Topic Archives: What We’re Reading
Here’s some weekend reading, without the eye-straining bullet points this week! Thanks to Kevin Kelly, Gary Wolf, Ernesto Ramirez, Rajiv Mehta, and Daniel Reda.
Your Body Is an API: 9 Gadgets for Tracking Health and Fitness. Includes our Basis friends and other gadgets from CES.
Lifestream blog’s summary of the CES experience, including new health and fitness gadgets.
Harnessing experience: exploring the gap between evidence-based medicine and clinical practice. This fascinating paper describes the inevitable gap between “evidence based medicine” and actual clinical practice, and proposes an interesting idea, “evidence farming,” that acknowledges the range of available evidence beyond randomized controlled trials.
Ten years after its first publication, Welcome to Cancerland by Barbara Ehrenreich still has the power to explode your brain.
The Creative Destruction of Medicine by Eric Topol. We’ve been looking forward to this one.
DIY science: should you try this at home? Somewhat alarmist but also lets the DIYers speak for themselves.
Fighting Willpower’s Catch-22: makes a good case for setting up your environment to avoid temptations.
Self-Regulation and Depletion of Limited Resources: Does Self-Control Resemble a Muscle? A great article that argues for flexing our cognitive muscle.
The Servant Leader and the Social Enterprise: “the only person to lead a people-first organization is a servant, because a servant’s natural inclination is service to others — not coercion — for the purpose of others’ growth, health, wisdom, freedom, autonomy, and benefit, and for that reason, in the future, the only truly viable institutions will be those that are predominantly servant-led.”
Does mood sharing make a difference? A very interesting set of comments from Moodscope users on sharing mood. Reading through them reveals interesting issues people have with sharing, like not wanting to burden others, feeling incentivized to fudge the data to seem better than it is, getting support they wouldn’t have found otherwise, and forming very close bonds.
Here is this week’s QS reading list. Hope you enjoy:
- Ken Snyder’s surprising Magnesium survey results of 146 QS’ers (PDF on his site).
- A new Harvard Business Review piece on approaches to translate self quantification to business.
- Ariel Garten’s TEDx Toronto talk: Know thyself, with a brain scanner.
- iDreamSaver project on KickStarter: an interesting product using infrared technology to track sleep and wake you up intelligently.
- Embracing Personal Experience on Our Rise Through Science: an inspiring and thoughtful piece about what it means to be scientist.
- Century of the Self (BBC documentary): A journey through the history of the Self, from happiness machines to crowd manipulation to the policemen in our heads.
Thanks to Ernesto Ramirez, Ed Dench, and James Wilson. If you’re reading something interesting you want to share, submit it to us here.
Happy weekend, everyone! Here’s a smattering of inspiring things we’ve been reading at QS Labs this week:
- Seth Roberts’ series of posts on Vitamin D3 and sleep. The lesson: what time you take your supplements could matter a lot.
- Transforming behavior change from the Social Brain Project at the RSA (UK): Some really interesting insights into behavior change and the role of neuroscience and reflexivity.
- The latest issue of Bruce Schneier’s always interesting Crypto-Gram newsletter, with fascinating accounts of data breaches and hacking attacks, personal data vulnerabilities, and – for a bonus – an intelligent call to get rid of the United States’s Department of Homeland Security.
- Schedule your creative tasks for when you’re most tired – a thought-provoking look at a circadian effect on creativity.
- An opinion piece on the Research Works Act, the piece of legislation that threatens to roll back public access to federally funded research.
- Smart Geotextiles for ground and building monitoring (from our friend David Pescovitz at BoingBoing.)
- Transistors developed to monitor molecular processes - listening to enzymes. QS is moving to the molecular level!
- Psychotropic Medications Affecting Biological Rhythms. (PDF) Looking at mood disorders and medications in the context of circadian rhythms as well as shorter and longer cycles will play an increasing role in good medical practice. This has applications to other health issues as well, and will require increasing self-awareness of empowered patients.
Here is another taste of what we’re reading at QS Labs. Hope you enjoy!
- A thought-provoking post from Less Wrong on Pleasure vs. Desire, or why we want things we don’t like and like things we don’t want.
