Socrates argued that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what about the observed life?

Thursday, many media outlets carried video from a dashcam in Stafford Township, New Jersey. The camera, left on in a parked vehicle, captured the moment when a natural gas explosion completely destroyed a home, reducing it to shreds.

On many media sites, the short explosion autoplays, meaning it’s impossible to avoid. (Yes, I am continuing my campaign against video voyeurism, but in a different way.) It’s compelling video you could argue, but essentially meaningless. It doesn’t do much, really, but let you ponder how lucky you are that something that horrible didn’t happen to you.

Now, there are places where full observation has value. While settling disputes in accidents, for example, dashcam footage can be an impartial observer.

Police videotape and audio can essentially provide an extra set of eyes uncoloured by opinion. (But with their own particular pitfalls — video evidence is compelling, even though you may not realize it’s still an interpretation of events. The difference, of course, is that the viewer is doing the interpretation and may not even realize it.)

Even British detective shows now often include “Detective X, you gather all the CCTV footage from the area” as a mandatory first step.

More and more, though, people are keeping the cameras running in their lives just in case — just in case an airplane crashes into their highway bridge, just in case a meteorite zings overhead. Their version of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame is a 30-second clip that no one else captured.

I’m already living a life;?I don’t really think I need to live someone else’s. In fact, I’m pretty sure constantly living the highlights of someone else’s does little except diminish the way I value my own. (It’s already a recognized, if not disputed, thing: University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found in 2013 that increased Facebook use makes people lonelier and more depressed. Other studies, though, have argued that its interconnectedness makes people feel more part of a group, even if it’s a virtual group that meets on a computer in a darkened corner of the room. Electronic fellowship may be better than no fellowship at all.)

Read the full article "A livestreamed life" at The Guardian.