Growth of Quantified Self (more)

At the Quantified Self blog, Alexandra Carmichael has posted several graphs showing how much the Quantified Self movement has grown during the past year. The number of QS meetup members has grown by a factor of 3; the number of groups has grown by a factor of 6.

Measuring yourself is a step toward controlling yourself — especially, controlling your health and well-being. Almost everyone wants more control of these things. I believe that the idea, which the Quantified Self movement encourages, that ordinary people can do useful science is a shift with implications on the order of the shift from religion (the Sun revolves around the Earth) to science (the Earth revolves around the Sun). When ordinary people begin to do science, I predict we will learn a lot more about how to control our bodies.

Before science became powerful, people knew lots of correct useful stuff (e.g., metallurgy). But there were limits on what could be learned (e.g., Galileo was imprisoned). Now religion is much less powerful but most people believe that science can only be done by certain people (e.g., professors). This too places serious limits on what can be learned. For control of the outside world (e.g., material science, physics), I don’t think these limits matter (although the case of Starlight suggests that even here amateurs can make important discoveries). But for control of the inner world (our bodies), the message of my work is that these limits matter a lot. By studying myself I managed to learn a bunch of useful things that professional scientists could learn only with great difficulty. For example, I could learn from accidents how to sleep better; I could easily test ideas about how to sleep better. Few if any professional sleep researchers measure sleep night after night for long periods of time; nor do they do cheap fast experiments.

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