Max Winter Osterhaus on Total Consumption Tracking

From the Bay Area QS Show&Tell group: Max Winter Osterhaus (tagline: “I make charts”) talks about tracking all of his purchases for the past 5 years in incredible detail. He tracks right down to the kind of fruit or bread he buys, and admits to being somewhat addicted to combing through receipts. Watch the video below to see why Max does this and some of the surprising things he has learned.

Max Winter Osterhaus – Consumption Tracking from Gary Wolf on Vimeo.

Max has also started making visual charts for his body, garden, and other systems in his life, loosely based on his data. Here’s a bigger view of the chart from his video.

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2 Responses to Max Winter Osterhaus on Total Consumption Tracking

  1. I love the idea of tracking consumption. It’s all too easy here in the West to not question our way of life. I’ve been thinking about how untenable it is to base a entire country’s economy (ours, in particular) on growth and unconstrained consumption. When I ask friends about the alternatives, sustainability comes to mind. Why don’t we live more like this? Is it human nature to take what is easy, and to take a lot? I wonder how much of our over-consumption is fueled by greed?

    The other thing that comes to mind is the hidden process and waste behind almost everything we buy. Unless it’s a locally-grown or made item, there’s a tremendous stream of activity involved. An idea I play with is making each item “smart” about where it came from. Not in the item itself, but via bar codes and a central croud-sourced system in which people have entered information about the origins and creation-delivery-use-disposal lifecycle of things. For example, I might buy a toy for my daughter that’s made in China. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if I could learn about the particular conditions in the factory where it was made, in the ship it crossed the ocean on, etc? How might that change my behavior? It would apply to anything, including produce and restaurants. The way it would work is anytime someone got interested in a particular product, they’d add an entry for it. “Meta” entries might be possible for all products that originate from a particular source. Anyone up for it?

    Important stuff – thank you.

    • Max Winter Osterhaus says:

      I generally agree, but would say that instead of greed, the driving factor of our over consumption is just confusion and a certain weakness. It’s hard to know what really makes us happy and to follow the paths that lead to that. It’s a personal honesty and realizing that our characters are flexible.

      The sourcing comment is interesting too. I think technology and law are heading in that direction. Already some industries (toys and games especially), are required to put a lot code that can be traced to a particular factory and print run. As the technology advances, the market will push it forward.

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