and why both it and earthquake forecasting are so often wrong. (The mistake is called “over fitting.”) The actual application, Audible, that reads books to me is on my iPhone, and my phone was paired with Pebble. Somehow, the watch opened Audible.

Unfortunately, the yoga teacher had just asked us all what we had learned about ourselves during the class. What had I learned? I had learned that I didn’t  know all the capabilities of my Pebble Watch, and that I had therefore caused two usually very separate worlds to collide. I also learned that it’s impossible to explain to people who are not geeks and wouldn’t know a Basis from a Pebble from a potato chip what had just happened. To them, it was perfectly random.







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