Taking the broad view, the harvest of technology has been leisure. Subtract all the technology and progress, return to the state of nature, and we’d all have to be hustling a lot more to make sure we didn’t, well, starve. Technology, then, has been a blessing–but also a curse, since it has enabled our sedentary lifestyle with all the special kinds of havoc that wreaks on our health: obesity, heart disease, diabetes. But if technology got us into this mess, could technology get us out of it?
Researchers in Scotland have created a device they are calling the Activator. The device, first developed by Malcolm Granat of the University of Strathclyde, and now advanced by a Strathclyde affiliated company called PAL Technologies, is like a seriously tricked-out pedometer. Far from just measuring steps taken, the Activator knows and records precisely when a patient is sitting still, standing, or walking. Information traditionally relayed to doctors and physiotherapists through vague anecdote (“Oh, I probably sit for 9 hours, stand for 4, walk for 3…”) now comes in the form of hard data.
The newest form of the Activator, which is in clinical trials currently in Scotland, adds another innovation: the functionality of a personal trainer. Sit still too long, and the device will buzz, prompting you to move. In a small pilot study, nearly half of the group of subjects reduced their sedentary time; fully two thirds cut down on their long sitting bouts.
To adapt John Dewey’s take on democracy, it looks like the cure for ailments of technology is more technology.