March 26, 2023

I’m figuratively attached at the hip to my fitness tracker. It’s literally attached at the wrist 24/7/365.
Fitness trackers, devices worn on the wrist that record all sorts of data, mostly relating to health, are not new. Some companies claim theirs have saved their owners’ lives by warning of impending heart attacks. Others have auto-dialed 911 after serious accidents.
My son jettisoned his smart watch recently because it kept inquiring if he was OK as he chopped wood. The tracker’s artificial intelligence couldn’t discern between intentional jarring and a car wreck. (How about we get some real intelligence for a change.)
These devices use algorithms, which, like crypto currency and the cosine, only geniuses and the ultra-wealthy pretend to understand. There are too many tracker brands and models to name. There were 42 million trackers bought just in 2014.
Controversial for sure. Some say they are a key component in the “big brother” state that is always watching to catch us doing something wrong. Do we really need more 1984 with a salute to George Orwell, and with tracker firmly installed on salute wrist.
Cyber security experts worry about hackers wreaking havoc on our health with moderate to murderous results. John Grisham wrote a novel years ago about diabolical diabetes pumps killing off their customers. Hacking vs. tracking. Man vs. machine.
Many corporations from clinics to computer firms have incentivized wearing them, offering perks from paying health insurance premiums to reward trips and prizes. These little wrist bands have made Socrates dictum to examine oneself into a reality he never dreamed.
The data they produce are pretty conclusive. Wearers who put in more steps leave the hospital sooner after surgery, exercise more, go to bed on a better (and healthier) schedule and eat better.
Their manufacturers tout them as critical to self-improvement, which is certainly not new. Old Ben Franklin monitored himself via his journal on 13 qualities by which he wanted to better himself every day.
Like those red lights on your car’s dashboard empower you to see needed repairs in advance, the fitness tracker warns you so you no longer have to wait till your body breaks down before going to the doctor. You can be proactive and take your body into the “shop” before you break down. But that assumes you take it in instead of ignoring the lights.
So what if you’re one of those deniers who shuts their eyes to bad news? It’s still your choice. It’s called a “fitness tracker,” not a “fitness enforcer.”
Like God in Deuteronomy 30 where he implores us to obey His life-giving commands “for our own good” (30:15-16, 19-20). He warns us of the choices that lead to really living the abundant life he designed and desires for us and the choices that destroy us. Then he begs: “Please choose life!” Then like a good, loving Father, he always gives us the freedom to make our own choices.
Rick Sams is pastor emeritus of Alliance Friends Church.


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