Any attempt at writing about Chris Dancy, “the most connected human on Earth” explodes with the paradox of having too much information and not enough. Self-proclaimed “tech fluffer, data exhaust cartographer, apopheniac, and purveyor of bespoke existence maps,” Chris is as sensitive and poetic as he remains stubbornly and compulsively analytical.
Initially pursuing self-help he’s since helped himself to hundreds of devices continuously measuring his body, behavior, and environment. And with their help he’s transformed himself from an obese, sloppy, and unhealthy person to a perfectly fit, self-aware, and enlightened human dedicated to data freedom, transparency, and public health.
I had the privilege to recently see Chris speak at The Digital Health Coalition Fall Summit in NYC, focused on wearable and mobile technology in 2015. Glassy-eyed and Google-Glassed, Chris seemed hyper-attentive and distant at the same time, as if acutely aware of everything around him but only after flowing filtered through dozens of devices and terabytes of data.
What instantly struck me is how Chris embodies perfectly the past and future of digital health: A geeky throwback to the technology-crazed hipster of the pre-Internet 70s and 80s, the tools of his device and data trade consuming thousands of hours and dollars of his fanatically dedicated time and attention, getting so utterly wired a full-time job in itself.
But Chris also represents the not-too-distant future, one where the Quantified Self seamlessly and effortlessly merges with the Internet of Things to provide intelligent and actionable real time information to optimize every aspect of our existence. At once dorky dinosaur and paratechnical prophet, Chris embodies courage and contradiction.
Capturing and Claiming Our Data
Viewing existence as a technological platform, two themes resonate: Data exhaust and ownership. The 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies produce and release xenottabytes and beyond of information, the vast majority vanishing like unwanted fumes. Our task as digital health experts is to facilitate and encourage the capture and analysis of that otherwise lost info.
That’s the potential opportunity—the current challenge is that the infinitesimally minute percentage of data already accessed and processed is not our own, that claim already staked by the voracious tech and communications companies that by wont of transferring it and manipulating it declare their right to own it, sell it, and use it for their own ends but which patients believe is theirs to own.
Chris describes his increasing frustration with his primary care physician, who eventually freaked out with his requests for deeper and better health information. From test results to medical history, from current biometrics to genomics, what Chris received from the healthcare system was negligible compared to what that system already had on him.
That led Chris to mine and analyze his own health info. Infusing the “e” in “epatient,” he not only acquired all data available but also became his own personal engine of digital health, correlating his ad hoc behavioural habits with real time biometrics with his hardwired genomics to help lose weight, prevent disease, and improve his overall wellness.
What “The Connected Man” Means for Us
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the past future perfect tense as “of, relating to, or constituting a verb tense that is traditionally formed in English with would have or should have and denotes an action or state completed at a time formerly in prospect (as would have finished in “on Monday I saw that by Friday he would have finished”).
Experts in pharma and device communications, we’re incessantly saying to ourselves that we would have and should have if only we could have. Embodiment of past and future, Chris perfectly represents the awesome power of an individual with the talent, determination, and resources to improve his health and wellness by quantifying himself and his surroundings.
So if Chris can do it, so can we. And as he advocates, we not only could but should, because if we don’t take control of our own health data, someone else will. As we’ve seen, the major tech players are placing digital health at the front and center of their wearable strategies, so the time is now ripe for us to understand the perfect storm, and leap headlong into it.
Forty thousand dollars and years of effort later, Chris Dancy is arguably the most connected man on Earth. But with our help the cost of entry for such connectedness will soon plummet, to the point where the digitization of our bodies and our world will become as routine and seamless a part of our lives as the mobile technology we already take for granted.
When do you think we’ll all become as wired as Chris? What are some of the inherent risks, and the pharma role in overcoming them? Klick is eager to continue the conversation, and partner with the industry’s top digital health strategy and innovation thinkers. Reach us at @KlickHealth and @SpitzStrategy and let’s talk.