Topic Archives: What We’re Reading
Here we are again. Another week and another great list of articles, projects, and posts. We hope you find these as interesting as we did.
Data Science of the Facebook World by Stephen Wolfram: “I’ve always been interested in people and the trajectories of their lives. But I’ve never been able to combine that with my interest in science. Until now.” Stephen Wolfram sets his mind and data crunching services and the mounds of data available through the Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics service.
There’s an App for That by John-Paul Flintoff: While many people write about QS, every once in a while a piece stands out as a thoughtful and personal assessment of the meaning of self-tracking. The only major fault with the piece is the accompanying illustration which proclaims that “the overexamined life is not worth living,” a conclusion the article does not actually make.
Disciplinary Power, the Oligopticon and Rhizomatic Surveillance in Elite Sports Academies: Elite athletes and sports programs push Quantified Self tools to their extremes. This article from an academic journal about surveillance discusses the tracking mechanisms employed in elite sports academies that transform performance into a type of numerical language that contributes to new social norms, personas and senses of the self
Refugees of the Modern World by Joseph Stromberg: A common cultural signature in the world of the Quantified Self is the formation of loose-knit groups around common interests and conditions. So it was fascinating to learn of a tight-knit group that has formed around the choice of a common environment in which to live. This is the stort of a self-diagnosed group suffering from “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” who live together in an area of West Virginia in the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone.
Body 01000010011011110110010001111001 by Stanza: Artists have been playing with connecting #quantifiedself and “smart city” technologies for several years. I think projects like this are useful for opening new channels of thought not yet constrained by utility.
Goggles Can Provide Vital Data and Distraction by Matt Ritchel: Google makers incorporate data streams into heads up displays. But why include text messages? That seems like a mistake.
Happy Friday! Here are some fun and inspiring things we’ve been reading lately, to kick off your weekend:
What Do Kids Really Learn From Failure? by Alfie Kohn: “Research certainly doesn’t support the idea that failure or disappointment is constructive in itself… We may want kids to rebound from failure, but that doesn’t mean it’s usually going to happen — or that the experience of failure makes that desired outcome more likely.”
Should QS Researchers Protect Themselves With Disclaimers? by @measuredme: “The point of the disclaimer that I have in mind is not to restrict access to data or research… What I am really concerned about is those rare instances when our data and findings could lead to liabilities or involuntary involvement in legal disputes, due to misuse or misinterpretation.”
If Behavior Change Is Belief Change, a conversation with Buster Benson, Ernesto Ramirez, and others: “Can we forcefully change our own identities and beliefs about ourselves? Will writing something down every day have a positive (or negative??) impact on our desire to believe something different than we actually do?”
Haven’t We All Done Steroids, In A Way? by Lance Armstrong: “As people, we are united by our shared experiences. We all live, breathe, fall in love, take steroids, lie to anti-doping officials, make indignant public denials about steroids, cry, achieve dizzying levels of fame and success by continuing to use steroids, laugh. Deep down, that is how we are, and we’re stuck with it.”
Peeling Away Health Care’s Sticker Shock by Andy Grove: “The paradox of health care is that technology has driven costs higher. In fact, half of the increase in medical spending is related to the deployment of new medical technologies.”
Reasoning is Sharper in a Foreign Language by Jessica Gross: “Cognitive biases are rooted in emotional reactions, and thinking in a foreign language helps us disconnect from these emotions and make decisions in a more economically rational way.”
The Hug Timer: A Respectful Way to Guide and Show Gratitude During Discussions by Ted Eytan: “The standard techniques, the ‘time’s up,’ the ‘I’m going to be a brutal timekeeper’ lines are disrespectful bordering on angry… Language and behavior matter, especially in health. On the other hand, a hug signifies something totally different. It says, ‘I’m so glad that you came to be with us, for every second of time you’ve given to our learning.’”
This collection of links is inspired by NPR’s #bestthingallweek hashtag on Twitter. What’s the best thing you read this week?
Behavior Change is Belief Change by Buster Benson: “Anyone that tells you that you just need to ‘walk one more bus stop every morning’ in order to be a healthier person has reversed the formula (putting the easy thing first) in order to sell it to you. In order to be a person who walks to the bus stop every morning you have to change your core identity of yourself into a ‘healthier person who walks a lot.’”
Startup = Growth by Paul Graham: “Usually successful startups happen because the founders are sufficiently different from other people that ideas few others can see seem obvious to them… We usually advise startups to pick a growth rate they think they can hit, and then just try to hit it every week.”
Why Self-Discipline Is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within by Alfie Kohn: “Just because motivation is internal doesn’t mean it’s ideal. If [people] feel controlled, even from within, they’re likely to be conflicted, unhappy, and perhaps less likely to succeed (at least by meaningful criteria) at whatever they’re doing.”
Quantifying Kids, an interview with Bill Schuller: “A child’s performance in the educational system is quantified at every step of the way. The difference in what I am doing is increasing the fidelity, increasing the time horizon, drawing correlation between the data and teaching my children to look at the results and reflect on them.”
Building that Perfect Quantified Self App: Notes to Developers, Part 1 by Measured Me: “The diet logs now are not just about counting calories, but also tracking allergies and more serious ailments, and effects of ingredients on mental and physical performance, or sleep. Happiness has been already tied to location, and will soon probably be linked to the weather, quality of sleep, or activities on Facebook.”
