It is has been almost one year since I published my last blog, a blog that imagined a possible future lifestyle, in my personal theory. I was sitting in my seat on the flight to the US when I finished my last sentence at that moment. Then I closed all other programs, except the list of must-buys on a note. Right, that was my main purpose in the US, other than visiting my friend. To collect components of a self-quantification system, or actually just a bunch of devices that can monitor my daily life including the food I consume, activities I take, the environment I live in, the changes within me etc...
It is indeed a little bit too ambitious when I say, ‘self-quantification’. To be honest, none of the devices on that list are considered as a medical device. But what I need is not serious sophisticated sensors since I am not a patient who needs all-round care every moment. What works for me could just be something simple and reliable that can tell me what has happened and show me the data.
Setting up my system I wanted a new iPhone so I can use the apple health kit and home kit together as a hub to merge all my personal data from different sources, interact with those sources if possible and illustrate both data and the changes over time. I needed an Apple Watch to capture my pulse, to monitor my activities and to remind me to do things I plan at any moment. I also got an Elgato eve indoor sensor to record the temperature, humidity and air-quality in my home. These data could be extremely interesting in later analysis together with all other data source, I figured. It also works with my already installed smart light system, Philip Hue. The Hue smart light system is another home automation that can interact with commands through Siri. It basically changes the light according to different situations making it a pretty good indicator of changes in the home. I also got a Withings Cardio scale, which can measure several physical indicators, to let me be aware of the changes on my body. I was so hyped when I realized I could do so many interesting things with so many options after investigating the possibilities that was already on the market.
Finally, the game was on.
The 364th day, or 8736th hour, or 524160th minute.
The first time I woke up to a wonderful ringtone this morning, the light from the Hue bulb was only like 25% bright. It was still totally dark outside. I vaguely saw road lights and that bright moon shining in the sky. I guess I knew the time, but I just couldn’t care about it in this typical Swedish dawn when even the sun itself has trouble to get up. Not until the light had slowly brightened to 100% could I sit up. Reaching for my phone to turn of the alarm I glanced at my sleeping curve on the app. It was erm… a bit strange, however this anomaly was familiar to me since I had experienced this type of graph before. In fact yesterday’s plot had looked pretty much the same. Maybe there was an error in the software or maybe I had misplaced the phone. My dearest cat Queenie was lying beside me. I grabbed her claw and used it to press the “Normal” button under the question: “How is your morning?”
Well, it was a normal morning, wasn’t it? I just felt a little tired and not fully awake.
I could have had another piece of bread in the morning, it would only have been another 250 calories together with the strawberry paste. Then I wouldn’t be so hungry right now. Even though I had only spent around 500 calories sitting at my desk I could still feel the hypoglycemia trying to beat me. And now, this frozen Thai Red Curry would refuel me with more than 500 calories - as much as a quarter of what I need today. I want to gain weight, but also need a balanced nutrition intake.
Even factoring in tonight’s dinner, I will still not reach the amount of calorie intake I should today. Could my nutrition be the source of my tiredness?
On my way home from work I thought more about my progress. My weight had been at this level almost forever. When I stepped down from the scales and read the report on my phone, I saw no hope to ever reach the target I set earlier this year. No way I could gain 10 kg in one month. The only period I did see some trend of gaining weight was in the nice period during the summer when my parents visited me. The long meals in the company of my family had contributed to my only weight gain. It all made sense now.
Going to bed I was still thinking about my weight and my goals. Since my parents returned to China I had kept losing body fat. Down now from 5.5% to 4.2% while my muscles percentage had increased from 89.8% to 90.9%. These numbers look good on paper, but as a skinny boy I’d rather gain more fat or muscle mass. Maybe some more exercise? Probably I should increase the number of push-ups, although I feel so tired tonight. Tomorrow, tomorrow I would do 20 more. I fell asleep on a good note noticing that the pulse wave velocity couldn’t be better. It is now a mere 4.8m/s a big improvement from the 7.5m/s in October. I hope my heart is satisfied as well.
