Quantified Self

September 11, 2013 11:36 am
Black Nike FuelBand Photo © Intel Free Press

Based on a new discovery in my life I started to think about the benefits of quantify my life. I mean at first it seems really handy – if you forget about your security concerns. Isn’t it? I mean you provide data and get information which makes you healthier. Think about the possibilities you get if you use tools like Withings’ scale to quantify your life. What does that mean?

My first thought was – handy.

My second thought was – makes life easier. So I started months and years ago to harvest data using different tools. First I started using tools like Runkeeper or Runtastic to get my sport activities tracked. It creates a real good feeling about how sporty and active you are. What the tools are not tracking and telling you is – how less you move if your are not on a run.

The next step was – that I needed a tool which is working and tracking me all day long. I started using pedometers – which I forgot most of the time – except my phone – so I installed Move and let it track all my steps and movements. So now, I knew when I was moving and how many steps I did  during my day. I also knew where I was – exactly. Downside was the empty battery on my phone.

But why stop there? So I put my phone under my pillow to start tracking my sleep using different tools. Enormous amounts of data were generated during the day – mostly on my phone and everything was uploaded to the cloud and somehow linked together.

I got information about my future mood, about my actual mood – about how I should feel the next day and how I should feel right now. Also I got proper sleep, based on the data of the tools I used (and was still sleepy) and I knew when and how much sport I should do (still gaining weight). My phone was still empty most of the time – so I changed to those tools like JawBone Up, Fitbit Flex and comparable. Using this tools I also started to log my nutrition consumption by making pictures of my food or choosing my food from a lists (never found the right one).

Sounds awesome – sounds life changing – also exposes me to thousands of threats – but hey it is linked and everything, and saves time (somehow). My life should have changed by now – dramatically. The tools telling me that life is great and I should be something like an athlete – actually I thought I know everything about myself using tools and gadgets and a lot of data. (By the way – I am sitting around 10 hours a day in front of a PC – I am not sure if real athletes are doing the same.)

But as you guess – that is not how it worked out by the end – I stopped all this things by now. I stopped relying on those data coming from my gadgets – the cloud which linked everything together and those highly complicated algorithms which told me what to do. What I did was starting to think again – on my own – looking into the mirror and ask myself what I see and what I feel.

Linking things and all this data together is an easy approach to trick us in feeling great – but in the end – how can an algorithm really know about me – about how I feel. I mean – my girlfriend is spending hours, days, weeks and years of her life with me and is still not able to quantify everything I am doing right – an algorithm can? I doubt so!

So I stopped most of the life tracking systems I used – except my own brain. And I am pretty confident that it is better than everything else and by the way – I fixed a security hole in my life. Therefore don’t forget keep your brain turned on if you are using all those nice shiny tools and yes, I know they are great and telling you things you wouldn’t have known otherwise but do you need this information at all?

Written by Herbert Feutl