a16z Podcast: On Wearables, Quantified Self, and Biohacking

It’s the end of the beginning — not the beginning of the end — for wearables, argue the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast. Especially as we move from the first, to the next, generation of wearable devices: not just activity trackers and watches but VR/AR gear, “hearables”, continuous glucose monitors, and more. The quantified self movement then takes these empirical tracking- and data-gathering tools to better reason about what works and doesn’t work in our bodies to help us solve problems and live better lives.

Yet the act of gathering data isn’t the hard part… it’s linking them to insights and outcomes. Because we really do have very little data about what works at a collective let alone an individual level. With a new age of biohacking upon us — where people can apply engineering principles to manipulate what we take into our bodies (inputs) to tune how we perform (outputs) — can we finally embrace these tools? What will it take to make something that’s mainly a niche activity/community (quantified self was formally started a decade ago!) into something more mainstream for all? (Hint: it involves cookie recipes.) And finally, what are the societal implications of all this, from avoiding data dystopias to embracing the consumerization of government projects too?

Joining us to explore these questions and more (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi), we have: neuroscientist and data scientist Rachel Kalmar, currently a fellow at The Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University; co-founder of The Quantified Self blog and community Gary Wolf; and Geoffrey Woo, co-founder and CEO at Nootrobox (an a16z company).