At one point in time not in our not too distant past it was common belief that the sun rotated around the earth. I mean think about it, every person getting up in the morning observed the sun come up on one horizon and in the evening saw the sun set on the other horizon. And since everyone was experiencing the same observation it must be true, right? Wrong. We all obviously now know the earth rotates around the sun because we now have the science and measurement to prove that fact and not just rely on observation alone.

“Two commonly made observations supported the idea that Earth was the center of the Universe. The first observation was that the stars, the sun, and planets appear to revolve around Earth each day, making Earth the center of that system. Further, every star was on a “stellar” or “celestial” sphere, of which the earth was the center, that rotated each day, using a line through the north and south pole as an axis. The stars closest to the equator appeared to rise and fall the greatest distance, but each star circled back to its rising point each day.[2] The second common notion supporting the geocentric model was that the Earth does not seem to move from the perspective of an Earth bound observer, and that it is solid, stable, and unmoving. In other words, it is completely at rest…The geocentric model held sway into the early modern age, but from the late 16th century onward was gradually superseded by the heliocentric model of CopernicusGalileo and Kepler.” – WikiPedia Geocentric Model

The fact is that at one point in time we didn’t have the science to effectively measure the facts of our solar system, and without that science you can’t fault those people for trusting their personal observations – they just don’t know what they don’t know.  So, if you put this in context of general public knowledge about how we should be treating our bodies for optimal health, the state of our current understanding (for the general population) is squarely in observation equals fact mode.

We observe that putting butter in our coffee seems to give us more energy so copious amounts of butter must be good for you, we observe that taking a pill makes us feel better so that pill must be good for us, we observe that we get a stomach ache after eating bread so grains must be bad, we observe all sorts of seemingly healthy things that may not be true at all.  But because we lack the ability to validate and measure our performance we often have to rely on personal observations as truth, it’s exactly why everyone has a different truth for their results.

I do however feel as if we are on the cusp of developing the science to bring measurement into the hands of the masses with the ability to understand what is going on in our bodies and to validate if what we are externally observing is true or false. This is what “Quantified Self” is all about. Turning data into information in order to better understand ourselves, not by replacing our understanding or intuition with data but to augment it.

Right now we are in the “data” phase with industry churning out various sensors collecting all sorts of data for you to draw your own conclusions. How many steps did I walk? What are my fuel points? And so on. The data these devices generate is currently not all that valuable, because what we are lacking is “information” and being able to turn this data into valuable insight in order gain understanding.  But it’s coming – we’ve got to crawl before we walk and the first step is collecting data.

The one fear I do have is with all this data and no understanding people may start drawing the wrong conclusion around what the data is telling us.  I think we’ll see a whole lot of data being mapped to current observations, hopefully we don’t create too much confirmation bias – “See, the sun does revolve around the earth, my data supports my observations so it is proof”.  I guess progress is not without it’s peaks and valleys.

I view my quantified-self journey as creating understanding from measurement rather than treating measurement itself as understanding.  It will be a fun ride, so hold on.