If I could program myself

If I could program myself:

  • I would make my eating habits strictly fit my actual needs, both calorie-wise and taste-wise. Unfortunately, my eating habits are overriden with other superficially-non-functional impulses (e.g. if I'm anxious/tired/sleepy I'll eat more and without much thought re what I eat, trying to satisfy an essentially non-physiological hunger)
  • I would make my excersise habits regular.
  • I would make my sleeping habits regular.
  • I would make my blog-writing habits regular.
  • I would make myself be methodical and predictable in more than just my work (where I'm not really methodical but fortunately I'm at least predictable - I deliver)

In essence... I wish that I was different in some very particular ways and that I would treat myself and my body better. I'm sure other people have overcome these and other far more grave issues - but I haven't. I have been struggling with sleep/eat/excersise irregularities since my parents stopped providing a structure for it (so maybe sometime between 25 and 30 years ago). Interestingly, it matches the time where I discovered compulsive reading (12 years old) and compulsive programming (13 years old). Not saying that it's causal but I distinctly remember I started doing long nights in order to read and/or program. Now that I think about it... though I was slightly overweight even when younger, my first real bout of overweight happend when I was 15. Looking at it now... it was a perfect storm: I stopped practicing handball, I was "older" so I was doing more late-night programming/reading, I was in that age where boys eat like they were hired to do so.

Okay, so that's what I would do if I could program myself. But I can't. The next best thing then is to try to hack myself (though I can't make myself do even that consistently). My latest hacking helper is tracking sleep/steps with UP24 which works alright though iOS app is both confusing and itself confused (and the build quality is not that good - my button broke off recently without any "effort" on my part). I'm reasonably happy with it and it has an API that I plan to integrate into Memory Dive

Then there is Peak which I frankly love: the games are fun and the app doesn't try to bullshit me (I believe) with fake feel-good results but keeps throwing harder challenges (which more often than not result in my results decreasing at least temporarily). But its in-depth insights (I'm a pro subscriber) are shallow at best, there is no API nor any other way to get/backup/export the raw data. The best I can do right now is taking screenshots of the results which is just embarassing. They need to work on all that - a lot.

I've also been tracking my working/non-working hours on my computers for years through RescueTime. It's crossplatform so when I switched from Windows to Mac I kept the same tool. It's UX and design could be better but it works and after a lul in integrations, it's been adding new stuff lately [1]. It has an API though it's not OAuth so it's a hassle for users. I also plan to add it to Memory Dive at some point.

So... we can't (yet) program ourselves but we can hack... and as Eric S. Raymond argues we as species have been cultivating brain-hacking technology for several millenia. The question for me is how to best brain-hack myself without any external structure (neither in cultural background, family background nor in personal traits). I have some external tools at my disposal and I have had several cycles of successes (followed by usually much slower cycles of failures) in hacking say my eating/workout habits (sleep - not so much). But so far I haven't found a better (from my POV) local equilibrium that I've managed to sustain beyond a couple of years.

[1] I just saw that RescueTime integrates with something called Exist.IO which sounds very interesting to me and it has an API of its own... so I'm going to check that out next.


Ivan Erceg

Software shipper, successful technical co-founder, $1M Salesforce Hackathon 2014 winner