- J Paul Neeley’s pretty amazing story of optimizing many areas of his life, and turning his discoveries into a project called Masamichi Souzou.
- A 9-step, very QS approach to managing your money and achieving financial independence. It emphasizes tracking without judgment, increasing awareness, setting intentions – all good QS principles. [PDF here]
- The best data visualization projects of 2011, from our friends at Flowing Data.
- Nicholas Feltron’s annual report [podcast].
- Navigating love and autism – an insightful story in the New York Times exploring emotion and communication in a background of neurodiversity.
- Tim Hartford on Trial and Error - a great TED talk on the importance of experimentation.
- An interesting research article outlining “what works” for physical activity and diet behavior change – self tracking is #1! [PDF here]
- A template and explanation of a daily mood tracking chart based on the National Institute for Mental Health’s prospective Life Chart Method for bipolar disorder. [PDF]
Here are some juicy links to what we’re reading at QS Labs, from the minds of Gary, Alex, and Ernesto this week:
- Foucault Goes to Weight Watchers, by Cressida J. Hayes: Here’s an extended philosophical/academic exploration of one person’s experience in a popular commercial weight loss program. [PDF]
- FBI, here I am! by Hasan Elani: A story of a muslim artist who created a massive public self-tracking project in response to FBI questioning. [TED talk]
- Want A Piece Of Founders Fund’s Latest $625M Fund? Start By Trying To Change The World by Alexia Tsotsis: A piece that describes Founder’s Fund goal to invest in ideas that fundamentally improve human life.
- Uncommon Therapy: the Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson by Jay Haley. [book, recommended by two QS'ers at the recent QS Europe conference]
- Famed Investor Esther Dyson Knows How To Make Big Bucks About What’s Coming Next. So What’s Next? by Boonsri Dickinson: A discussion of Esther Dyson’s investments in the Quantified Self space.
- How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron: The story of an author who used tracking to increase her productivity.
- Greg Beato’s piece on the Quantified Self in Reason: “We treat even our most mundane lunches as if they were corpses at a crime scene.”
- The Information Diet by Clay Johnson: Free first chapter of this new book, to be published in January, emphasizing conscious consumption of information.
- Recording Everything: Brookings report on the authoritarian consequences of tracking.
- Reading the Riots: The power of asking direct questions. “What did you do, Why did you do it?” Researchers interview hundreds charged in London riots. [video]
Here’s another compelling compilation of what we’re reading at QS Labs:
- Minding Your Mitochondria by Dr. Terry Wahls (TED talk): Astounding talk by a woman who used dietary self-experimentation to reverse her MS progression.
- A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior by Noam Chomsky: Chomsky dissects Skinner’s work, concluding that it is “largely mythology, and that its widespread acceptance is not the result of empirical support, persuasive reasoning, or the absence of a plausible alternative.”
- A Prospective Study of Diet Quality and Mental Health in Adolescents by Felice Jacka et. al. (PLoS): A study of 3,000 teenagers in Australia showing that diet quality directly impacts mental health, and not the other way around.
- To Sleep on the Subway, Maybe, but to Dream? Poor Chance by Christine Haughney (NYT): A little experiment to determine whether one could get useful sleep riding the NYC subway.
- Emotional Literacy: Intelligence With a Heart by Claude Steiner. This free ebook goes through 17 stages of emotional literacy, which seem transformative if incorporated into any kind of communication, relationship, or business.
- You and Your Research by Richard Hamming: This is a transcript of a talk from Paul Graham’s blog explaining how one goes about doing great research.
- Computer More Accurate Than Human Doctor at Breast Cancer Diagnosis (research out of Stanford): A new “computational pathologist” has been developed that trains itself on existing cancer samples and can “diagnose and prognose new cancer patients with better accuracy than a human doctor.”
- Hyposafe.com: a subdermal EEG that detects brain wave changes in response to low blood sugar.
- An Evolution Toward A Programmable World by Larry Smarr (NYT): One vision, perhaps too conservative, of how the world of sensors and computing power will look in a decade.
- Difference Engine: Luddite Legacy (Economist): Another vision of the future – will we really have 40% unemployment within a decade?
