I’m at the Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam, Day 1 of 2 completed. uBiome gave us free kits!
What is Quantified Self?
This year the Quantified Self Institute proposed a working definition that I feel is concise and captures the spirit of the community:
Quantified Self is personal discovery through everyday science.
This seems like a great way to introduce the idea to new people. You still have to explain “everyday science”, but this is the shortest definition I’ve seen that covers most of the things people in this community do without being overly vague. “Everyday science” in this case refers not to professional or academic rigor, but to approaching personal discovery with an analytical mind, inspired by the scientific method. I like this “everyday” modifier not just because I believe it’s possible to discover and change yourself without formal training, but because some of the experiments people perform on themselves could well be detrimental to them if performed with full scientific rigor. In fact, many of the “experiments” in this community are not planned ahead of time and become experiments in retrospect, as they unexpectedly get a result from a not-fully-intentional change, visible among the data they are already tracking.
Some themes are starting to emerge among the talks and breakout sessions I’ve attended, as well as the smaller informal conversations I’ve had:
- data ownership—ways to keep your own data and/or find out where else your data may be and for how long
- tracking fatigue—for those without a specific experimental focus, it is easy to grow tired of carrying a device or checking results
- whether automation is “better” than manual tracking, when it’s possible
- tracking subjective experiences is tricky—comparing data, keeping data consistent, affecting the value by the fact that you are tracking, etc
- user experience is key
Just to give an idea of what other kinds of things we talk about:
- What is Quantified Self?
- Quantified Self Institute
- Psychedelic sweet spot
- Automatically creating comics in place of complicated flowcharts
- Why do we track so much?
- Biofeedback for meditation
- 3D body scanning
- Skin scars
- Tracking, surveying, visualizing, performing nontrivial analyses (beyond a regression), and predicting—without needing to code
- Tracking subjective variables
- Single subject experiment design
- How much do we use our phones? Is our usage (or anyone’s usage) pathological?
- Tracking parenting data and significant moments in a child’s life
- Tracking menstrual cycles
- Hearing loss and pharmaceuticals that prevent/delay it
- Underwear for tracking
- Sleep tracking