by Ron Daly
No, it's not a sugary breakfast cereal - a feedback loop has to do with information and systems. A real life example:
- We got a Wii® Fit™ for our home
- We got on and tested our balance and posture
- We went through a series of crazy games involving hula-hoops and yoga poses
- We re-tested our posture to see how it had improved
But there's a fifth step, one that happens from the moment we turn the game on until the moment we quit and go get a sandwich - it's self-correction.
As you play, your character is being challenged to walk a tight rope, dance, and stand very still. The game gives you feedback about your posture and stance, evaluating your performance and telling you when you do whatever you're doing the wrong way. You try to get better, little by little, as you move through levels and exercises. Steven Levy of Wired has an article about being beaten down by these workout video games. His reason? He was TOO focused on his workout, as opposed to usual gym distractions.
An article from Harvard Business Review, "The Cost of Being Omniscient", talks about feedback loops in business and how they change the behavior of a buyer/user. From their article:
Anyone who doubts the power of feedback to influence action hasn't stepped on a scale before dinner. Customers under pay-as-you-drive plans almost invariably start using their cars less and buckling up more. Enel, an electrical utility in Italy, saw the same effect. After it installed "smart meters" in homes, its newly aware customers collectively spent 500 million euros less per year on electricity.
We have come to a point where "Information Age" doesn't quite describe where we are as a society. I think "Feedback Age" is a better fit. The more social the Internet gets, If you're interested in bettering yourself, there's info everywhere on how to get it done. Your iPod isn't just a music player, it's a pedometer and a calorie counter. Your car is telling you when you're not driving safely. Your house tells you to shut off your lights. As a result, you jog faster, you drive better, you live greener. Why?