What Next For Quantified Self?

You can always water down your definition of “discoveries” until it corresponds to something that is being done 100 million times :slight_smile:

The large number does tell us is that the goal is to have more than just over-educated enthusiasts with too much spare time involved – but how?

Thanks Eric - I admit I’m probably obsessing a bit much about this, but on the other hand I think that if we state a quantitative goal it should be something that we believe in and can achieve; even if highly ambitious, it should be a genuine goal we can rally around. Otherwise it’s just a distraction.

@tblomseth asked some months ago: if our goal is to scale everyday science, what exactly are we scaling? That is, what is the “unit of production.” A good question!

Out of the discussion this question produced came the idea that a discovery is “shared project.” It’s basically a “show&tell” but not necessarily one that is presented live at a meeting and shared as a video. Maybe a project log also counts. But some requirements are:

  1. It has an author. Doesn’t have to be a real name (can be anonymous), but part of the definition of a project is that it is carried out by an individual who is both the subject and the investigator, who takes responsibility for it.

  2. It involves making self-observations. Usually this would be “generates data” but we’ve seen some that are minimal/edge cases where the observations were made but no data was collected or preserved. I think we can make room for these, but saying “observations” rather than “data” keeps it user centric rather than data centric.

  3. Is publicly shared. It’s partly up to us to define how the sharing takes place, and creating the right context and framework for sharing is partly what QS has done and Article 27 should support.

I think it is easy to see how we go from 100 to 200. Even doing this will teach us a lot. Going from 200-400 is also something we can plan. It may cause us to do some new things, like create user accounts for people sharing projects so they can update them without our intervention (if we do this outside the forum). If we think it is needed, we can also rally the community around different topics where there is a lot of activity already: Blood pressure, cholesterol, ovulatory cycling, blood sugar, sleep, etc. If we focused on it for a few months we could support 20-30 projects in any of these areas, I think.

So I see a path to maybe 500 discoveries, where discoveries are defined as shared projects. That is, they are not the “few times in a lifetime” level of discoveries, but more basic bits of learning. For instance, even my learning that my hand tremor is made worse when I stiffen the digit counts as a discovery, and I learned this from just trying to refine my measurement protocol, not from doing an experiment. But it was really interesting, and gives me some useful ideas. (Somebody might appreciate this idea for tracking their own tremor, but we don’t really have enough density and ease of sharing to make this plausible yet.)

Going from 500 to 1000 or 8000 is another phase shift, and I think by year two we would be ready to think about this.

And from 8000 to 128,000, other shift… and so on.

I’m resistant to pretending I know what happens at this point, since we have such a better chance of knowing after we get to 1000.

I gave a talk today at the Research track of the Wikimania conference in Stockholm which made use of some of the ideas being thrown here and discussions I had in the past with @Agaricus & @madprime and that might be useful for the discussion here too!

The talk was titled Peer production of community science with personal data and introduced the general idea of citizen science as potential implementations of Article 27 and the Mertonian norms of communism & universalism. It also shows how most citizen science projects these days are actually falling short of those ideals, as many of them are reframed crowdsourcing and not true participation.

Based on this I highlighted how people that are doing QS are actually turning themselves into scientists as they are actively participating in all bits of the research cycle (from building a hypothesis & collecting the necessary data all the way to analyzing it and drawing conclusions). At the same time the mindset of Quantified Self is different from doing research, in the sense that our lack of shared data flows or shareable tooling makes it hard for others to reproduce our own data collections and scale from the Quantified Self to the Quantified Us that allows communities of interest to emerge and enables people to work together on hypotheses.

I’ve went on to give some examples of how the shared data flows/tooling and project-based sharing of Open Humans can help to enable a peer-produced knowledge production that scales beyond the n=1 to larger groups.

The full slides can be found here: https://zenodo.org/record/3370474

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@ejain Totally! We can always default to some eroding goals:sweat_smile: I like how you point to how the magnitude of a quantitative goal has some important implications about reach and impact beyond the current QS community. And there’s some important signaling to potential funders and the surrounding world, too.

@Agaricus I still have issues with thinking in a 20-year timeframe. To me it seems difficult to have an idea of which kind of societal, technological etc. environment the program would be immersed in 10-20 years from now. 10 years feel more manageable to me.

