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Science

Observability for You and for Me

One digital health metric I now track almost religiously

One digital health metric I now track almost religiously

I caught a cold about two weeks ago on a Sunday night. I thought I stayed home to sleep it off on Monday, July 18. But this thing escalated quickly! When I went to see the doctor on Thursday, she told me I was about to get over it and that I just needed to rest to recover. Boy! That recovery took more than a week. Thanks to my trusted Fitbit Charge HR, I was able to track my resting heart rate and feel confident that I was on the path of recovery.

Before I started tracking my RBPM, I had no idea that it’s so much correlated to my overall health. Even though I was just laying in bed all day when I was sick, my resting heart rate went from 64bpm to all way up to 80bpm in just a few days. Clearly my body was fighting valiantly and my one health metric confirmed it for me!

Come to think of it, as an engineer, I know so much more about the machines that I work with in the data centers but I hardly know anything about the most important machine of all aka my body. At Fitbit and at Twitter, we routinely collect thousands and thousands of metrics about any single machine every minute of every day but we hardly know anything about our own bodies. Here’s a video of a short talk about the Observability Team at Twitter talking about how many metrics or times series they collect very minute. (Hint: it’s in the billions!)

So why do we know so much about computers in data centers but so little about ourselves? Wouldn’t it be nice to have metrics collected continuously about our bodies so we can analyze their patterns and create alerts for potential health issues? Wouldn’t knowing exactly how our bodies have been behaving make it easier for doctors to treat us when we’re sick? Today Fitness tracker is just in its very infant stage. I can’t wait until the day when we know as much about our bodies as we do about the machines around us. Digital health metrics are coming! Mark my word. 🙂


Who Wants to Live Forever? (An Experiment)

Magnolia

Last week I was listening to the song Who Wants to Live Forever in my car on my way to work, I started thinking….  What would happen if people do live forever?  Would we behave differently?  If so, how differently would we behave?  I’m not talking about having just a few of us not dying like Hob Gadling and Mad Hettie in my favorite graphic novel The Sandman.  I’m talking about the whole lot of us not kicking the bucket.  Let us of course not get distracted by annoying and trivial points like virility, sustainability, etc.  I am just interested in the sociological and psychological impact when people stop dying.  What would become of us then?

Having been trained as a scientist, I could not help but immediately started devising the appropriate experiment aimed at figuring out the answer.  We need to study a group of social animals and see how they would react if we give them immortality.  Maybe through their behavioral change, we can get a glimpse of what may befall us once we do obtain the fruits from the Tree of Life.  But what kind of social animals can we use for such an experiment?  And how do we bestow immortality?

Well, the criteria are quite simple really.  The social animal candidate must have a natural life span many times its mean age to virility among other criteria.  For example, if it takes time T for the animal to be able to procreate on average, its life expectancy must be N*T where N is a large number like 30 or more.  But then how do we make the animal live forever?  Well of course we can’t do that!  But what we can do is to artificially shorten its life span to say n*T where n is a small number like 3.  If we do that for a good number of generations, the animals would be used to their new “natural age”.  So just when we get them all used to living a shortened life span, we remove the shortening agent and allow them live naturally to N*T.  Since N >> n by design, this would effectively create immortality… well effectively.  That’s when we can hope to observe some interesting behavioral changes.  Anyways, that’s all I could think of before I got to the office.

So where is my grant from the National Science Foundation, man?