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Self Optimization through Self Awareness

July 15th, 2009 by

Nat blogged about Life Logging which means that one logs some life influencing parameters such as get up and go to bed times, blood pressure and more. While it might be funny to see some statistical data about ones life and maybe useful for pub evenings (“I bet you can’t beat me in that: On mornings after evenings where I had fife beers and the average temperature in the pub was not above 25°C and the amount of female guests was under 56% I make it to a shoesize of 46!”) I think that is quite useless. The human being is a too complex thing. It is influenced by tons of parameters. Measureing just can log a few of them. That would not be a problem, as long as one does that for the pub purpose, but as Nat says this is done for “performance optimization” of the person, it gets difficult.

I would love to argue now with more or less esoteric theories of what a person is influenced from like the polarization of the sunlight or earth rays but I fear that would not be appreciated by the usual audience here. So lets stress automatic control engineering (german Regelungstechnik, I hope that translates) which fascinated me earlier.

There is a base axiom that says: The more complex the system to control is, the more complex the model of the system is and the more parameters you have to take into account for your controller model to control the system to get the expected outcome. If your model of the controlled system does not align with the real system and/or wrong input parameters are picked you do not get what you want. The whole circle of controlled system and controller becomes unstable.

Given the complexity of the human being I think it is impossible to get something usefull out of measuring a few parameters of life and hope to get any hints for “performance improvements”. Its dangerous because it easily might become unstable.

And imagine how long it takes to log all the data and how complicated it might become – for example if you need to log the percentage of women in the pub every 10 minutes, that might lead to interesting social interaction. That time and trouble can be saved.

My suggestion is to improve self performance through self awareness. People need to learn to listen to themselves and do what is good for them. How that can be done? Well, yes, that seems not always to be an easy task. Suggestions around that I better leave that for the next “Dragos hints for a better personal life” lesson 😉

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3 Responses to “Self Optimization through Self Awareness”

  1. foo


  2. luis

    From my point of view, Nat is getting a bit obsessive with this personal data tracking but i think he’s got a point there. Personal data tracking can be a very usefull tool to track your evolution in some tasks. Say you are trying to improve your sleep cycles to adapt to a new job, or that you have to make a diet for health reasons. Seeing your evolution on certain parameters actually motivates you. That said, personal awareness has its advantages. Anyway, I think keeping a journal actually is a way of improving on both fronts. Then again, that information is something I would never publish online!

  3. Well, your post is disagreeing with a cartoon caricature version of what I was saying, not what I was actually saying.

    Of course it’s impossible to track all of the things that affect your life. You didn’t mention this, but it’s also impossible to quantify the value of your life, in order to optimize it. When it comes to something as big and precious as a life, how do you define “performance” anyway? And if you do have a definition of performance, how do you “improve performance” if you can’t measure it? And if you can measure it, why not write it down? Your post is not consistent on this point.

    I do think recording some things — was I sick? how much sleep did I get? how often do I really go out with my friends? — can help us overcome our faulty memories and have a more realistic picture of our lives. And even if it doesn’t help us to “optimize” anything, isn’t it interesting to do?

    Life logging and self awareness are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you agree that we have faulty memories, then you probably agree that life logging can improve self awareness.

    Long-time practitioners of mindfulness meditation would tell us that when we are really aware of the present moment, then we are also aware of the past, because the past exists in the present moment.

    But I don’t mind also having a record.