Some ballparking has lead me to a slightly different way of stating a quantitative goal. Instead of focusing on the static inventory of discoveries i.e. 10M discoveries in 20 yrs, how about instead highligting the production of discoveries instead:

1 million discoveries a year in 10 years

If we pull that off it doesn’t actually seem unlikely that it could be scaled to 100M discoveries in 20 years. However, to me at least I’d prefer limiting us to talking about the path of the first 10 yrs and then cross that next bridge of the years 10+ out when we get (closer) to it.


The human capacity to process numbers is dismal at these scales, and the appeal of the goal is essentially metaphoric. This is a “as many X as there are stars in the sky” type of statement.

And I’ve seen the Wikipedia comparison receive positive reactions! I think it’s very good – I think it has resonance, calling to a constellation of related ideas, analogies, similarities, and lessons.

I don’t think exact numbers on the path matter much beyond the trajectory for the next couple years. And I think 20+ years is a good number because it’s generational in timespan.

Maybe instead I’d suggest a more vague statement, like: “Our dream: in 20 years, to see people share as many personal projects with each other as there are pages on Wikipedia.”

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At the suggestion of @madprime I’m applying for a Shuttleworth Fellowship. Their support has been important for Open Humans, and Mad and Bastian and Open Humans generally has been a key ally of QS work, so the connection makes sense. In the spirit of the fellowship I’m posting my draft application for public comment. Anybody with a link can comment in the doc:

The headers of each section are supplied by the Shuttleworth Foundation in their application form, and there is a 1500 character limit for each section. So it has its own format, but the links to the Article 27 pitch we discussed over the summer should be obvious.

Any suggestions welcome!


I gave it a read - it’s strong. I added some comments and a couple line edits.

Thanks Dan, I’m continuing to edit to keep this text alive, and I’ve incorporated most of your excellent suggestions.

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Over in the draft document Scott Leibrand commented on this paragraph:

[text] Why did the visionary authors of this document believe that a right to participate in science was necessary to protect the inherent dignity of all members of the human family? The reason is that participation in science strengthens our mutual respect for one another as thinking beings, each of us with a legitimate interest in figuring out our own future. Although it is easy to be cynical about it, this mutual respect fundamental to democratic culture, indispensable to long term survival - and far from secure.

Scott comments:

[comment]This isn’t what Article 27 says. Gramatically, the verb “participate in” only applies to the object “cultural life”, whereas the verb that applies to “scientific advancement” is “share in”. Do you have other evidence that “the visionary authors of this document believe[d] that a right to participate in science was necessary”?

If you want to argue, as Vayena and Tasioulas do, that Article 27 additionally advances a positive right to participate in the full scientific enterprise, such an interpretation must be justified. Textually and grammatically, it hangs on the fact that “share in” applies both to “scientific advancement”, and also and separately to “[scientific advancement’s] benefits”, which would imply that there is some human right to “scientific advancement” itself, not just “its benefits”. But it’s not clear to me what the original drafters of the UNDHR meant by “share in scientific advancement” - the implications against restrictive IP seem clear, but anything beyond that seems more like a redefinition/expansion of the HRS, not just a return to the original authors’ intent.

This is a good comment and I want to post it here so I can answer in a place that isn’t likely to get written over with document changes.

Scott has very valid questions. Personally, this is the type of conversation I’d love to see unfold over a few pitchers of beer and nachos at a local pub. But not in a fellowship application. To keep focus, the purpose of the document is to secure funding for the growth of QS.

Scott has spied something that the reviewers of the application could also take issue with and lead them down the same path of questioning… that pursuit doesn’t benefit the application, so perhaps consider rephrasing to steer clear of it while still making the larger point? Might be easy enough to fix by editing,

“Why did the visionary authors of this document believe that a right to participate in science was necessary to protect the inherent dignity of all members of the human family? The reason is that participation in science strengthens …”

to something like,

'Why did the visionary authors of this document juxtapose(link?) the right to participate in science with the protection of the inherent dignity of all members of the human family? For me, the crucial connection is that participation in science strengthens …"

To be clear, I’m just suggesting that Scott’s concerns can be addressed by rephrasing the original assertion in a way that removes the issue while allowing the larger point to be made for the purpose of the application.

Thanks Dean. That seems very much like the right answer for a deck supporting A27 fundraising.
Of course I can’t resist the question anyway and will probably try to respond!

Here is a UNESCO report evaluating the context and implications of Article 27:

Unfortunately, I can’t find a way to read it other than using this insane document viewer, so it may take me a while!

