Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

How I Optimized My Sleep With Technology

As a data geek, I’ve been quantifying my health for over a decade, measuring different aspects of my life in order to improve it.

For years, I was frustrated by the quality of my sleep. One day, I’d wake up refreshed after just 6 hours of sleep, but another I spent fatigued, even after getting the “recommended” 8 hours of shuteye. Given how important proper sleep is to brainpower, health and overall well-being, I wanted to optimize how I spent my nights.

As many struggle to get a good night’s sleep, I decided to lay down how I measured, understood and optimized mine. Here’s my guide to sleeping better with technology.


Getting started with improving sleep quality: Finding the problem

A mistake people often make when wanting to use technology to live better is rushing to buy a wearable device. Devising a way to optimize your life is up to you. A wearable can only show you data, which won’t be actionable if you don’t know what should be changed.

As each health tracker has different features, you must find the one that can solve YOUR problem. So the first step is understanding the problem itself.

I knew I wasn’t satisfied with my sleep quality, but to understand more, I started scoring my sleep every day. To learn exactly what I measured, check my free, step by step guide to hacking sleep.

Measuring sleep quality

Making a simple graph in an Excel spreadsheet made it clear that I regularly make mistakes before going to bed, as my subjective sleep quality often plummeted. But the change in quality didn’t depend greatly on time spent sleeping, or other often cited factors in sleep quality. So the scores helped me realize there are many things to improve, but without precise data about sleep quality, the best I could hope for was trial and error approach. To dig deeper into what made certain nights refreshing and others frustrating, I needed more data. It was time to look for a wearable device.

I purchased a small device, Withings Pulse, which, worn on the wrist, measures sleep quality. I chose it because it offers detailed sleep data such as how much time it took to fall asleep; how long light and deep sleep periods I had; and that is what I needed. It was also affordable with a cost of about 90 EUR.

One thing I often hear people worry about is wearing a tracker for the rest of their lives, but don’t worry! I only wore the device daily for about a month when optimizing my sleep. Nowadays I just put it on every other month or so – when I feel something’s amiss with my sleep quality.

In a week, I learnt more about my sleep than in decades before. It confirmed it doesn’t matter whether I sleep for 7 or 9 hours, as long as I have at least one long deep sleep period. Crucial information that flies in the face of common sense.

Improving sleep quality based on data

Now that I had found out how high quality sleep looks like for me with help from Withings Pulse, it was time to find out how to get more of it. The device couldn’t help me do this, so it was time for some experimentation.

I started compiling a list of things I should and should not do before going to bed. I tried each and measured its impact. If something like increased exercise or eating a certain type of food increased my time spent in REM sleep, I noted it down, then tried another. In another week, I learnt I should not exercise after 8 pm or check my phone before falling asleep. These things, among others, definitely ruin my sleep quality.

Upgrading my health with technology

I couldn’t have done it without data and experimentation. But with a simple and affordable device, my sleep quality today is not random, but consistently great and I don’t need to sleep with a device anymore. When I sleep badly for two consecutive days, I re-measure to make sure I’m still on the right track.


This free guide is only part of the story of upgrading my health with available and affordable technology. As well as improving sleep, this strategy helped me be more active, improve cognitive capacity and reduce stress. If you want to learn how health technology enables us to live a better life, check out my recent book, My Health: Upgraded.

The Future of Gaming Is Here and Will Produce Athletes

A few weeks ago I wrote about future video gamers becoming athletes.

As technology today doesn’t just get upgraded, but improves at an amazing pace; it might have some surprises for us in the coming years. What if video games assisted by virtual reality devices and whole body sensors would increase the experience of being inside a game by moving in real life? What if gamers will have to run in real to let the character in the game run faster? This area is called exergaming and it is about to boom.

Today I saw the announcement about the Omni + Vive/Lighthouse Demo and immediately thought that It’s not just coming, but it’s already here. See it yourself:

This integrated setup results in a fully decoupled first-person shooter experience with two independent pistols. Players can walk forward, backwards and sideways in 360 degrees on the Omni independently from their looking and aiming directions. Just imagine, now you can take out your targets while running backwards, looking forward, and shooting left and right at the same time! This level of freedom of movement in VR is a new milestone for us and creates the fun VR experience we always dreamed of.



Transporting Lab Samples With Drones? What Else?

The news article of the day award goes to FastCoExist that gave an awful title to its story about how drones could deliver lab samples. They said drones could take urine samples from your own bathroom.

The reason why this issue came up is that getting samples analyzed in big labs is safer than in smaller ones. But because of the distance, drones could do the hard job.

“Currently many, many couriers drive one or two lab samples over long distances (over 50 miles) because there is a medical need for it,” says Amukele. “However, the cost (gas, driver salaries, wear and tear) is incredibly high, especially for rural areas, and makes no sense. This occurs in both rich and poor countries.”

