The future is already here:
Using smartphone apps and sensors, high tech pioneers are monitoring their own bodily functions such as heart rates, sleep patterns and blood. The 'self trackers' dream of a digitalized medicine that will enable people to lead healthier lives by getting around-the-clock updates on what goes on inside their bodies.
Recent developments even make it possible for smartphones to identify mood fluctuations. Researchers discovered they could determine a subject's state of mind by monitoring speech rhythms while the person talked on the telephone. If the speaker were in danger of falling into depression, for example, an app could arrange an appointment with a psychiatrist long before the patient would have thought to do so.
"The human is a very flawed measuring instrument," says Calit2 researcher Smarr. "Technical sensors are far more objective. They can detect deviations from norms far more easily and reveal early signals of disease development."
Smarr decided to make himself his own test subject. He placed himself under the authority of a fitness trainer and started constantly recording his bodily functions. A band on his arm told him his daily calorie consumption, how many steps he took and his heart rate. He soon added a Zeo headband that records his sleep stages by measuring his brain activity at night. Users of the product who make their EEG data available online can receive tips from sleep researchers on how to get a better night's sleep.
Smarr also keeps track of his diet and to this day uses his cell phone to photograph nearly every meal he eats. An app then estimates from the picture the number of calories in the meal.
Lee even proposes in all seriousness that in the future, insured individuals who don't measure their vital signs and who ignore health tips should pay higher insurance premiums. "There is a lot of compatibility to the automobile market; the more accidents you have, the higher your premiums go," he points out.
Diet, fitness routines, amount of sleep -- nothing would remain secret from insurance companies anymore. Yet proponents of self-tracking aren't scared by this horror scenario. Smarr believes that in the not-so-distant future, we will all have nanosensors inside our bodies, for example ones that would constantly monitor levels in the blood and automatically sound an alarm if the results deviated from the norm. "In a couple of years time, we won't even notice our body-sensors anymore," the researcher predicts.
Smarr himself doesn't even want to imagine a life without these gadgets. "I regard the little gadgets as my friends, as good angels," he says. "They help me overcome my bad angels in times when I should exercise a bit more."
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These self-tracking tools are, of course, only the beginning of a revolution. Somewhere, someone must already be planning for this:
The next logical step is for the IPCC - maybe with the assistance of Greenpeace and the WWF - to create the mother of all self-tracking apps.
The new mega application, would automatically register and quantify all "deviations from norms" with regard to e.g. a person´s diet, obesity, brain activity, internet behaviour, mental health, driving habits, general lifestyle and carbon footprint.
There are already devices that register these things on the personal level. The revolutionary aspect would be to connect all the personal self-tracking devices into a national - and finally global - network, allowing "green" governments, and e.g. insurance companies, to access all the information that is necessary to save the Earth from the predicted global warming armageddon. In order for this project to be succesful, the installation of self-tracking apps into the bodies of all citizens would be mandatory.
Ultimately a UN body, let us call it e.g. The International Center for the Protection of the Earth, would be responsible for managing the new global network. It goes without saying that the new organization would also have the means to severely punish all those individuals displaying significant deviations from the ICPE norms.
Welcome, Brave New World!