- Almost 100 free courses on the brain and cognitive sciences through MIT’s OpenCourseWare, from social psychology to human cognition.
Thanks to Ernesto Ramirez, Rajiv Mehta, Adam Dole, Daniel Reda, and Joel Dudley for contributing to this week’s list!
- Can Vitamin D Replace Sunlight? Does the timing of Vitamin D intake affect sleep? This post on Seth Roberts blog also produced interesting comments. One of the things to think about is: “What constitutes a discovery?”
- Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots by Martha Beck: “It isn’t the inability to perceive information but the astonishing ability to perceive information while automatically refusing to allow it into consciousness.” This article sparks some wonder: 1. how can tracking help us to see our blind spots, and 2. what blind spots do we have with respect to our data?
- Geographical Proximity and the Transmission of Tacit Knowledge by P. Desrochers, in The Review of Austrian Economics, 14 (2001) [PDF]: Why did it turn out that meeting each other face-to-face at Quantified Self was so much more powerful as a form of knowledge sharing than simply using online tools? There are some good clues in this article about geographical proximity and “tacit knowledge.”
- Everything I n/ever wanted to know about myself I learned from my genome by David Hale, who is adopted and newly empowered (Ignite video): “Genetic testing took away the connection someone else gave me, and helped me see that I’m free to be whoever I want.”
- ‘Untangling the Debate: The Ethics of Human Enhancement’, by Patrick Lin and Fritz Allhoff, NanoEthics, 2 (2008). While it’s possible to question whether this sort of “debate” will prove relevant to a practice that emerges across many different domains simultaneously, this good, clear paper lays out the terms of what will be a continuing public discussion. (There is a PDF at this link too, for better layout.)
- Sell Your Services on a New Marketplace for Experiences (GOOD): A new website called Gidsy in Berlin lets you buy and sell experiences. Since experiences have been found to make people happier than material things, this could be very interesting as it expands.
- Between the Clinic and the Laboratory: Ethology and Pharmacology in the Work of Michael Robin Alexander Chance by Robert G W Kirk: What does this history of the origin of the animal welfare movement have to teach us about ourselves? In this fascinating paper about a relatively unknown scientist, Michael Robin Alexander Chance, we encounter an interesting problem of pharmacological research: the widely varying effects of drugs on animals, related to how they are treated in the lab.
- 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot (Remember When It Didn’t Hurt) by Esther Gokhale (book). This book takes lessons from how our ancestors, babies, and some traditional cultures sit and move and sleep in a natural way that minimizes back pain. Lots of helpful pictures.
- Analog Infoviz: Handmade Visualization Toolkit by Maria Popova. This is just for fun: using balloons, string, chalk, and stickers to graph your data.
Here are some of the things we’re reading this week. Enjoy!
- We just received physicist Michael Nielsen’s new book, Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Network Science, about how we can amplify collective intelligence at the limit of human problem solving ability. Looking forward to learning from his research.
- Quantified Health: A 10-Year Detective Story of Digitally Enabled Genomic Medicine by Larry Smarr of CalIT2 (PDF): Larry goes through a decade of data, from bloodwork to SNPs to his gut microbiome, and shares what he learned about his health, diet, sleep, and inflammation.
- There are many beautiful, interesting things in this piece by Elif Batuman about visiting with a Turkish ornithologist named Cagan Sekercioglu. Not available on the open web, but worth buying the latest New Yorker for. (You can get a sense of the subject and style from Batuman’s blog post here.)
- The UnCollege Manifesto: Your Guide to Academic Deviance by Dale Stephens (PDF). Dale one of Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20, and an unschooler himself. In this passionate piece, he explains how to replace college with self-directed learning.
- Thesis Defense – Personal Informatics and Context: Using Context to Reveal Factors that Affect Behavior by Ian Li (slides): Ian is the organizer of QS Pittsburgh, and one of the first of several people we know to be doing his thesis on Quantified Self topics.
- In this longish post, writer and teacher Lili Loofbourow gives a good account of getting drawn into participation in the #occupy movement.
