A couple timely reality-check articles in the latest issue of Wired – one on Nike + Apple:
Noone has joined the legion of people, from Olympic-level athletes to ordinary folks just hoping to lower their blood pressure, who are plugging into a data-driven revolution. And it goes way beyond Nike+. Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to easily collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
And not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it as well, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
… and the second, Know Thyself: Tracking Every Facet of Life, from Sleep to Mood to Pain, 24/7/365, on related themes. Final paragraphs:
The basic idea of a macroscope is to link myriad bits of natural data into a larger, readable pattern. This means computers on one side and distributed data-gathering on the other. If you want to see the climate, you gather your data with hyperlocal weather stations maintained by amateurs. If you want to see traffic, you collect info from automatic sensors placed on roadways and cars. If you want new insights into yourself, you harness the power of countless observations of small incidents of change—incidents that used to vanish without a trace. And if you want to test an idea about human nature in general, you aggregate those sets of individual observations into a population study.
The macroscope will be to our era of science what the telescope and the microscope were to earlier ones. Its power will be felt even more from the new questions it provokes than from the answers it delivers. The excitement in the self-tracking movement right now comes not just from the lure of learning things from one's own numbers but also from the promise of contributing to a new type of knowledge, using this tool we all build.