A medical notebook can record details of personal health, like blood tests, blood pressure readings, medication changes, illnesses, symptoms, weight gains and losses, plus changes in diet, periods of illness or hospitalisation and all sorts of details. Such a notebook or diary could last a lifetime and be of immense assistance to doctors and those trying to maintain physical and even mental health, to assist or avoid conception, to give up smoking. as well as shedding light on the ageing process. Best of all, a notebook is environmentally friendly and doesn't require batteries!
I’m a 63 year-old Trinity College Dublin graduate in natural sciences and geophysics. I was the winner of the Young Scientist Competition in 1968. I also have an MBA and is fluent in French and Spanish. I’m a member of Better Environment with Nuclear Energy and the Irish Skeptics Society, and passionate about good science and critical thinking.
How did you get started lifelogging/analysing data?
I was a trainspotter when I was ten, probably the first notebook I kept. Marie Curie is my inspiration – even her cookbooks are recorded meticulously! But all scientists have to record observations, it becomes second nature.
Why do you find lifelogging so interesting?
As a geophysicist, I have to record observations to accompany data from instrumental measurements. These could be weather, presence of power or telephone lines, soil conditions and even mileage and other persons involved in the survey. A business diary contains details of projects, pricing, telephone calls, and documents received. Adding some personal items serves to permit a more complete recall of a particular day or event.
How do people in your life react when they discover the extent of your lifelogging?
Nobody notices. It is unobtrusive and personal. Some doctors have expressed surprise and admiration when I produced it in response to a question, such as “How long have you had it?!” I'm not the first person to think of it — some Bloomsbury characters used to write “Beethoven” in their diaries to indicate diarrhoea attacks, as the composer was said to suffer from it.
What's your favourite time of day and why?
Morning: Minimum blood pressure and weight usually.
Do you remember the first electronic device you owned?
A digital watch. Could even be used to time walks or runs!
What do you want done with your data after you die?
Burn it, and me too!
Is there anything about yourself that you would absolutely never like tracked?
Yes, but I'm not going to tell!
What insights on your life has tracking your data revealed?
Yes – I have realised how difficult it is to keep one's weight to a healthy value. Also cholesterol levels change very slowly in response to changes in medication, often months before a rising or falling trend is noticed.
What websites, magazines or other resources inspire, confound, amuse or irritate you?
I am irritated by so-called ‘fitness’ magazines which really exist to sell over-priced coloured clothing, usually made of Lycra! Phoney diets and misinformation about ‘health’ aspects of foods and bottled water abound. The word ‘junk-food’ is often applied to items like Big Macs when in fact the full Irish breakfast is possibly more lethal!
What is your go-to piece of tech or software for lifelogging?
A pencil! But the pencil I want doesn't seem to exist – yet. It has to be a mechanical (clutch) pencil, 0.9 mm lead, retractable point and tip (to avoid impaling myself) and in high-visibility fluorescent yellow to find it in the long grass. Pentel have a black one with a 0.5 mm lead, almost what I want, so I attach a fluoro ribbon to it. It is cheaper to buy software than create it. I used to write my own in Fortran, but not any more.
We're creating a speculative timeline of the possible future of lifelogging. We're asking everyone to make one prediction for a future date. What's yours? Feel free to think big!
My prediction is that by 2020 we will NOT have developed sensors to record bouts of constipation, diarrhoea, backache, hangovers, light-headedness, aches and pains, nor frustration! However, these CAN be recorded in a medical notebook!