Growth Hacking – Lean Marketing for Startups by Mattan Griffel: This is a great slide deck talking about “a set of tactics and best practices for dealing with the problem of user growth.” Thanks to Chris Hogg for finding it!
Here is some fun and provocative Monday morning reading for you, from Gary, Alex, and Ernesto. Enjoy!
From 0 to 100 Years in 150 Seconds
An Amsterdam filmmaker collected tiny video clips of 100 people on the street from ages 0 to 100. It’s like witnessing a startling progression of human life, and motivates me (Alex) to work on solving aging!
Empowerment Through Numbers: Biomedicalization and The Quantified Self
In this interesting post from the Cyborgology blog, sociologist Whitney Erin Boesel describes some important ambiguities in the Quantified Self movement. How empowering is it, really? Whitney will be at the conference and invites comment and discussion.
Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas
This amazing book by Natasha Dow Schüll, the product of more than a decade of research, describes in detail one context where behavioral science appears to yield genuine control over human beings: the design of machine gambling systems such as video poker.
“Ubicomp’s Colonial Impulse” (pdf), by Paul Dourish and Scott Mainwaring is a welcome, explicit call for those of us interested in ubiquitous computing to think about the colonialism implicit in our methods and vocabulary. I (Gary) liked it especially because it is accessible (in the sense of not being polluted by jargon or academic point-scoring) while also very challenging to conventional practice.
Reinventing Society in the Wake of Big Data (video)
MIT researcher Sandy Pentland talks about the streams of hidden data all around us -what it means for predicting trends and how it forces us to reinvent ourselves in a data-driven human society.
Men and Women Really Do See Things Differently
A fascinating study out of Brooklyn College discovered that women are better at differentiating between shades of colors, while men are better at noticing details of fast-moving things, especially at a distance. Remnants of adaptations from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle?
And just for fun, from Ernesto and Alex – check out this hug clothing!
Nine nifty nuggets for you to read today…
Why Anti-Authoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill: The demands on medical professionals to be compliant may bias their understanding of others.
Could rosemary scent boost brain performance? Speed and accuracy were both improved, and the authors propose that positive mood may improve performance where aroused mood cannot.
Bad Habits? My Future Self Will Deal With That: An interesting look at research regarding the choices we make and how they relate to our connection with our “future self.”
How games saved my life: A powerful story of how playing Sim City pulled a teenager out of a planned suicide.
Katherine Boo and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Both Write on Insurmountable Poverty: Two writers whose work is based on compassionate & honest witness.
Abundance is our future: In this talk from the recent TED conference, Peter Diamandis of X Prize presents an inspiring, optimistic view of solving the world’s major problems.
App Intervention to Treat Addiction (and It Runs on Android): A wrist sensor connected to a smartphone to detect physiological signs of craving and offer in-the-moment support.
The Calming Effect of Sighing: Spontaneous sighs are more stress-relieving than instructed sighs.
How Habits Hold Us: A short, but interesting look into habits and learning by insightful science journalist Jonah Lehrer.
Thanks this week to Neema Moraveji, Martin Sona, Dan Dascalescu, Daniel Reda, Ernesto Ramirez, and Gary Wolf.
Seven Sunday snippets to stimulate your synapses…
Zap your brain into the zone: Fast track to pure focus. Can hooking up your brain to a battery induce a state of flow? New Scientist explores this question.
The “Unhyped” New Areas in Internet and Mobile: A dozen predictions by investor Vinod Khosla of where disruptive new technologies will emerge. Mentions Quantified Self, for all you amazing QS toolmakers!
We, the Web Kids by Piotr Czerski: An essay on what is means to be part of the generation that grew up with the web as an omnipresent part of their lives. Touches on ideas of information, creation, and democracy. A great read.
Quantified Health Prize results: We didn’t catch this earlier, but Less Wrong did a contest asking “What are the best recommendations for what quantities adults (ages 20-60) should take the important dietary minerals in, and what are the costs and benefits of various amounts?” The winner explored potassium and sodium, and they will be running another contest soon.
The Patient of the Future: A look into Larry Smarr’s quantified self journey and possible future of truly personalized medicine.
Light Therapy for Seasonal and Nonseasonal Depression: Efficacy, Protocol, Safety, and Side Effects. (PDF) A very interesting review of light therapy for different flavors of depression, including SAD, bipolar, and major depression. Interestingly, it covers both dosage and *timing* of light administered.
Thanks to Ernesto, Gary, Daniel Reda and Simon Frid.
Here’s some good Sunday reading from your friends at QS!
Kickstarter & Double Fine: A Seismic Shift? The detailed story of a game development project raising over $500,000 through Kickstarter.
Avoid misinterpreting your emotions. A beautiful post from Less Wrong about emotional intelligence – mood is weather, not climate, and can give us important insight if approached correctly.
Zeo Sleep Experiments. A really, really thorough examination by Gwern of sleep tracking and experiments using the Zeo.
9 Essential Skills Kids Should Learn. Leo Babauta’s post on Zen Habits sounds like a great recipe for raising the next generation of self-experimenters. They’re not bad skills for adults to learn, either.
The age of big data. An interesting article about the rise of data and statistics.
How Dr. Hew Len healed a ward of mentally ill criminals with Ho’oponopono. An amazing story of healing yourself in order to heal others. I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.
Thanks to Gary, Ernesto, Daniel Reda, and Ioan Mitrea.