What To Do When Your Apple Watch Tells You NOT to Eat the Candy Bar

| Particle Debris

The increased use of wearables will naturally invite the monitoring of body chemistry. Just as we do for fitness now, there will be norms and goals. Along with that, in the tech industry's all too eager efforts to be of assistance, monitoring of blood chemistry won't be without helpful suggestions about what and what not to eat. It's coming soon.

One of the modern day technology mantras is that if something can be done, it will be done. A way to earn a profit will be dreamed up.

We know that wearables, and the Apple Watch in particular, are going to get better and better at monitoring our body chemistry. When it comes to monitoring blood chemistry, one of the most natural things to look at is blood sugar (glucose).

This Scientific American article provides a tantalizing view of what may be ahead for us. "Wearable Sweat Sensor Paves the Way for Real-Time Analysis of Body Chemistry." From the article:

Putting together existing advances in wearables technology, Javey’s team made the sensors from a flexible electronics board joined to a flexible printed plastic sensor array, which can detect glucose, lactate, sodium, potassium and body temperature. When the sensors come into contact with sweat they generate electrical signals that are amplified and filtered, and then calibrated using skin temperature.

As wearables measure more and more intimate details of our physical state, more and more of that data will be analyzed and distilled into recommended behavioral patterns. For example, I can foresee a time when a college student is urged by a wearable to go for short run before a big exam, and then consume certain kinds of nutrients so that mental acuity peaks right at the time of the exam. Contrast that to students who, in the past, put in all-nighters and then staggered into the exam room half asleep. Or hungover.

In time, just as we do now with all our technology decisions, wearables, including the Apple Watch, will help us fine-tune our physical state for any task at hand. Will we heed the advice? It's a sobering prospect.

Now. Where was that dark chocolate I was munching on?

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of February 1st. "Apple's Apps Need Work."

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“One of the modern day technology mantras is that if something can be done, it will be done. A way to earn a profit will be dreamed up.”

That pretty much sums up what’s wrong with modern technology culture, and why it fails to achieve anything with any longevity anymore. Necessity used to be the mother of invention, now profit is, and generally very little of lasting value is birthed from that mode of thinking.

Also, the human body is endlessly adaptable, not a formula, or an algorithm, or even a static form - it just doesn’t work that way (if it did, we would already have vanquished all physical human ills). Alas, nature, of which we are a part, is unpredictable, and no amount of mapping, monitoring, or tinkering will ever cause that to cease to be the case.

Old UNIX Guy

“Finally, the distinguished Walt Mossberg, writing for The Verge, has some sharp words for Apple’s own apps. Subtitle: “Complexity, feature gaps, and bugs have crept in.” See: “Apple’s apps need work.  When it comes from Mr. Mossberg, Apple will listen.”

John - I’m going to respectfully disagree with you here.  Unfortunately, I think a big part of Apple’s problem right now is that they aren’t listening to anybody who offers any criticism of anything they’re doing.  I’m afraid that Tim Cook and (especially) Jony Ive have fallen into the trap of “look how successful Apple is monetarily.  That proves that we’re doing everything right.”

I used to use Apple products because they were head and shoulders the best products out there.  Now I use Apple products because they don’t suck quite as bad as the alternatives.

But hey, what do I know?  I’m just a nobody who certainly isn’t rich enough to have a personal assistant slip into my office every night and replace my white keyboard and trackpad with a new one so that I don’t realize what a stupid idea white keyboards and trackpads are.

And oh how I wish that was even in the top 10 of egregiously stupid things Apple is doing!



First off, greetings. I’ve been tied up between work, organising conferences and dealing with a serious family illness, all conspiring to minimise any free time for catching up on Apple-related reading.

That said, a word about wearables and sensors.

Philosophers have argued for centuries, and more recently, so too have social psychologists, that most people are followers and not leaders or trend setters. The most casual empirical observation of adoptive behaviour supports this. For most people, either the safety of anonymity, which in the case of adoptive behaviour is synonymous with safety in numbers or being in the company of others who have similarly adopted, or the perception of personal benefit, drives adoption of new habits.

In this latter category, there are several distinct drivers of adoption. Among these, there is the perception of prestige (simple ownership of a valued thing), the perception of advantage over those who have not adopted, and the perception of deprivation avoidance. All of these, in turn, are largely dependent on modelling by early adopters, or trend leaders.

When it comes to health, the last item, deprivation avoidance, tends to be important. When adoption penetrates to a sufficiently substantial fraction for the masses, i.e. non-early adopters, to observe health outcome advantages, including but not limited to advantages in survival, longevity or quality of life, in adopters, non-adopters will perceive a relative disadvantage in themselves, or put another way, that they are being deprived of a benefit (much like we observed when adoption rates of smartphones reached critical mass) and therefore contribute to a sense being left behind in a less well-off under-class.

Because so much of our health sciences are driven by point observations, including those driven by longitudinal data, (a group may be followed over time, but their health parameters of interest are only checked at specific points in time, and seldom continuously or in realtime relative to outcomes of interest), our understanding of the processes underlying illness, recovery or preservation of health are incomplete. The capacity to monitor outcomes either serially, as is just beginning in some studies, or continuously, as may be enabled by the use of more sensitive monitors on our wrists, will and is already altering our understanding of disease processes, particularly when we can look at multiple variables before, at the moment of and subsequent to an illness or injury.

As we gain this understanding, the proactive and preventive health guidance that can be provided to individuals, more specifically, that can be tailored to a specific individual based on their risk profile and current health indicators, will begin to substantially improve quality of life for the adopter. For most people today, this is a theoretical abstract whose benefits are as obscure as are the latin names of the diseases their doctors attempt to prevent. Modelling by peers, on the other hand, will provide a concrete example that will be both instructive and compelling, particularly when a man getting up in years observes, on average, stronger, more robust adopters his age and older, or when an older woman observes peers her age and older bending, bouncing and bounding with energy she can only long for, and free from many of the injuries with which she is beset.

Current efforts to both enhance and exploit these sensors should, and I believe assuredly will, amaze the user in the near future, with the insights into not only their bodies and health status, but the interventions and objective feedback related to those interventions, with the level of control and benefit that can be derived taking an active role in preserving their health. Apart from a negligible few, who doesn’t want to live not only a little longer, but importantly, in optimal health?

These improved sensors will provide one aspect of that killer functionality (ironic term, as it will improve health) that will accelerate adoption. We’re getting there.

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