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Celebrating Conception, Give or Take

Lijiang: boarding

A year ago today give or take, my partner and I welcomed a baby girl into the world. Born in Los Angeles, with mixed race parents she holds passports from three countries and, like the rest of her family she is now finding her feet here in China.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of watching an infant in her first year is that the smallest everyday tasks are filled with adventure – and that wriggling/crawling and now walking beside her on the path of discovery also stimulates her parents’ aging neurons otherwise dulled by repetition and apparent insight. For her everything is new, fresh (and apparently edible). For the professional observer it is like signing up to a year long workshop on everyday life, with a bit of sleep depravation thrown in. Wonderful. Recommended.

So on her first birthday give or take, one of her parents was seriously ill and a certain daughter didn’t get quite as much attention lavished on here as the parents had hoped. Which meant that after the recovery there was another, separate celebration of sorts.

Like many of you reading this I grew with the assumption that a birth day was a fixed entity – but over the years and on my travels I’ve come across many examples of parents shifting their children’s date of birth both formally (on their birth certificate, passport) and informally (celebrating birthday’s at a different time of the year ) with motivations for the change ranging from getting their child into a particular school year; to obtaining child benefits; to increasing the likelihood of being signed up for a professional football team.

How will emerging technologies affect the rituals and traditions in celebrating birth days? And the parent’s ability to change the date formally or informally?

In a world that is documented with ever more precision, granularity, and our very human desire to share there will increasingly be an online record that time-stamps the exact moment of birth. Shift your skeptical frame of reference from tweeting or streaming the birth live, skip one or two steps beyond Facebook to personal health monitoring systems++ synced up to your fluffy corner of the cloud, with elements of what is captured shared out to the wisps of the cloud used by your family and peers. That emotional graph of your spouse combined after checking into a hospital; the purchase trail of the child’s grandparents combined with communications chatter from your peer group? That’s the tell tale signature of a birth, y’know. Or at least someone will know. Which when you bring it around to our very human ritual of celebrating the day-of-the-birth, the birthday, will quite likely affect when, and how we celebrate.

What happens when you’re inherently aware, reminded of not only the birthday but the birthsecond? Or even the moment of conception?

Happy birthday, give or take.

Now spend a few, well calibrated moments on the Quantified Self.