Counting Down to the Era of the Quantified Self
What’s exciting (and simultaneously scary at the same time) is that people are finally realizing that all of this data that we are accumulating about our bodies and our lives has economic value.
We’ve almost reached a point where it’s possible to track and record nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from how many calories we had for breakfast, to how often we work out, to how many hours we slept last night. The self-tracking concept, first popularized by Web enthusiasts on sites like Mint and Daytum, is now being integrated into a growing number of everyday devices – including those ubiquitous Apple ear buds - to help us track what we did, when we did it and for how long we did it. In a movement that is reminiscent of the dawn of the PC era and the growth of computer hobbyist clubs, we are now experiencing The Era of the Quantified Self.
The Financial Times Magazine recently profiled this growing Quantified Self movement, cataloging the various ways that these early adopters are literally tracking every aspect of their lives, from their heart rate to their REM sleep. The cover story in the July/August issue of MIT Technology Review is The Measured Life. More and more, this concept is making its way into the mainstream. Prominent backers already include Kevin Kelly, Gary Wolf (who recently presented his ideas at a TED conference), and Tim (The 4-Hour Work Week) Ferriss. There’s now even a Silicon Valley conference dedicated to the topic of the Quantified Self, which attracted nearly 400 attendees over the Memorial Day weekend to the Computer History Museum.
What’s exciting (and simultaneously scary at the same time) is that people are finally realizing that all of this data that we are accumulating about our bodies and our lives has economic value. We own this data and have the right to share it with whomever we please. (Sooner or later, venture capitalists will also realize this, and when they do, the movement will really take off.) For now, the most popular way for supporters of the Quantified Self movement to share this data is with communities of like-minded patients that are seeking new breakthrough drugs or treatments for specific ailments.
However, wouldn’t almost any advertiser love to get their hands on your personal data? For example, consider what advertisers typically know about you – maybe your age, your gender and where you live. If you stop to fill out online surveys, they may know some basics about your household income and how often you purchase certain items. If you “like” these brands on Facebook, they may know even more about your preferences and interests, as well as information about your personal life (at least, in the aggregate). If you start connecting with them via fitness and medical devices equipped with sensors, they may even be able speculate about your moods, your emotions, and your psychological states.
Five years from now, the notion of the Quantified Self may be so ingrained that it may be a question of whether we want to opt-out, not opt-in, to the personal data-tracking movement.
As companies aim for a greater degree of personalization in their products and services, data becomes an economic asset -- as well as a new way to think about the self. As Gary Wolf explains in his TED talk, data becomes not only a window, but also a mirror for self-realization. We are no longer part of a broad economic demographic – say, the 18-to-34 demographic - we are now each a demographic of one. We are all special, each and everyone of us. The Quantified Self movement is at the vanguard of something new and interesting that could herald a whole new era of the way we interact with pharmaceutical companies, financial services firms, and just about any major consumer brand. Soon, no amount of data will be too trivial to track – or too trivial to get paid for.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
An extinction events expert sounds a dire warning.
- The supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park could cause an "ultra-catastrophe," warns an extinction events writer.
- The full eruption of the volcano last happened 640,000 years ago.
- The blast could kill billions and make United States uninhabitable.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.