- I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown (book): this is a fascinating, helpful look at shame research. Seeing your own data can elicit feelings of shame, which is why adding a layer of gentleness to any apps you’re designing is probably a good idea.
- From Rajiv Mehta: Measuremen
t and Its Discontent: “The problem is not that we don’t yet have precise enough tools for measuring things; it’s that there are two wholly different ways of measuring.” Do you know the difference between ontic and ontological measurement? s
- A rare interview with Jim Buckmaster, CEO and co-owner of Craigslist, whose business strategy is to maximize value to users rather than profit.
Thanks to Rajiv Mehta for contributing to this week’s links! Brilliant readers, feel free to send us interesting things you’re reading and we’ll include them in our list.
Here are this week’s links to things we’re reading at QS:
- What can we learn from Soviet gamification? by Mark Nelson
- You Are Not Your Name and Photo: A Call to Re-Imagine Identity, from Wired – “It’s not only about who you’re sharing with, but how you represent yourself. It’s not who you share with, but who you share as. We’re all viewed through multiple lenses; we always represent ourselves through multiple personae; and this isn’t a strange aberration or attempt at deceit but a fact of being human.”
- The Collective Author, by Peter Galison (PDF) - Some theoretical reflection on scientific authorship by a historian of science whose work provides excellent background for quantified self topics.
- When Doing Nothing Is the Best Medicine - ”In the stampede toward good numbers, individual patients can be harmed by the side effects of [some] treatments. Clinical inertia might actually act as a safeguard”
- The World as Laboratory by Rebecca Lemov (Book) - A fascinating, disturbing history of scientific efforts to produce deep changes in human behavior “by any means necessary.”
- Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health, from Nature – Global burden and research priorities are outlined for mental, neurological, and substance-use disorders. These disorders make up 13% of the total global burden of disease.
- What Social Science Does—and Doesn’t—Know, by Jim Manzi - Our scientific ignorance of the human condition remains profound.
- This one is from Bo Adler. “Here’s a slidedeck that I loved today: The Invisible Side of Design. I think this idea of ‘invisible design’ is one of the keys to technology making the world a better place. As a programmer I’m used to working with ‘functional’ stuff, but I recently reached the point where there are too many new things that are just a little too complicated: it took me 30min to figure out how to turn off a TV at a friend’s house! I used to be miffed that the world wasn’t a meritocracy, that looks matter so much to people – but grad school has made me realize that the presentation is *part* of the merit. Apple products look great, but there’s amazing technology underneath as well – they just didn’t stop at 90% like so many other products. The goal of a product (or research) isn’t to be technically great, it’s to be _useful_ to people. The way I see the world, *everything* is an interface and deserving of good design.”
Here’s an assortment of links we like this week. Hope you enjoy them!
- Dennis Ritchie, in Memoriam, by Andrew Binstock. Includes this quote from the revered co-author of UNIX and C: ”Another danger is that commercial pressures of one sort or another will divert the attention of the best thinkers from real innovation to exploitation of the current fad — from prospecting to mining a known lode. These pressures manifest themselves not only in the disappearance of faculty into industry, but also in the conservatism that overtakes those with well-paying investments — intellectual or financial — in a given idea.”
- Steve Dean of QS NYC is teaching a class called DIY Health at ITP – his reading list includes The Primacy of Self-Regulation in Health Promotion.
- The Law of Unintended Consequences in Health Policy, by Ian Eslick: Overconfidence in applying research leads to public health disasters.
- The Acceleration of Addictiveness by Paul Graham: “We’ll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.”
- Healthinnovations on the BBC World panel on the Danish ‘Fat Tax’ by Michealle Petersen: An objection to hearing only from “experts” voice talking about obesity.
- Seth Roberts article in BoingBoing: Grandmother knows best about Crohn’s disease: “Those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt those doing it.”
- Bartleby’s Occupation of Wall Street by Hanna Gersen: An essay on the first occupation of Wall Street, in 1853.
- The Maladapted Mind: Classic Readings in Evolutionary Psycho-pathology. This is a mind-bending book explaining the origins and adaptive benefits of various mental health challenges.
- Anonymity and the Internet, by Bruce Schneier (2010): Why ending anonymity is impossible and why trying is bad.