Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wearables and Self-Awareness (Personal) Paul Krugman

Busy with a lot of stuff today, but a brief personal note inspired by the Apple Watch. I probably won’t ever want to buy one — but I am a wearable tracker guy these days, and am skeptical about the skepticism.
Julia Belluz suggests that wearable fitness devices don’t add much:
For now, applying common sense is probably useful: for centuries, everyone — not just those who can afford the latest Apple tricks — has had access to other less-sexy technologies (scales, measuring tapes) that provide extremely accurate and predictive data about your health (weight, the measure of your waist), and those haven’t spurred behavior change or reversed the trajectory of the obesity crisis in America.
Fair enough — but what fitness devices do, at least for me, is make it harder to lie to myself. And that’s crucial. It’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ve done enough walking, that shuffling around filing books is a pretty good workout, that you only miss exercise once a week or so — OK, maybe twice. But there’s your Fitbit telling you that you only walked 6000 steps and burned 1800 calories yesterday, that you only did serious exercise three days last week.
You might say that the truth will show up on the scale and your waistline eventually; yes, but that’s too future oriented. You need to guilt-trip yourself in the here and now.
I’ve also taken to wearing a serious heart-rate monitor when doing cardio. Again, it’s too easy to lie to yourself — “I’m working really hard!” — but that number saying that you’re only at 70 percent tells the truth.
Obviously none of this would work if I hadn’t at some level made the decision that I needed to fight this aging thing. But for me, at least, the technology helps a lot, not because of the information, exactly, but because it makes self-deception harder.

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