Today, many things seem to be discovered, we can travel to space, we can accelerate atoms to the speed of light, and our computers become creepily intelligent. If you search on the internet, you can find almost everything about anything. Where does this leave me? Something no one ever investigated or researched was my own life. Almost overlooked by everyone, but the most important thing to me. How complex can a life of a single person be? Through the methods of Quantified Self I started analyzing different aspects of myself quantitatively in 2013. Over the years I build an enormous personal database, daily I track (at least) 40 variables a day. With that data, I analysed many things, like the factors that make me happy, why I eat, how to get out of bed with a smile, and how bad stress is for me. But you can browse across my website to find some more experiments. Through analytics, experiments, and reflection I learned how complex life actually is, although it seemed so simple. I learned about the resilience of my body and mind, the dynamics of my perception, the importance of variation, the repetitiveness of life, the influence of sudden transitions, and the process of ongoing cascading effects leading to spirally patterns. In 2015, I reviewed my life in 40 variables at the Quantified Self conference and my overall lessons were:
- Life is complex
- Life is dynamic
- Life is repetitive
Complex dynamical systems
By discovering the complexity, spirals, and patterns within my life, I stumbled upon fractals and system thinking which brought me towards the science of complex dynamical systems. This area of science aligned exactly with the things I learned from my self. The methods they use are based on physical principles like fluid dynamics, and general (and quantum) physics. They usually apply these principles to study the dynamics and complexity of the weather, ecosystems, evolution, animal behavior (flocks), traffic, and the stock market. But in psychology and physiology it is still relatively undiscovered but emerging. This is mainly because time-series/temporal data is important to study a system. Fortunately, this is exactly the data I have with my Quantified Self data, making me a great subject. Complex dynamical systems appeared to me while being curious. Nonetheless, it seemed like it was there already. But now it gives me a framework to look at my life and my environment and understand the dynamics of my mind, behavior, and my environment.
From this systems perspective, I started to develop a love for fractals. Fractals are the symbol of complexity through simplicity. If you look at a tree, the tree might look quite simple. It is just a tree trunk with branches and leaves. However, if you look closer you can see that a tree has many branches growing in a coordinated but resilient pattern. The pattern of the branching is so coordinated that it can grow up to 20 meters while being perfectly balanced. But through interacting with its environment it deals with variety. Branches just grow, grow and grow (watch this short video about fractals).
Fractal growth is quite similar to the thing we as people are doing, we are trying to live where we can live, we grow where can grow, we try to maintain our balance, we need stability, we need variety. We need stability for certainty and security, while variety to develop ourselves and handle our environment. There is actually quite some scientific literature that fractal patterns in our body and behavior are very healthy. I gave a talk about “the fractals of life” on the next Quantified Self conference (video). We think using fractal patterns, and physically grow fractals in our body. Nevertheless, this scientific area is still relatively new, giving lots of room to discover. Because this (systems) view on health and psychology is directly based on physics and natural principles, and the fact that I like to discover undiscovered areas, it really got me fascinated. Secondly, I really think it make sense because it is based on physics and nature directly. The whole process got me a lot closer to nature itself, which love. Altogether, I really got enthusiastic about looking at life from a “systems perspective”, making theories which seem very logical and quite coherent with the existing literature.
However, sometimes it is hard to express the thoughts I have, because I (try to) base my theories on natural processes which are without words and language. Therefore, I started to write short stories, poetry, and art which (some of it) could be viewed on my website as well.
Now (October 2019)
I still measure myself daily using Quantified Self methods, but I experiment less often using quantitative tests. I am working on methods that can analyze my life using complexity principles (like Detrended Fluctuation analyses) to measure the “fractality” of my data. Today, I experiment more with art, drawing, music, and physical structures. Which isn’t all ready for my website yet. I am enjoying my life very much and love to explore this infinite path. If you like to talk with me about it, just send me a message!
timmerjustin at live.nl