This is the full transcript of Lauren Costantini’s TEDx Talk: The Quantified Self: How Wearable Sensors Expand Human Potential at TEDxMileHigh.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Wearable Tech Expands Human Potential by Lauren Constantini at TEDxMileHigh
Lauren Costantini – CEO of Prima-Temp
Ours bodies are radiating data, constantly radiating data. But, for the most part, we ignore those data that our bodies are trying to communicate to us, until something goes terribly wrong.
We wake up one morning with a sore throat and an achy back, and our body is telling us: “You haven’t been taking care of me!” And it’s not until then do we start thinking about getting more rest, drinking more water, taking our vitamins.
Or our doctor calls us and says, “Your lab results came in. Your cholesterol levels are through the roof!” And it’s not until we get that bad news that we start paying attention to the food we eat, or the exercise that we get.
So we ignore a lot of the data that our bodies are radiating, but, with the advent of wearable sensors, we now have dials and gauges, and trackers that are collecting all the data that our bodies are radiating, and allowing us to analyze it in real time and make changes in our lives at the most basic human levels.
We typically think of technology as something that separates us from being human, but I ask you to think about technology as a way of expanding our humanness. What might be possible if you could learn from the data your body is radiating, how to make the most of your body and your mind? What would you do with that power?
Well, the age of the quantified self is upon us. Self-knowledge through self-tracking, with technology as the enabler. No longer do we have to use medical equipment and computers to collect and analyze our data. We’re wearing the sensors that can collect and analyze that data in real time, and look at the data on our smartphones.
So our bodies are radiating data loudly, continuously, honestly, and individually. The data are so loud, but typically doctors are the only ones that have the speaker to listen to the data that our bodies are radiating. We have to rely on doctors to tell us everything, whether our hearts are beating normally to whether that mole on our skin that’s been worrying us is potentially cancerous.
But now, with these wearable sensors, you can simply connect something to the back of your smartphone, take your own EKG, and instantaneously get an image of your heart health, without ever having to go to the doctor. There are now apps that are available that allow you to take a picture of that mole that’s been bothering you on your arm, and it will algorithmically tell you whether you’re at risk for cancer, and it will track that mole over time and let you know whether you should go to the doctor to discuss it with them.
So our bodies are radiating data loudly and now we have the speaker in our hands to listen to it ourselves. Our bodies are radiating data continuously and that lets us look at how we change over time, and allows us to improve ourselves over time.
There are now apps available that can identify events in our lives that can change our mood, and by looking over time at our good days and our bad days, the days when we’re sad, when we’re happy, when we’re most productive, we can identify the events and manipulate our environment to make us more happy and less sad, and more productive. Changing our moods is one of the most basic aspects of being human.
And like it or not, the data from our bodies is as honest as it gets. We all feel that we have a pretty good handle on our stress levels, but Spire is a device that one wears that tracks your breathing patterns, and it will identify when you’re calm and focused, when you’re getting a little bit tense and when you’re getting completely frazzled. And when you get completely frazzled, it sends an alert to you and tells you to stop what you’re doing, take ten deep, cleansing breaths, and it will honestly tell you when you’re most focused.
We also feel that we have a pretty good idea of when we get enough sleep. We could probably use more sleep every night, but a good night’s sleep is pretty easy to identify. But when your wearable sensor tells you that you only reached deep sleep for seven minutes, and that you woke up twelve times during the night and you didn’t even realize it, your wearable sensor is telling you honestly that you can make some improvements in your life on how to get deeper sleep.
And finally, the data that’s radiating from our bodies is individual as it gets. The data radiating from your body is very different than the data radiating from your body. For instance, every woman has a monthly cycle, and within one normal woman and across all women, that cycle changes very subtly each month, and fertility changes each month. OvuRing is a device that a woman wears that continuously tracks those changes every month, and when she’s most fertile, it sends an alert to her smartphone. Now, this is a wearable sensor that is empowering women to decide when to conceive a child, the most primitive aspect of being a human.
So let me tell a little bit about the most connected man in the world. His name is Chris Dancy, and on any given day, he’s wearing 20 or 30 wearable sensors. They’re connected to his body, they’re connected to his house. They’re connected to his dog. And when he was being interviewed, he started talking about a time in his childhood, and he got very emotional. And at that moment, all the lights in his house started flickering. And he stopped what he said, and he closed his eyes, and he started the sentence over again and told the story in a different way. That was the wearable sensor that he’s been using to try to keep his tension down and his emotional level more intact.
He also was wearing a wearable sensor that, whenever he loses his temper at home, classical music starts playing throughout the house, so that he knows to take a step back, and reanalyze what he’s saying and how he’s handling the situation. He also has a sensor in his bedroom that can tell him the exact air temperature and air flow that will provide him with the soundest night’s sleep. So in the process of all these improvements, he also lost over 100 pounds.
Now, he didn’t do this with an activity tracker or a nutrition app. He learned through all these wearable sensors that his calorie intake was directly correlated with the people he was with and the lighting in the restaurants where he went. So, by changing these two triggers, he was able to lose a hundred pounds without even dieting. And he would never have known these triggers if he weren’t tapping into these technologies.
So Chris is, of course, trying to find a better version of himself, which we all are for us, but we’re also using technologies to find better versions for others. There are now activity and monitors for babies, that will tell us when their diaper is wet, if they’re breathing normally throughout the night, and even some early indicators of autism. So, with technologies like this, we become better parents.
There’s a shoe that Alzheimer’s patients can wear, that tracks the number of steps they take, and when they reach outside of the perimeter of the home, an alert is sent to their caretaker, letting them know that they may be wandering a little bit too far away. So, with this technology, we become better caretakers.
And then, there are the pheromone sensors. Yes, pheromones, those wonderful chemicals that we all produce and secrete, and our direct correlation with romantic compatibility. Well, scientists are developing pheromone sensors which will compare your pheromones with everyone else’s in the room, so that you can beeline directly over to your soul mates and never have to sift through those Match.com profiles ever again. And so, with this technology, we become better mates.
Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that we all go out and wear twenty sensors for the next five years, but think about these technologies as training wheels, to allow us to improve our lives in many different ways. So, about one-third of consumers are abandoning their wearable sensors within six months of using them, and it’s not due to them losing interest. Behavioral modification is occurring. They can then remove those sensors, removing the training wheels, and they maintain that enriched life that that technology enabled them to have.
And really, all these technologies are doing are three basic premises that we’re all sort of searching in these lives these days: To be more mindful of our bodies; to be more aware of the surroundings that affect our lives; and to be more present in this world. And so technology is allowing us to become more human in these ways.
Our bodies have been radiating data since the beginning of time, and now those data are in our hands. Not only can we become healthier and more productive, but we can become better parents, better caretakers, better lovers, better humans. We all hear that we’re only using about 10% of our human capabilities, so our future selves can be ten-fold better than our current selves. And this indicates humanity with potentially enhanced, natural capabilities.
Now, to some, this may be a scary prospect, but to others, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. What might be possible if you can use technology to expand your opportunities and ability to be human beyond what you thought was possible? Are you taking advantage of these training wheels?