The English version does seem to have grammatical ambiguity.

Paul-Olivier Dehaye recently (privately) noted that the same article in French more strongly/clearly links “participation” to “scientific advancement”: “Toute personne a le droit de prendre part librement à la vie culturelle de la communauté, de jouir des arts et de participer au progrès scientifique et aux bienfaits qui en résultent.”

He shared with Effy Vayena as well, who said she’d worked from the English and hadn’t looked into other languages. But this would seem to support an interpretation that applies “participate” to “scientific advancement”.

Article 27 Foundation. The site was not found.

Probably among the participants of QS you can find grant writers.

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Grantmakers in Health

Each study on the forum QS is a micro -project and requires design.

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Grant Writing USA

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Marketing QS
The option of segmentation of QS participants based on human ethology.
Personal motivation for participation in QS.
Clarification of a complex of motives in dynamics. Measurement 1 or 0.

1. The biological basis - food instinct:

  • tracking the quality of nutrition;
  • tracking the effect of nutrition on the mood;
  • tracking a visit to cafes and restaurants;
  • tracking the consumption of vitamins and other dietary supplements;

To get benefits and pleasure from nutrition.

2. The biological basis - instinct of reproduction:

  • tracking the frequency of sex;
  • tracking fitness training;
  • tracking bodybuilding;

For beauty, search for partners, reproductive health.

3. The biological basis - the instinct of aggression:

  • monitoring the aggression;
  • tracking of outbreaks of anger;
  • tracking aggressive behavior on social networks;

Control over aggression.

4. The biological basis - instinct of knowledge:

  • game in QS measure something;
  • lifloging;
  • studying your habits;
  • the study of their behavior and analysis of the results;
  • writing programs for analysis of behavior;
  • study of the environment of activity and the impact on behavior;
  • a general understanding of the nature of man and himself;
  • the study of human instincts and evolutionary psychology;
  • knowledge in the field of “civil science” without hierarchical status;
  • forecasting;
  • free exchange of knowledge and experience QS;
  • analysis of behavior at the computer;

    Tracking for orientation in your life.

5. The biological basis - instinct of the territory;

  • control of the ecology of the room (dustiness, room temperature, humidity, concentration of carbon dioxide and more);
  • tracking the territory - “smart home”;

Increasing comfort of your territory.

6. The biological basis - parental instinct;

  • tracking children;
  • tracking the attendance of the school by children;
  • tracking the success of children in study;
  • tracking the movements of children;
  • tracking the activity of children on the Internet;

A common QS motive.

7. The biological basis is the hierarchical instinct and the increase in social status:

  • increased fame using QS (public publications, performances, …);
  • acquaintance with people of high status;
  • career in the scientific field associated with QS (medicine, psychology, finance, information technology, philosophy, …);
  • career in the commercial sphere associated with QS (medicine, psychology, finance, information technology, philosophy, …);
  • career in the field of NGO associated with QS (medicine, psychology, finance, information technology, philosophy, …);

The prevalence is unknown.

8. The biological basis is the instinct of self -preservation:

  • tracking overweight;

  • tracking of calorie power;

  • tracking physical activity;

  • monitoring blood pressure;

  • tracking the pulse;

  • tracking stress;

  • monitoring mood;

  • tracking sleep;

  • tracking chronic fatigue;

  • tracking glucose in the blood;

  • tracking the weather;

  • control of other chronic diseases;

  • genetic studies to identify a predisposition to diseases;

  • monitoring the condition during the epidemic;

  • monitoring body temperature;

  • tracking neuroenergetics;

  • tracking computer security;

  • tracking the security of accounts on social networks;

  • tracking the safety of mobile devices;

  • tracking the safety of car driving;

The most powerful and common motive for QS.
This is often caused by pain and severe discomfort.

9. The biological basis is the instinct of freedom:

  • tracking your movements;
  • tracking well -being in travel;
  • tracking travel expenses;

    Freedom of movement. This motive is often found.

10. The biological basis is the instinct of altruism (help others):

  • donations QS;
  • participation of a volunteer in QS;
  • Practical help to friends.

The prevalence is unknown.

11. The biological basis is the extraction of life resources and/or optimization of their expenditure:

  • preparation and sale of articles about QS;

  • preparation and sale of books about QS;

  • maintaining a commercial site or blog;

  • commercial development of programs;

  • commercial development of devices;

  • Search for customers and partners among QS participants:

  • search for sponsors;

  • paid consultations on QS related to the main activity;

  • employment work in the field of QS;

  • investment in QS projects;

  • coaching in QS;

    This motive is often found.

