This week I read A.J. Jacob’s The Guinea Pig Diaries, an account of an experimental life. I appreciate Jacobs’ candour and playfulness with his subjects, which range in this book through honesty, outsourcing, fame, gender roles, rationality, unitasking and civility. The very personal accounts are funny, insightful and accessible. What I was most excited about throughout the book, however, was the experimentation.
I’ve been following the quantified self movement, lifehacking communities and other venues for personal experimentation for years, and have conducted my own experiments for nearly as long. Though Jacobs’ approach is different, I have a lot of respect for the way he has approached so many things he has written about. There is tremendous virtue in testing lifestyles.
On a mission to understand the mysteries of modern life – from love to work to fame – I became a human guinea pig. I immersed myself in a series of radical lifestyle experiments. I changed the way I thought, talked and looked. I followed old wisdom and new science. I saw the world from the eyes of a woman. I followed the wisdom of George Washington. I outsourced my life. I engaged, I’m afraid to say, in public nudity. (Not all at the same time).
These experiments wreaked havoc on my life, and drove both my wife and me to the brink of insanity, but also gave me fascinating insights.