Gary Wolf is, along with Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Quantified-self, a collaborative platform where users share their interest in self-tracking and self-knowledge through data.

In an article published in 2010 by the New York Times, Gary Wolf explained the reasons why this new trend is spreading and numbers are entering the last bastion of the personal:

  1. Electronic sensors are getting smaller and their characteristics are improving so users can collect all kind of data about themselves.
  2. People are now carrying electronic devices with them. The use of mobile phones -mainly smartphones- is spreading so we can have all the information at hand, at all times and from any place.
  3. The rise of social networks makes it possible to share personal information with others and to create virtual communities around personal information.
  4. We are starting to be aware of the growth of the global superintelligence known as the cloud.

Quantified-self allows us to replace the intuition of what’s going on in our lives with something much more trustworthy: facts. Data can reveal secrets about ourselves, including answers to questions that we didn’t even know we had made. Although we can’t extrapolate the conclusions drawn from our personal data to other people, we can learn many things about ourselves which, although reduced in validity, may be very relevant.


Self-tracking is not just a tool to optimise, but a tool to find out. Quantifying things allows us to test, compare and experiment with ourselves. In Wolf’s own words, our personal data ‘remind us that our common behaviour has dark quantitative signals that can be used to give shape to our behaviour once we learn how to read them’.

Translation by Pablo Velázquez

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Image: Marc Smith

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