We are at a crucial point where we have an understanding of behavioral science and the technological capability to make targeted digital interventions that enhance well-being. Nobel Laureates including Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler have revealed insights into why humans are not always rational so that we can design with cognitive biases in mind. Mobile and wearable technologies provide us with data gleaned from micro-monitoring behaviors 24/7 for billions of users. Engaging apps based on all of this can provide us effective platforms to offer the most relevant and timely feedback for well-being.
If technology companies, behavioral scientists, health insurance companies, and designers can work together, the impact would be unprecedented. We can build new predictive models that support well-being in a personal yet scalable way, suggesting design interventions that fit into people’s daily routines. If we discover that Sally tends to eat unhealthy food if she doesn’t get enough sleep, we could nudge her to sleep earlier instead of directly changing her eating habits. If we look more broadly, we might forge partnerships with Casper, the online mattress company, and Uber Eats, to further cement this habit. Google, Facebook, and Amazon have proven that similar targeting is possible for ads; we can appropriate these technologies to create hyper-targeted motivational strategies. The companies at the forefront of Big Data and Deep Learning are well positioned to help address lifestyle change and the preventable diseases that cost the United States more than $3 trillion a year in healthcare spending.
The examples I created for this thesis should not be considered the be-all and end-all. They just scratch the surface of a wellness-aware approach that could be a win-win for both consumers and technology companies.
As with any design project, we need to continuously iterate and test to ensure a seamless positive experience. Fruitmoji, Uber Well, Pinterest Well, and Instagram Well will need to evolve just like Snapchat, Uber, Pinterest and Instagram do. While these particular everyday technologies might someday cease to exist, new products and technologies will be invented to fulfill similar user needs. The holistic wellness system I propose will need to evolve alongside them, but the viewpoint and framework introduced in this book should be valuable in guiding that evolution. If we design small but smart, it will eventually add up.
Our lives, as psychologist and philosopher William James observed, are “but a mass of habits.” Unless we consciously decide to do otherwise, we repeat our past behaviours, for better or worse, “just as a sheet of paper, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward into the same identical folds.”