Will Your Next Gadget Be Your New Guru?



To be happy. That, according to the Dalai Lama, is the purpose of life. Aristotle touted happiness as humanity’s highest aim. You may not agree but it’s a good bet that, in your own life, living well and doing well in your chosen pursuits are ideas you can get behind.

To that end, creatives and inventors are developing new products that can help us cross the gap between simply wanting to live well and actually doing so, or setting goals and accomplishing them. These devices work by giving us the prompts and motivation we need — a sort of “Behavioral Nudge,” if you will — to drive our intentions into actions.

Soon enough these technologies will be all around us, helping us make smarter decisions, or positive tweaks in our habits and routines. Put simply, they will help us to help ourselves.

Today, the self-improvement industry is worth about $10.4 billion in the United States alone, and is expected to grow by some 5.5% each year, according to a report byMarketdata Enterprise. Where once the self-help blockbusters were often guides to practical spirituality, the new guard of books, seminars, and websites offer an air of veneration to the simple art of living practically. It is the guiding message behind one of the few industries that has actually gained momentum during the recession.

It’s natural to desire getting the most out of our lives. The idea that we could be more productive or creative, that we could make better decisions, that we could have more time to pursue our passions, or that — hidden just over the hurdles of our own self-doubt or inexperience — there lies some revolutionary product or service that we could offer the world. These thoughts are the foundations of individual aspiration and human progress as a whole.

Instead of sage advice from the pages of books, or the sermons of professional life-coaches, the next generation of self-improvement aides will likely be more subtle, but also more ubiquitous and personal. We see its early incarnations on people’s wrists in products like the Samsung Gear Fit, Jawbone’s Up, and the Nike+ FuelBand. Instead of striving to match our lifestyles to ready-made formulas for success, we will be able to organize and learn from insights into our own unique biologies, personalities, activities, and individual challenges.

“We may well see wearable devices and/or home and workplace sensors that can help us make ongoing lifestyle changes and provide early detection for disease risks, not just disease,” said Aron Roberts, a software developer at the University of California-Berkeley, in a recent Pew Research study.

“We may literally be able to adjust both medications and lifestyle changes on a day-by-day basis or even an hour-by-hour basis, thus enormously magnifying the effectiveness of an ever more understated medical delivery system.”