  • tracking the performance of their activities;

  • tracking and optimization of expenses of your time;

  • tracking and optimization of their finances;

  • tracking their movements and expenses;

  • tracking the effectiveness of social networks;

  • tracking attentiveness;

  • tracking memory;

This motive is often found.

12. The artificial basis - harmful “information viruses”:

  • tracking idealism and utopianism (desire to improve people’s lives in the absence of such a need).
  • tracking bad habits;
  • tracking caffeine;
  • monitoring the use of alcohol;
  • tracking dependence on the Internet;

Artificial needs are caused by advertising and imitation.
Very common and do great harm.

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Recently, QS has been concentrated in the health segment in which there is a high demand.
A wider experience can be used tomorrow.

An attempt to formulate the foundations of my experience and personal science.
It is more like digital scouting.
Source: Why You Think You’re Right, Even when You’re Wrong

Theses of personal science are currently.

1. The purpose of personal science is the optimization of the life of an individual in its specific habitat, the prevailing structure of society and the best understanding of his life capabilities.

2. The main task is to improve the understanding of the behavior of the Human animal, understanding the limited rationality of people’s behavior, your behavior and results.

3. Methods of personal science.

Personal science is very different from academic science.
While academic science proposes its official decision or offers a false decision, many years will pass and relevance for an individual may disappear.
The individual during this time or will greatly damage his life or die.

Methods of personal science are closer to scouting methods, but in the interests of an individual.

The difference between scouting and science is well formulated in a useful book:
Strategic Intelligence Production: Basic Principles. By Washington Platt. 1957

The results of personal science do not require approval of anyone.
The only criterion of effectiveness is a practical reproducible benefit for the individual.
Unlike scientific work, the information document of personal science (personal scouting) is pursuing one goal:
It should be useful for ensuring individual interests at the moment.

Personal science is an interdisciplinary direction.
For personal science, you can use any affordable knowledge of official sciences:
human biology, human ethology, psychology, economics, sociology, healthcare, etc.

The results of personal science can be used in any official scientific organizations.

4. Conflicts of personal science.

Political conflicts.
Persons who own the basics of personal science will probably be less susceptible to manipulations and will be skeptical of politics.

Economic conflicts.
Persons who own the basics of personal science will probably be less susceptible to corporation manipulations and will be skeptical of advertising.

Conflicts with educational and scientific institutions.
Standards are developed in the interests of the customer - state, corporations, …
And these standards often contradict the interests of the individual.
In pedagogy there is a phenomenon “Learning with evil intent”.
Learning with evil intent
Alexander Poddyakov

Analyzing, in general, the whole range of situations of counteracting training, one can distinguish three of their main types:

  1. obstructing that other people acquire certain knowledge, skills;

  2. teaching other people that contradicts their desires, intentions, interests;

  3. the use of the process and the results of successful training of other people for purposes that contradict their desires, intentions and interests.
    Date of publication: 22 January 2001
    www.russ.ru Александр Поддьяков. Обучение со злым умыслом

Conflict with ordinary public consciousness.
Conflicts with common views, myths, stereotypes, …

5. Restrictions on personal science.

Political restrictions.
In authoritarian countries, there are much fewer conditions for the use of personal science than in democratic countries

Economic restriction.
In poor countries, there is less access to personal science tools than in rich countries.

The “national character” of the sustainable biological characteristics of the country’s population.
A current example.
"Academician I.P. Pavlov about the Russian mass mind (Nobel Lecture 1918 in St. Petersburg)

Russian thought does not use criticism of the method at all, i.e. does not check the meaning of words at all, does not go for the curtains of the word, does not like to look at the true reality.
We are engaged in collecting words, not studying life. To what the Russian mind is not attached to facts. He loves words more and operates on them.
This is a sentence over Russian thought, she knows only words and does not want to touch reality.
After all, this is a common, characteristic feature of the Russian mind.
… "

Biological restrictions on the individual. Even with an excellent sense, for example, time management, not everyone can put it in practice.

Age restrictions. The aging of the brain and loss of relevance of information.

6. The risks of the development of personal science.
The main risk.
If there is power and money, there is a risk of subordination of personal science of any strength in their interests and turning it into its opposite.

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