I’m lying in my bed thinking about how the numbers from my self-quantification can be so promising while I feel tired. The exercise should only improve how I feel and not the other way around. And other things look just perfect.
It’s 02:00 now in the morning. I am still sleepless while scrolling my phone, looking for things that interest me and could be an explanation for how I feel right now. My bedtime is getting later and later this week. To get back into my routine I have tried to avoid high calorie food and snacks, not to drink too much tea and instead do some exercise. Usually this helps, or at least not makes it worse. I go over everything that I have done today, recalling every little detail, every number in my stats. I can find nothing. Why is it that tonight I really have trouble to fall asleep? My eyes are wide open and shining like the huge moon out there.
Wait, oh, the MOON.
How could I forget about the moon? Like the ocean, the tide can affect us. Our body also has its ebb and flow. Could it be, my sleeping issues are related to the lunar effect? I looked at the graph and decided this was the case. Finally, some peace of mind.
We are living in a space that is influenced by a bigger outside universe, just as the earth itself. Maybe it is a sign of naivety to think all of my life can be compressed into the numbers on my phone?
- Hey Siri. Good night.
- Lights are turned down and the alarm is set.
- Hey Siri. Set the alarm 30 minutes later tomorrow morning.”
Figure 1 The effect between moon phase and my sleep quality (1 year data)
The Journey Start - A Broader Universe Awaits
This is an authentic story about my life. And the lunar effect is validated by a recent study (please insert a source here or a foot note to the source). It has been a year since I built my system and I’m now fishing for bigger treasures. I like the set up of my system. Everything is connected to my data hub - my iPhone and my iPad. I can monitor the changes; I can see the stats and the correlations. However, is this all we can do now in 2016? Absolutely not. It is far from what I want and its full potential.
Assume that I want to lose weight. What we used to do before were suggesting people to eat less and work out more. That’s it. It is true to some extent. Those classic suggestions work for most people, more or less. But now, we are willing to make it more efficient and more precise for individuals. With all of these tools and vast flow of information, we have the opportunity to make a retrospective analysis and a forecast for the future on an individual level.
Another example mentioned above is the weight change during my parents’ visit during the summer. I almost gained 3 kg in my parents’ three-week visit. I was really thrilled by the result. Now when I look back to investigate possible reasons of weight gain, I can easily find traces from the system that are relevant to the achievement. Bedtime in that period was typically one hour and a half earlier than usual and I would wake up about 30 minutes earlier too. Therefore I had approximately one hour more to sleep. Good rest can result in better absorption and metabolism. Moreover, I had much better food. My parents were preparing and cooking my favorite meals from breakfast to dinner every day. I miss them so much.
Instead of having a serving of a three-day-old leftover we would eat a minimum of three fresh calories rich dishes with a diversity of nutrients per day. My estimate is that I had an additional 500 calories per day during these weeks. That would be the major reason of me gaining weight. There might be other reasons and facts that affected my weight, but the system and the statistics made it very clear that a better sleep and diet contributes a lot. Thus, the system can help me accomplish the goal of gaining weight by learning the pattern of my lifestyle and how factors work together and then make recommendations in a much more precise way. Given of course there is enough data to power the analytics.
This is just one example from a small piece of my life and how quantification benefits me. Everyone has their own stories and what data can tell them. Different people may depend on different factors, like sleep patterns, nutrients, exercise, genes and so on. We need massive data, from everywhere, to cover every detail in our life and establish a reliable personal system. Thanks to the development of technology we no longer need to wait years for studies carried out by institutions to prove the best approaches to life management. Just as we at Lytics predict patients’ conditions ahead, we can rely on our own data to make our own predictions on common daily matters.
And when we see the causality with our own eyes I believe we will go through our life with such systems. Then we are able to refine our experiences of our lives and pursue the vision of our life. We will follow the guide from algorithms and balance the consequences when we make our daily choices.
It is difficult to say exactly how the future will play out, but it is very interesting to see how technology can gradually transform our life. We can only hope it brings us more alternative lives and futures. I will continue my journey and grow together with my system to plan a better life ahead.