Watch yourself -- this could be the next big chapter in big-data.
Seriously. You thought the big payoff in big-data was in sifting through mountains of data generated by computer mouses, Web servers, mobile phones, and myriad other machines?
Or maybe you thought the big bucks were going to be made in scanning gigabyte streams of log data from IT infrastructure -- all those machines reporting all their processes, memory faults, and hardware glitches.
Not so, says Silicon Valley investor Dave Asprey. The real opportunity in big-data is going to be in -- are you ready? -- human flesh. States Asprey on his personal blog, Cloudy Words:
My thesis for investing in big-data has nothing to do with data from e-commerce or IT management systems. I believe that the volume of data we are generating now from machines absolutely pales in comparison to the volume of data we will soon be generating from our own bodies via new consumer grade medtech offerings.
That's right, folks, the human body, that sweaty, spongy, suffering mass of flesh, bones, and biorhythms is where big-data's really going to shine. "The human body is a blank slate," Asprey gushes. "There is limitless data to gather about electrical, chemical, and physiological states, as well as about behavior and location. That's not even including 24/7 audio or video."
Personally, I can't think of anything more stupefying than an hour's video, much less a 24-hour feed, about me, myself, and I. Talk about cures for insomnia.
But who am I to say? Unlike Asprey, I'm not down with the Quantified Self movement ("self-knowledge through numbers"), whose members delight in describing how they're not only recording every last brainwave, heartbeat, and jiggle of fat but also analyzing years of such data to better understand and "improve" their personal selves.
Data visualization is a big item with this crowd, but me, I don't particularly want to
see my brain waves, my temperature, my pulse, my heart rate variability, my galvanic skin resistance, the number of steps I take, what I eat, what I breathe, who I talked to, my hormone levels, how happy I was, my brain's efficiency at any time, and anything else I can think of.
And I don't want to store data about all that in "a very large, very secure, very friendly cloud analytics application" or to "share that data anonymously with any researcher who is doing something cool."
No, I'd prefer not to. But then, I am not Dave Asprey, the man behind Websites like Upgraded Self and Bulletproof Executive. There, the self-obssessed self-quantifier sells things like Upgraded Coffee. At $24 a pound, this is "the result of an obsessive pursuit to find the absolute highest performance [!] coffee beans on earth," beans that "make you feel noticeably better than anything else you'll find." (Great, I'm sure, for washing down Bulletproof's Upgraded Whey, "the finest grass-fed non-denatured whey protein concentrate, supercharged with powdered coconut MCT oil to boost energy levels and pharmaceutical-grade bovine serum albumin." The finest? A large claim.)
Asprey claims that 15 years of hacking his own biology (his words) have helped him to lose 100 lbs. of excess weight without exercise, "lower his biological age," and "upgrade his brain by >20 IQ points." (Yet, he still feels compelled to hold down a day job as a VP at security firm Trend Micro.)
Ultimately, I would bet that Asprey will be proved right. Big-data will find its way to the human body. Cheap physical sensors, personal area networks, and ever-smarter smartphones will soon be streaming gobs of human telemetrics up into the cloud, there to be stored, tracked, and analyzed, encouraging us all to reconceive our selves even more in terms of numbers and risk factors than we already do. I will resist as long as possible, but others, I'm sure, will make some big-money from this big-angle on big-data.
Feeling more wired than usual? Please share your thoughts... For now, alas, fingers and keyboard are still necessary.