Drones don’t care about poor roads, either, another advantage in rural or developing areas. But the regulation of drones currently stands in the way of using them for medical purposes. Amukele doesn’t see that changing for a decade.


Last year, there was a demonstration about using drones in emergency at the University of Delft in the Netherlands.

What else could be delivered by drones?

Medical equipment?

Drugs to rural areas?

What else? Please share your ideas!


Health & Transhumanism: Zoltan Istvan Interviewed Me

I’m happy to share that Zoltan Istvan who is a futurist and 2016 US Presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party interviewed me about my new book, My Health: Upgraded and the methods that help us improve our cognitive skills. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

It’s an exiciting time to be alive with so much incredible medical technology affecting our lives. As a transhumanist, I couldn’t be happier about that fact. But understanding all that we can do to our bodies both now and in the future is complex business. I had a chance to catch up with Dr. Bertalan Mesko, and ask him to tell us about his new book, My Health: Upgraded, which covers the field of modern and futurist medicine. Mesko is a medical futurist with a PhD and MD in genomics from the University of Debrecen, Medical School and Health Science Center. His work has been covered broadly in major media.



What I Learnt While Wearing Body Sensors For Three Days

I use a lot of health trackers to give me data therefore I can fine tune my lifestyle to be as healthy as possible. But I need to be able to analyze data and charge them, not even mentioning Bluetooth connections. So I was glad to find Fusion Vital, a company that tries to help people like me by providing them with actionable data regarding their health.

I wore this sensor for three days without interruptions.


Here is how it works:

And here is a sample result regarding how stress, physical activity and sleep affected my days and how I could recharge my energy repositories (green means good vibes, and red means stress):


Here is the summary of one day:

Screen Shot 10-25-15 at 12.42 PM

Things I learnt:

What I learnt is that measuring simple health parameters and vital signs with devices available today is not enough in making lifestyle decisions.

I also learnt that unless you are a medical professional and a researcher, you will need a report like this to understand what’s going on.

I learnt that collecting data constantly and writing notes about what I do helped a lot in discovering new things in my lifestyle. One example is how games such as Lumosity can refresh me in minutes even during a 10 hours-long work session.

Things I missed:

The sensor is still too big (even though it was comfortable) and de-attached from my skin during running and football sessions.

The report requires a professional to go through it, therefore it’s more about personal coaching than smart algorithms.


If you wanted to get a clear picture about your lifestyle and your physical form right now, I would definitely suggest giving it a try for 3 days. You will learn things I’m sure you haven’t known about yourself. Although, I expect them to reduce the size of the sensor and to make the whole process of measuring even smoother.

The era of digital tattoos is coming and it looks quite bright.


Will Robots Take Over Our Jobs In Healthcare?

An excerpt from my new book, My Health: Upgraded:

I teach a course about the future of healthcare to medical, public health, and allied students. In one lecture I ask students to design the future of care. They come up with their own ideas. We talk them through those and design the process of care in real time. Doing this I learn a lot each semester about how students think about the future. I had an older student with a previous degree in economics. He had decided to become a doctor at the age of 30. When I spoke about what jobs robots and algorithms might take in the future, he raised his hand and asked whether robots would take over our jobs in healthcare–with a very worried look on his face.

Surgical robots become increasingly precise each day. Man–size robots can lift and move patients and transport them throughout the hospital. I held a PARO therapeutic robot in my arms. It was cute and calmed me. At a conference I once watched how a diminutive robot made an entire audience dance with it. It only takes the Xenex robot 10 minutes to disinfect a patient room with UV light. A robot called Tug works at hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area. It delivers food and medicine. It picks up waste and laundry. It navigates the halls without crashing into people.

Paro robot

Paro robot

The above student asked about robots, but I think he was really asking about automation. Automation includes robotic devices, robots that look like a human, and algorithms. Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla once said something that resonated within the medical community for a long time. He said that technology would replace 80% of doctors because machines, driven by big data and computational power, would not only be cheaper but more accurate and objective than the average doctor. He added that we eventually wouldn’t need doctors at all.

In 2015 the information technology research firm Gartner predicted that one–third of existing jobs will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines by 2025. Blue collar as well as white collar workers such as financial and sports reporters, marketers, surgeons, and financial analysts were in danger of being replaced. As Martin Ford outlines in Rise of the Robots, healthcare represented less than 6% in the US economy in 1960. Its share had tripled by 2013. The real issue is not utilizing too many robots but too few. Typically robots are expensive but reduce costs. Medicine and healthcare won’t be able to and should not try to avoid this.

If we look at the history of automation the first wave of machines in the 19th century was better at assembling things than people were. The second wave machines were better at organizing things. Today data analytics, cognitive computers, and self–driving cars suggest that they are better at pattern–recognition.

But both the simplest tasks and the most complicated ones require people. By simplest I mean that there is a greater chance a robot can play chess than go upstairs. By complicated I mean that regarding jobs such as managers, healthcare workers, and others related to education or media; humans are still superior at working with, and caring for others humans. Although, making a diagnosis is cheaper with cognitive computers than doing that alone as physicians.

