Quantified Self Boston

I already wrote about Quantified Self Community that was started in the Bay area by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly several years ago. QS Boston chapter appeared on Meetup two years ago under the leadership of Michael Nagle. This past year I attended two QS events in Boston:

Aug 3, at Sprout: #6 Data of Our Lives — novel solutions to chronic problems.

The event featured speakers who are working on novel approaches to chronic health problems. They gave short presentations followed up by a panel.

1.Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Director of the Center for Connected Health at Partners Healthcare (http://www.connected-health.org)

2.Rick Lee, CEO of Healthrageous, using biometric data to create personalized care (http://www.healthrageous.com/)

3.Jackie Thong, CEO of Ubiqi Health, using mobile tools for migraine management (http://ubiqihealth.com)

Dec 6, at WorkBar: #8 Measurements, Big and Small

This event was hosted by UbiqiHealth at their coworking facility WorkBar in Boston. This meetup focused on different ways of making measurements and analyzing data. It was a mix of a few personal stories about collecting biometrics, as well as a few bigger picture approaches.

1.Max Little (http://www.maxlittle….) from the MIT Media Lab presented some of his work in researching Parkinson’s disease. One of his interests is coming up with new mathematical tools for doing studies that reflect the individual variation in different cases of Parkinson’s. He’s looked at the tools of weather forecasting (!) as a way to find statistical measures that capture more information about variation.

2.Jake Hoppe (http://www.eidosearch…) demoed his work at EidoSearch. EidoSearch is a tool which lets users identify visual patterns in data, and search the dataset for that same pattern. EidoSearch is being used, naturally, in the financial sector, but they’re now reaching out and looking for health data sets to apply their algorithms to.

3.And Gil Blander of InsideTracker (http://www.insidetrac…) talked about his company’s blood analysis system. InsideTracker lets its users do a basic blood panel and get nutritional recommendations based on that analysis.

I was especially impressed by Healthrageous and InsideTracker, as they help create healthy ways of life in more fun and interactrive way. Another observation I made is that people are interested in learning more about themselves and about how to be healthy without struggle but with social support. I spoke with “quantifiers” from the audience and many of them collect their personal data without even knowing what for, but are very inclined to monitor their activities, behavior patterns and share results… That is something new and very inspiring. People want to improve not only their lives but the lives of others… Simply by sharing. Revolutionary. Truly New Age.

Social Good 2.0

On Friday, Dec 2, at 8:30AM the room of Space with a Soul was full. About 200 people consumed all coffee before the presentations started. All were interested in what is happening in the local social good start-up scene. I was told about this event by a friend, the event’s description said:

“The past few years have seen a surge of activity around technology and the nonprofit world. Boston is a hotbed of innovative ideas that might really be interesting to cause-related organizations – but it seems like new ones emerge daily. Who has time to keep track – let alone hear what they might be able to offer you?

Join us for a morning breakfast highlighting the latest additions to the cause-related technology startup scene in Boston:

SPONSORED BY

Accounting Management Solutions, BiddingForGood, Cauzoom, CharityAlly, ConstantContact,
Mass Innovation Nights, NorthEast Sponsorship Network

AGENDA

8:30-8:45 Coffee and breakfast

8:45 Opening remarks, comments from hosts and sponsors

9:00-10:00 Rocket Introductions from Boston Startups (8 minutes each)

PRESENTERS:

AltruHelp. The world’s largest online altruistic social experiment.

BoardProspects. The link between boards, prospects, and possibilities.

Cauzoom. Making it fun and easy to raise money for worthy projects.

CharityAlly. Give today. Change tomorrow.

Invup. Community involvement made fun and simple.

10:00-10:30 Facilitated networking by the Northeast Sponsorship Network”

In short: Altruhelp is a Universal Online Platform For Social Impact, was presented by Mathew Paisner.

Mark Rogers from BoardProspects told us how to fill the need for board members for non-profits.

Michael Sattler from Cauzoom, who also started the Social Good 2.0 group, gave his vision of how to help people and organizations, “because we are all in this together”.

Jonah Lupton and Nicholas Walton told about their organization CharityAlly that we can participate: “give today, change tomorrow”. And finally, instead of Invup, DailyFeats was presented by Vinay Gidwaney as “Do feats for your health and happiness”.

