If you haven’t heard of the quantified self, it’s a movement to gather as much data as possible about one’s life using technology. That data is then analyzed to provide your with the information you need to improve yourself and your life. That could include everything from exercises performed, food eaten, hydration, sweat volume, heart rate, weight, blood pressure, etc. Often that data is collected and uploaded online using passive means through a wearable device, such as the Fitbit. Other times the information is collected with slightly more effort by the participant using a device like one of the Withings scales or blood pressure monitors.
The method of data collection is not the most important or even the most interesting part of the quantified self though. It’s merely the gadget portion of it, which makes achieving the quantified self a lot more accessible to the masses. The most interesting part of the quantified self is the sheer volume of data that we are now able to track about ourselves. We’ll be able to see how every single activity we participate in affects our bodies. We’ll be able to see trends of our weight and health and correlate them to our actions (or inactions) and be able to build habits that maximize our health and happiness while minimizing our investment of time and effort. In the busy lives we live today, that will be crucial to improving the health of millions of people. It will also allow us to share troubling data with healthcare providers in order to troubleshoot health issues before they become catastrophic.
I’m very excited and interested in the quantified self movement because I see it as one place that we can gain tremendous value as individuals and as a society. As individuals, we can improve our health, feel better and save money on health related issues. As a society, we can drive down the cost of medicine by improving society’s overall health and catching health issues earlier when they are less expensive to treat. If there was ever an area where sharing your information with a corporation could provide you with even more benefit than the information you gave up in exchange for it, this would be the place. The information collected should be kept private and only provided to other entities as aggregated, anonymized data, except where the user explicitly agrees with it being shared with a specific health provider. The efforts of people to improve their health should never be shared in a way that might impact their ability to get health insurance or increase the cost of that coverage. If done right, the quantified self movement could be a huge boon for humanity and not just a geek fad.