Body hacking

One of the counter-currents to keep some “tech-free” time to wind down & reflect is the embedding of technology in the human body itself.

Body Hacking

Image thanks to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/madlabuk/

The Financial Times has an interesting article on “Invasion of the body hackers” that is well worth the read to understand where this development is going and what is currently already practically possible.

2 thoughts on “Body hacking

  1. Peter Vajda

    An observation, a metaphor and a response.

    Observation:
    Feedback in any way, shape or form is just data. It becomes information when we make some sense of it. It becomes life-affirming when we use it, consciously and consistently, to change and transform. Few engage in the latter.

    Metaphor:
    The light flickers in the lamp on the nightstand. Hmmm. We jiggle it. Turn the light on and off. Adjust the socket that holds the bulb. Nothing. We go to the local do-it-yourself hardware store and get a new bulb and replace the one that flickers. Nothing. We go back and get a replacement for the replacement and try that one. Nothing. Hmmm. We let it go, being still upset and agitated every night, like riding a dead horse. Another day while in the basement, we happen to notice the wiring that leads to the bedroom fixtures is frayed – gnawed at and torn asunder by rodents. Hmmm. We get some electrical tape and tape over the gnawed at and exposed wiring. Go back upstairs and the bulb is still flickering. So, we call the electrician who replaces the wiring – a bit time consuming, a bit expensive but in the end the bulb shines brightly, consistently – no more agitation, frustration, upset. All is well.

    Response:
    It was only a matter of time before technology would change the way we monitor aspects of our mind, body and spirit. What EM-Wave (www.heartmathstore.com), HeartMath (www.heartmath.org), biofeedback (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofeedback ) and some physicians have been doing for years, innovators and entrepreneurs have moved up to Version 2.0

    So, we are moving to the place where we now self-monitor, self-quantify and track – brain waves, calorie intake, sleep patterns, weight, exercise habits, footsteps, stress levels, – spreadsheets, graphs and databases galore – all with the traditional notion that one cannot change or control what which one cannot measure. Now our data is in consumer-friendly versions.

    The article states, “…entrepreneurs and venture capitalists see a huge market for consumer-focused health and wellness tools, using the $10.5bn self-help market and $61bn weight loss market as indicators of demand.”

    The idea is that the masses will use the “… useful, easy-to-digest information…” to what? Change their self-limiting, self-sabotaging and self-defeating habits and life patterns? Hmmm.

    My concern is not about the potential for one’s personal information (re: medical issues, depression, sleep habits, weight issues, diseases and the like) falling into the wrong hands – employers, marketers and advertisers, and cyber criminals. No, my concern is whether one’s having this data will honestly lead them to change – change which requires consciousness, time, consistency, self-management, self-discipline, self-responsibility and self-love.

    “Alicia Morga, created gottaFeeling, an app that an app that pings her one to six times a day, depending on the settings, and asks how she’s feeling. A menu gives her options such as happy, sad, confused, angry. If she clicks angry, it asks her to refine her answer with irritated, frustrated or pissed off. She then records where she is and who she’s with. At the end of a week she can look at a pie chart that breaks down the percentage of time she spent in each mood, and see overlaid data of where, when, and in whose company she felt that way… the ultimate goal is for users to correlate emotions with eating habits, shopping behaviours or work tasks. If patterns emerge, the data could help users “predict an exercise…help avoid the behaviour”.

    “Trentacoste describes a tool he’s developing to help him track how he spends his time online, down to the millisecond. It measures how long he spends on e-mail versus web browsing, how much time he spends in each web window and how often he switches his focus. The goal, among those who use or are building similar tools, is to reduce distractions, increase productivity and achieve “flow”, the optimum state of creativity and focus.”

    Here’s my curiosity and some concerns:

    1. Back to the metaphor, above. Most folks, in my 20-plus years of coaching and professional experience, lack the sufficient staying power to do what it takes to change – regardless of how and where they get their data. Most folks tap-dance around their issues and challenges, avoiding the truth about their predicaments and engage more in self-deceit than they do real, honest work at solutions. In the metaphor, above, what led to a real and lasting result was a change in the “wiring.” Most folks are either unable or unwilling to change their “wiring,” – thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, expectations, self-images, premises, “stories,” and the like. So, they deal with the surface stuff- jiggle the bulb (go to a workshop), turn the light on and off (read a book), get a new bulb (distract themselves with food, alcohol, TV, sleep, work…), get another replacement bulb (do short-term counseling, therapy or coaching and quit when they come close to discovering the truth of their life). They refuse to invest the time, energy and inner stamina it takes to replace the wiring (so they eventually buy a new lamp).

    2. “People thought I was narcissistic. What they didn’t see was the self-punishment, the fear, the hatred behind the tracking,” writes Alexandra Carmichael, one of the founders of CureTogether.com, in a poem about why she stopped tracking herself. (article)

    Many folks, consciously or unconsciously, are caught up in a state of victim consciousness. They feel like martyrs. “Everyone’s doing this TO me.” They are steeped in the quicksand of self-loathing and self-hate. No amount of data will convince these folks that their state in life (the stats, graphs, databases, charts and the like that translate into their unhappiness, low self-esteem or self-worth, feelings of deficiency and lack) are about them, not about “him, her, it or them.” The data will serve validate that others are “making me” uncomfortable, unhappy, gain weight, loose sleep, etc.

    3. Once the novelty of the new, cool devices and apps wears off, many of the users will begin to view tracking as they do helicopter parents or a nagging mother. “Stop reminding me that I’m angry, sad, overweight, sleep-deprived, distracted! Stop treating me like a child.” Enough! These devices and apps may prove to be more of an irritant than a loving support for many folks.

    I’m very curious about whether translating underlying and foundational issues that affect human behavior, attitudes, and issues of self-worth into ones and zeroes will actually support folks to honestly, realistically and truly change and transform into “a new me.”

    4. Will most users, like Alicia Morga and Trentacoste above, actually devote, consistently(the operative word) the time it takes for analysis, synthesis, recording and tracking that is required for behavior change? Really? Honestly? Especially those living a Twitter-ized, 140-character, micro-wave lifestyle? I have my doubts.

    So, for me, the challenging question today (given the new and cool self-tracking apps), as it always has been, is, “Do you want to “play at” healing, growth, and change – i.e., jiggle the bulb, replace the bulb, use the failed workaround electrical tape, or even get a new lamp?” Or, “Do you have the strength and courage to go downstairs, inside, to fix the wiring?”

    For the latter, there is no app; nor will there ever be.

    © 2011 Peter Vajda, Ph.D. and SpiritHeart

    Reply
  2. leogaggl Post author

    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful comment. I have just (as you can see by the state of the site) kicked off this ‘personal-interest-project’ and I will hopefully have some time soon to digest and refelect on it’s contents and put my thoughts down in a more considered manner.

    You certainly raise a number of points that are worth exploring and I hope it will generate more discussion.

    Cheers, Leo

    Reply

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