Feedback loops

Have you ever thought of being in conversation with your body?

I consider myself a systems thinker. What I mean by this is that it's important for us to recognize that there are powerful laws of systems operating that we are unaware of. One of the characteristics of systems thinkers is that we see feedback loops everywhere. Donella Meadows wrote "Thinking in systems", an excellent book on the subject, and her definition of a feedback loop is the following:

A feedback loop is a closed chain of causal connections from a stock, through a set of decisions or rules or physical laws or actions that are dependent on the level of the stock, and back again through a flow to change the stock.

OK, somewhat complicated (but precise), but most of us understand the feedback loop as the mechanism in which a part of a system's output is used as input for future behavior. Feedback loops exist everywhere - in social life, in business, in science, and in biology.

But something I haven't seen discussed (not even in Meadows' book) is friction as a defining factor of the efficiency of a system's feedback loop. Friction is what makes the loop move fast or slow. It’s what makes any given system grow faster than other systems.

Here's an example from some of our health-monitoring activities:

Suppose in the last few days I'm not feeling great, especially at times after a meal. There are many things I would first have to look at, in order to understand what's going on. I'll have to take my blood pressure, check my heart rate, measure my blood sugar, and probably get a full blood test before considering other screenings. 30 years ago, I would have to visit my doctor (or a pharmacy) for my blood pressure readings, a cardiologist for my heart rate, a diagnostic center for my blood tests and glucose measurement, before I’m able to get the full assessment of my condition, visit my doctor again with the full results, and move on to treatment measures.

This is a perfect feedback loop (from symptoms to treatment) but it comes with a lot of friction. We're talking about days, if not weeks for me, plus money, plus lost productive time, plus energy drain. But today things have progressed exponentially: I can get my blood pressure at home in 2' minutes with my cheap and effective blood pressure monitor, I can check my heart rate with my Apple Watch, and I can measure my blood sugar with the DIY glucose monitoring devices (we haven't figured out full blood tests yet, but it's on the way). And if something is wrong, I can send these indicators to my doctor through email. This is exactly the same feedback loop as I described earlier, but completed at 5% of the time, maybe even 1% of the time.

This is what technology does: it liberates people, puts them in the pilot's seat, and removes friction inside feedback loops (40 years ago Alvin Toffler coined the term Prosumer for this shift that technology brings to our lives). And this is what excites me in building technology products over the last 20 years. Power to the people!

How Sync removes friction

Sync is riding the wave of a new breed of wearable devices that connect with our body and help us understand how it "feels" and reacts to everything we do in our lifestyle. We'll help people get the most efficient feedback loop about their metabolic health. In my next post I will write more about how big the metabolic disease epidemic is - the numbers are staggering - but for now, I'll stick to the way Sync will help people closely follow their metabolic health and speed up their feedback loop. 

First, let's start with definitions:

Metabolism is the process through which your body turns the food you eat into the energy it needs. It's a vital process for all living things, not just humans. Glucose is a primary precursor for energy in the body and needs to be tightly regulated for metabolism to work effectively.

Keeping our blood sugar levels within a normal range is crucial for our body. Here you can read why on the Sync blog, but new tools available help us do more than just monitor our glucose levels for the sake of it. Since the main source of glucose in our blood (which powers all our cells) comes from food, if we figure out the right food to eat, we have figured out the right source of energy for us! This is a perfect feedback loop, but how do we make it efficient?

In order to give our body the right types of food, scientists have always been in search of the "perfect diet": should we eat mostly carbs, or fat, or protein, or a balanced combination? But recent research and studies have found that there is no answer to the question of the perfect diet - because it is the wrong question: each of us can have vastly different reactions to the same food.

Having an individual response to foods makes sense on an intuitive level. We know we are all different. We know we each have different genetics and different lifestyles, and in recent years, we have learned that we all have different compositions of gut bacteria. 

So here’s what Sync will do for you: we’ll send you a Continuous Glucose Monitoring device along with access to the Sync mobile app.

You will install it on your arm so you can view your glucose levels 24/7 on the Sync app. At the same time, you will be able to record your meals and drinks in the easiest possible way, so you can connect the dots and quickly and intuitively understand which foods are doing good to your glucose, and which are not. As you start adapting your dietary habits based on these findings, you will notice your glucose levels stabilizing. The goal will be to keep your glucose inside the range of acceptable levels: from 70 mg/dL up to 120 mg/dL (we’ll have more content in our blog soon about these levels).

If your levels are consistently within this range, you will soon feel the difference: better mood, more energy, plus the long-term benefits of avoiding conditions like Insulin Resistance (an important conversation we’ll be having across all our social media channels and Sync blog).

This is something I’ve been working on for the last 4 months and it’s been a real life-changer. I can’t wait to see other people experience these benefits. I’m pretty confident that this is a service that will go viral among anyone who cares about their health and well-being. More details on the next post.

Your feedback is always welcome.