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The wired world of electronics and the net is beginning to affect us in ways that would have been regarded as SF only a few years ago. A rapidly developing area is variously called self-quantifying, self-tracking, body-hacking or life-logging.

The idea behind it is to record data from your everyday activities and use it to improve your life by changing your behaviour. Athletes have long been familiar with tracking variables such as the foods they eat, how much they sleep, the content of training sessions and other matters to help them achieve peak fitness. The difference today is that the widespread availability of smartphones with features such as GPS and accelerometers plus a big variety of apps means that everybody can join in.

People are monitoring their sleep rhythms to learn what combination of food and exercise gives them a really good night’s sleep. Others are continually checking life signs to control medical conditions, including asthma and Parkinson’s disease. Some are going further, sharing their data with groups of users to provide mutual support; these databases are becoming useful for researchers who are looking to identify behavioural factors that affect people’s health.

Self-quantifying is being taken seriously by start-ups, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, which are launching new devices and software aimed at self-trackers. It may even provide a glimpse of the future of health care, in which a greater emphasis is placed on monitoring, using a variety of gizmos, to prevent disease, prolong lives and reduce medical costs.

The Economist, 3 Mar. 2012.

With “life-loggers” and “quantified-selfers” now tracking all aspects of their own lives online, Little expects that freely available data of potential use to healthcare will become increasingly available.

New Scientist, 7 Jul. 2012.

Page created 28 Jul. 2012

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 28 July 2012.