It was great to hear about new and old ideas of social good ventures, and hear about their progress, but even more so to witness how much interest this event generated and how much support it received from all kinds of people: from non-profits, social media, environmental organizations and technologists. It felt that every person in the audience has a story to tell and those stories are as important as the ones that were presented that day. Which ones of those 200 stories will be known 20 years from now and making a big impact on our lives? We are so lucky to get a sneak peek at what may be part of our future.

Free Speech

The same day I finished my Philosophy works course I came home and turned TV on. It just happened that the movie “What a way to go: Light at the end of Empire” was on Free Speech channel. After only few seconds I was totally engrossed into what they were showing which is rather direct and true. They were talking about shopping mall culture – shallowness and hopelessness and deep dissatisfaction, and not because people don’t really have that much money this year to go shopping or because of “Occupy Wall street”, but because we all feel that something is really wrong.

“We live in institutionalized society and we know our cell numbers”. We are on the train that is going at accelerated speed but we don’t know where it is going. We are getting from here to there, but now we want to stop the train. Because the train is heading for disaster.

I immediately thought of a book called The Yellow Arrow by Victor Pelevein. “Set during the advent of perestroika, a surreal, satirical novella by a critically acclaimed young Russian writer traces the fate of the passengers on The Yellow Arrow, a long-distance Russian train headed for a ruined bridge, a train without an end or a beginning–and it makes no stops. Andrei, the mystic passenger, less and less lulled by the never-ending sound of the wheels, has begun to look for a way to get off. But life in the carriages goes on as always”.

“If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up where we’re headed” Chinese Proverb.

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly” Woody Allen.

“Darwin’s dice have rolled badly for Earth . . . The human species is, in a word, an environmental abnormality. Perhaps a law of evolution is that intelligence usually extinguishes itself” E O Wilson

The movie tells that if we want to live, we need to get off that train.

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth” Morpheus.

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time” Andre Gide.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” Anais Nin.

That old dominant culture does not make its citizens happy, so isn’t it time for something new?

“We are much more than we ever were allowed to be”.

Power with nature and the world, not power over… Finally there is an opportunity to come back to ourselves. Check out the book by Jerry Mander “In the absence of the Sacred”. And no matter who actually wrote or edited this letter, he was a genius:

CHIEF SEATTLE’S LETTER

“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.”

Philosophy Works (Class Ten)

Last Saturday was my last class at Philosophy Works. I felt sad that it was time to say good byes to the group and our instructor. We shared so much with each other, learned together and hopefully became a little wiser. I distributed the Problem and Suffering Table to all in class, as my views were shaped by our discussions and Mita gave me great feedback on the original version of the slide. We all received a book as a present from the school, it is a small orange pocket book called Philosophy works, new light on life. It consists of practices and principles all consolidated in 10 steps: Why Be wise? Remaining true to yourself. Levels of awareness. Tapping your resources. The light of reason. The power of beauty. Know thyself. Watching the powers at work . Renewal through reflection. Inner reality.

Last topic we discussed was unity, which is found when we look for a whole common denominator to nature and humanity.

And Love materializes Unity. Please, read these beautiful passages below.

Sonnet 116 by W. Shakespeare:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

From Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians:

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;

but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Philosophy Works (Class Nine)

Class Notes on Unity:

Philosophy is concerned with wholeness, to expand and increase our awareness of the unity that underlies our lives and all of creation. It must be clear to us all that we have, in some measure, begun the journey towards wholeness.

Unity in diversity: The potter throws many kinds of pots, yet each vessel is made of the very same clay. The jeweler fashions beautiful golden rings and bracelets, but each of these shining forms is made of a single substance – gold. Consider the waves in the ocean, each with ties own unique power and form. Who can say where wave begins and ocean ends? We are like the waves. WE make an appearance as separate forms on the infinite ocean of existence; we are born, we thrive and return to the same source from whence we came, the Self of All.

Wherever there is awareness, there is unity. When we begin to wake up, we can look beyond the forms and discover the thread that binds then all together.

