From the moment he wakes, throughout his workday and into the night, the essence of Larry Smarr is captured by numbers: a resting heart rate of 40 Bpm, a blood pressure of 130/70, a stress level of 2%, 191 pounds, 8,000 steps taken, 15 floors climbed, 8 hours sleep. An astrophysicist & computer scientist, Smarr could be the world’s most self-measured man, keeping track of more than 150 parameters.
He compares the way he treats and monitors his body the way most people do their car: “We know exactly how much gas we have, the engine temperature, how fast we are going. What I’m doing is creating a dashboard for my body.” Smarr is the unlikely hearo of a global movement among ordinary people to “quantify” themselves using wearable fitness gadgets with the goal of finding ways to optimize their bodies and minds to live longer, healthier lives.
In this plethora of data being gathered by millions of personal tracking devices are patterns that may reveal what in the diet, exercise regime and environment contributes to disease.
Tech firms are eagerly responding the human desire for self-perfectibility by inventing more devices that collect even more data, which these tech titans foresee as the real gold mine. At the 2015 Consumers Electronics Show in January, there were new gizmos everywhere, such as: a baby bottle that measures nutritional intake, a band that measures how high you jump, and “smart” clothing connected to smoke detectors.
In the near future, companies hope to augment those trackers with new ones that will measure from the inside out –using chips that are ingestible or float in the bloodstream.
Some physicians, academics and ethicists criticize the utility of tracking as prime evidence of the narcissism of the technological age –and one that raises serious questions about the accuracy and privacy of the health data collected, who own it and how it should be use.
Critics worry that wearables will be used as “black boxes” in legal matters. Three years ago after a cyclist struck and killed a 71-year-old, prosecutors obtained data from his GPS fitness tracker to show he had been speeding through stop signs before the accident. More recently, a Calgary law firm is trying to use Fitbit data as evidence of injuries a client sustained in a car crash.
Also, according to Deborah Estrin, professor of computer science & public health at Cornell University, constantly measuring heart rate may be helpful for someone heavily involved in sports or someone at risk of a heart attack. “But it’s unclear how important and meaningful it is for the everyday person. After all, Homo Sapiens have survived for about 130,000 years without such technology because the human body already has a number of alarm systems built into it.
Read Article (Ariana Eunjung Cha | washingtonpost.com | 05/09/2015)
In a 2014 wired.com article Nike’s chief scientist berated smart watches’ biometric data as irrelevant to athletic performance, while promoting smart algorithms. I wonder how many of these products actually have published clinical trial proof to support their health benefit claims.
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