But whether a robot can make an ethical decision is a huge question. An interesting experiment raised this question. In it a small robot was programmed not to let other robots called human proxies, which represented real people, get into the danger zone on a table game. When only one human proxy approached the danger zone, the robot could successfully thwart it. But when two proxies appeared the robot became confused, and in 14 out of 33 trials it wasted so much time trying to decide that both human proxies fell into the hole. Robots cannot make yet the ethical decisions that characterize experienced physicians.

A Robot companion for the elderly

A Robot companion for the elderly

Automation will make the world better and create opportunities for people clever enough to seize them. But healthcare will change. Tasks and procedures that can be automated should be, and will be. Algorithms will make diagnoses based on quantifiable data better than how humans do it now alone. It is easy to automate the fabrication of equipment or the transportation of patients. The challenge comes when empathy and interpersonal interaction comes into play. Robots won’t approach this level of sophistication for a long time.

To answer my initial question: many jobs will be taken over by robots and automation in the coming years. If people whose jobs are replaced cannot acquire new skills or improve their existing ones, they will no longer have a job. Given this possibility we must constantly question what our best individual skills are and what we can do to improve them. Let’s make sure to attend to those skills that make us irreplaceable.

Read more about other 39 exciting questions in My Health: Upgraded.



Revolutionary Technologies To Bring A Healthier Future: Part I.

An excerpt from my new book, My Health: Upgraded:

Millions of medical studies and papers exist, making it humanly impossible for physicians to remain current without digital help. Some estimate that starting in 2020, the amount of medical data will double every 73 days. During their life an average individual will generate more than 1 million gigabytes of health–related data. Data sets that large can no longer be analyzed by people. Cognitive computers such as IBM’s Watson can analyze tens of thousands of clinical studies and patient records, and suggest–for a particular patient–possible diagnoses and therapy options from which the physican can then choose. The time saved by crunching this enormous amount of data could be spent on direct patient care.

Radiology devices will soon provide real–time and more detailed images of a patient’s internal organs. Virtual– and augmented reality devices will further improve this. Such images could help surgeons plan their operations more precisely by guiding 3D printers to produce models of a tumor or other abnormality. Such printers could also create economical prosthetics and instruments.


Patients can not receive proper medical care if they are unable to wear devices that monitor their vital signs and health parameters at home. Telemedicine services like this are vitally needed in areas that have a shortage of doctors. Without it, care cannot be delivered, patients must miss time from work, or travel to an institution far away. Biotechnology that can produce artificial organs in the lab could elimiate transplantation waiting lists forever. Virtual models could test potential new drugs in seconds instead of having to rely on lengthy and expensive clinical trials with real people as we do now.

New technologies are disruptive and revolutionary because they are less expensive, faster, and more efficient than previous ones.

The question is not whether we should use surgical robots, but how we can let underdeveloped regions access their benefits. It is not whether patients should measure their vital signs at home, but making sure that doing so doesn’t lead to wrong self–diagnosis and harmful self–treatment. It is not whether patients should be able to access their records and medical data, but how to implement and safeguard that access.

In the past we have asked whether to use a certain technology or not. Today we ask how not to overutilize them and still make them accessible to everyone. Ethical issues lie ahead of us, but so do unbelievable advantages. And yet no government, organization, or authority has been able to prepare populations for that. Nonetheless, revolutionary technologies are coming, and we must prepare.

Hundreds of research trends and thousands of real–life examples demonstrate how reality is getting closer to the science fiction depicted in movies. Supercomputers analyze medical records and draw personalized conclusions. They model how the brain works. Microrobots swim in bodily fluids and might perform small operations soon. External robots draw blood from individuals without the need for human interaction. And yet still I lose days from work when I catch a common cold.

For thousands of years physicians have been the pilots in the cockpit while the patient hadn’t even arrived at the airport not having access to their data and the measurements of their body. Now patients are settling into the cockpit due to the swarm of health trackers, but they are not welcome by their physicians. This is the status quo we need to change by putting them there together in an equal partnership. Together they can make better informed decisions.


We are at a stage in which the gap between healthcare technology’s potential and what we have in reality has become huge. The only way for human evolution to adjust to the pace of technological change is to embrace disruptive innovations. We need to do so in our jobs as well our healthcare. While robots and the algorithms behind them improve at an increasingly faster pace, we should strive as human beings to improve ourselves and utilize the mind’s utmost creativity. If we cannot make this happen, then we will lose the battle sooner than most skepticists thought.

The changes I propose are not going to happen over our shoulders. Only we, individually, can accomplish that. By upgrading our health to a level not yet seen, and improving the skills that make humans extraordinary we have a chance to retain what’s really important to us while still improving healthcare worldwide.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55,546 other followers

%d bloggers like this: