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evidence-based living etc

Now we’re talking — the current issue of Wired magazine has a fascinating set of articles on “living by the numbers.”  I love it, evidence-based living.  We can optimize it all: happiness, wealth, potential, longevity, etc.  Ok, despite my sarcastic tone, I’m actually extremely interested in this stuff (a few years ago I slept with my cycling heart rate monitor—not very comfortable—to see what my absolute rock bottom heart rate was;  I know,  lame and TMI.)  Related to evidence-based living, the Seth Roberts self-experimentation stuff is quite fascinating, for example, see this Behavioral and Brain Sciences article.

I might peripherally note that all this evidence-based stuff of course has a problem, namely: based on who’s evidence are we supposed to live our lives, run our organizations or treat our patients?  Evidence obviously is often contested, there are different preferences, interests, interactions, etc.  Evidence might not readily be available.  We may not have time to find/process evidence.  And, add reflexivity to the mix (i.e. the fact that we might actually create ‘evidence’ — think placebo effect — rather than evidence objectively being there), then we’ve got ourselves another problem altogether.  And, if I lived my academic life based on evidence — would it be rational for me to submit articles to journals that reject 95% of what is submitted?  Or, should start-up organizations even be launched given the overwhelming odds against success?  Who decides?

Written by teppo

June 26, 2009 at 2:22 am

5 Responses

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  1. Huh, this article is talking about a much more personalized form of “living by the numbers” than I had expected. I was thinking of drawing on more generic literatures – Daniel Gilbert’s work on happiness, or trying to figure out which cold medicines actually work based on peer-reviewed articles (an incredibly frustrating task) – rather than simply generating data about your own life like that IgNobel-award winner who photographed every meal he’d eaten. It’s a fascinating and ultimately personal question about generalizability – do you know yourself well enough to know when trends affecting the majority apply to you and when you are an outlier?

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    Dan Hirschman

    June 26, 2009 at 4:34 am

  2. Sure, its hard to use evidence / make decisions rationally, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

    Even if I personally, don’t think its worth recording everything I eat, I’m glad some people do. Maybe I can learn from what they learn.

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    Michael Bishop

    June 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm

  3. People interested in thinking and living more rationally should check out the community blog: http://lesswrong.com/top/

    The character of posts varies significantly, so don’t judge it too quickly.

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    Michael Bishop

    June 26, 2009 at 4:15 pm

  4. Michael: Thanks for the link!

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    tf

    June 26, 2009 at 4:26 pm

  5. […] Steinberg’s articles implicitly asks readers to adopt an evidence-based approach to managing their personal affairs (on EbM see Pfeffer and Sutton or, better yet, Teppo’s post on EbM, or, even better yet, Teppo’s post on evidence based living). […]

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