The Teaching of non-duality is a universal teaching. It belongs to everyone and to no-one. It is the tap root of all the great teachings and traditions. It dwells within us, waiting to be heard and realized. The work of this school is to remind us of this underlying Unity.

Practice:

Look for Unity. Wherever you find separation and division, look for the unity, the wholeness beyond the surface agitation.

The commotion of our human life, which lets in everything, all the light and all the music, all the mad pranks of thought and all the variations of pain, the fullness of memory and the fullness of expectation, is closed to one thing only: unity.

Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions: The heart of Mysticism

Of a certainty the man who can see all creatures in himself,

Himself in all creatures, knows no sorrow.

How can a wise man, knowing the unity of life,

Seeing all creatures in himself, be deluded or sorrowful?

Eesha-Upanishad

There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all the same, He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man does not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself…All things are connected.

Chief Seattle’s Letter to all the People

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space.

He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings,
as something separated from the rest – a kind of OPTICAL DELUSION of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion –
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is, in itself,
a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

Albert Einstein

Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part Three)

Dear hackers of the world,

It is not superpowers but traits of character that need to be developed by means of avatars and immersion. People like to solve problems especially when they are virtual. By trying different choices we will learn what leads to pain and suffering and what to do in real life if similar circumstances occur. The player will develop understanding, resilience and compassion.

There should be every day scenarios for people, like getting laid off after working for the same company for many years, not having savings and not being able to find a job for a while… What does avatar do and experience? Or racial – one white guy has to live in all black community or one black guy in all Asian community, etc. or to participate in religious services of other religions… Learn about other cultures and their customs adn traditions. Go live in a foreign country for a year with no local language skills and being illegal. Become a virtual refugee!

It is important to create problem and suffering simulation both for existing and future scenarios. The impact will be tremendous.

Imagine that virtual Alcoholic Anonymous game was translated to all languages and distributed around the world, how many people would stop drinking heavily? Will alcoholism rates go down and people become happier?

Imagine that all young people have access to video games that teach what to do it difficult situations. A teen becomes pregnant or tries drugs for the first time to impress someone, the person creates a habit and starts eating fast food every day and gets ill, someone becomes a soldier and goes to war, followed by PTSD, etc.

Suddenly a computer virus sounds lame. You can be immortal if you create something that impacts people’s lives positively. See Steve Pavlina’s story Living Virtues below:

“After I reached adulthood and began seriously pondering the question of how to live, the first major stopping point was essentially where Aristotle left off. In my early and mid-20s, I spent a lot of time working on living virtuously. I saw living the best possible life as becoming a person of virtue: to live with honor, integrity, courage, compassion, etc. I listed out the virtues I wanted to attain and even set about inventing exercises to help myself develop them. Benjamin Franklin did something very similar, as I read in his autobiography, and each week he chose to focus on one particular virtue in order to develop his character.

Oddly, there was a particular computer game I absolutely fell in love with during this time — Ultima IV. To date I would have to say it is still my favorite game of all time. In this role-playing game you are the Avatar, a seeker of truth, and your goal is not to destroy some enemy but rather to attain what is called the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. In order to achieve this goal, you must develop your character in the eight virtues. All of these virtues derive from the eight possible combinations of truth, love, and courage as follows:

Truth = Honesty
Love = Compassion
Courage = Valor
Truth + Love = Justice
Truth + Courage = Honor
Love + Courage = Sacrifice
Truth + Love + Courage = Spirituality
The absence of Truth, Love, and Courage is Pride, the opposite of which is Humility.

I found this system of virtues absolutely brilliant, especially coming from a game. Years later when I finally met Richard Garriott, designer of the Ultima series, at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), I asked him how he came up with this system and how he ended up choosing these virtues. He told me it started with brainstorming a long list and noticing patterns in how the virtues related to each other.

As strange as it is that I got these insights from a game, I still think of living virtuously in much the same way today, where these eight virtues come about through the overlapping sets of truth, love, and courage. For the combination of all three virtues though, I feel that “integrity” is a better fit than “spirituality.” Ultima V went on to explore the opposite of these, the vices which can be derived from falsehood, hatred, and cowardice. Unfortunately I feel the Ultima series really went downhill since then and completely lost its soul — I would have loved to have seen the virtue idea taken even farther”.

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