Wearables and Personal Performance Enhancement

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright September 2017


I envision wearables as going through three generations of enhancements:

o The first generation will monitor basic and easy to measure functions and report them to the user. This is what we are experiencing in the 2010's.

o The second generation will monitor many more bodily functions, report them more quickly and widely, and begin to do some primitive controlling of some of the functions they are monitoring. A current example of controlling is a heart pacemaker.

o The third generation will monitor and control lots of subtle bodily functions. One will be hormone levels. This will let the wearables influence emotions such as fear and love. This ability opens wide possibilities in influencing how we think and live.

This essay will talk about second generation wearables. These are wearables that can monitor a lot and influence a few basic bodily functions. How will this level of control influence how we live?

Personal Performance Enhancement

Personal performance enhancement is going to be the core of why people get second generation non-medical wearables. Some of the abilities they will enhance are:

o better physical performance -- be stronger, better coordinated and have more endurance. This will lead to things such as being able to do sports and dancing activities better.

o better control of the sleep/awake/meditation cycles -- stay awake longer when you want to stay awake, go to sleep faster and reliably when you want to sleep, arrange nap times more easily. And when you sleep it is more likely to be refreshing, not restless. And likewise, when it comes time to meditate that state can be reached more quickly.

o enhanced senses -- all the senses can be enhanced, and perhaps new ones added.

o enhanced communication -- internalized communication and better assimilating what is communicated, as in, filtering out the nonsense and useless chatter.

The above are the obvious ways the 2nd generation wearables are going to enhance. Now some details.

Physical performance: People like to move around better. Helping to make this happen is why these wearables will be popular. The first stage is measuring, that has started now and will become more extensive as the measuring technology improves. This is popular because it strokes the "How am I doing?" emotions. It won't come as quickly but at some point the wearables will be able to modify as well as measure. Again, an example of this is a heart pacemaker. The modifiers will affect muscle growth, coordination and efficiency (which will show up as more endurance). These changes will be happening in tandem with better medical care wearables. As an example walking better will be a goal of old-age medical wearables. When that is well accomplished the sports enthusiasts will be wondering if running and other sports performances can be improved by making simple modifications to the technology.

Attaining restful states: People love to work hard, and they then love to rest and relax well between the hard work. Wearables will help people get into these restful states more quickly and deeply and with more certainly. Refreshment will come much faster. One surprise consequence is this will change story telling -- a character can't signal that they have a problem by reporting they can't sleep well.

Enhanced senses: The enhanced senses will be things like first having clearer vision in the visible spectrum, then enhancement by seeing in UV and IR. Hearing will be hearing beyond the normal human range. Then we have touch, taste and smell.

How much of this will be handled internally, versus wearing VR goggles of some sorts, will change over time. Basically, the more exotic senses will start in goggles and as mastering them becomes more routine they will be internalized.

A new sense would be something like adding seismic sense, as in, hearing or feeling lower frequency vibrations than are normally felt. There is a limit to how low your ears can hear, but your skin can sense frequencies that are lower. These feel like vibrations. What can be changed is to have them feel more differentiated and more emotional, more like low frequency music.

Other conventional senses: Experiencing better taste, smell, touch.

A big question for these style of enhancements is what are the advantages, other than being a fussier dilettante at meals? What will these enhancements let people do that makes a difference?

Answering this is a big challenge. They are competing with AI and cyber to do things which make a difference. The more the answer is "not much" the more they are relegated to enhancing dilettante activities. An example of attractive dilettante activity is superior coordination which makes yoga, gymnastics and sports much easier.

Losing Performance

Here is a surprise: not only can wearables enhance they can also weaken, and this weakening is already happening with the first generation devices -- smartphones.

This 6 Oct 17 WSJ article, How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds Research suggests that as the brain grows dependent on phone technology, the intellect weakens by Nicholas Carr, talks about how current smartphones are reducing human performance on thinking tasks.

From the article, "Scientists have begun exploring that question—and what they’re discovering is both fascinating and troubling. Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens."

Driverless People

Something of a surprise: having "driverless people", as in, people engaging in enhanced multi-tasking during daily activities. These driverless people will be using their enhanced senses and doing lots of communication while engaging in day-to-day activities such as walking down the street. The wearables will be equipped with alarms alerting the person when they are "doing it wrong" in ways that wearables can detect. The wearables will help these people stay out of the way of cars and light poles as they do their walking down the street.


Wearables are first going to make a difference by doing better monitoring of a person's health. These are first generation wearables. The second generation wearables are going to do modifying as well as measuring. These will begin to affect physical performance and sensory awareness. They will be interesting to people because of these enhancing abilities. The third generation wearables will be able to monitor and control subtle things such as hormones and instinctive thinking. They will make an even bigger difference, but will take a lot longer to develop.

Wearables are going to make a difference, and that difference will be constantly changing as wearable capabilities constantly change. This means people will be constantly learning right ways and wrong ways of using the wearables.



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