CONTROL FREAK

Rupert Murdoch just joined the cult of the “quantified self”

It’s the kind of fad you’d expect to be embraced by vanity-prone Hollywood celebrities, not a politically conservative, 82-year-old billionaire.

In a speech on Oct. 30 to independent Sydney-based think tank the Lowy Institute, ostensibly on the subject of Australia’s role in the 21st century economy, News Corp and 21st Century Fox Group executive chairman Rupert Murdoch revealed that, like Gwyneth Paltrow, he wears a “Jawbone Up” bracelet.

“I now wear a Jawbone. This is a bracelet that keeps track of how I sleep, move and eat—transmitting that information to the Cloud. It allows me to track and maintain my health much better. It allows my family and I to know more about one another’s health too, which means it encourages more personal and social responsibility—instead of just running to the doctor when we don’t feel well,” he said.

Murdoch was referring to the “quantified self” movement, which involves using wearable computing to monitor virtually every aspect of one’s life to get your body in its best possible shape. Some see it as narcissistic, others as a highly advantageous and efficient way to monitor health.

For Murdoch, the technology could prove useful in the short-term, as the high-profile and likely stress inducing trial over alleged phone hacking by his editors launches in Britain. When a visibly distressed Murdoch appeared before the UK parliament to defend himself against claims of his involvement in the scandal in 2011, he famously described it as “the most humble day of my life.”

It’s worth remembering that the octogenarian billionaire hasn’t given any hint that he’s even contemplating relinquishing the reins over his vast media empire. A Vanity Fair article in 2011 implied that he expected to stay at the helm until he was 106. His newfound appreciation of quantified self technology would only help in achieving this.

“This is only the beginning,” he said. “Soon we will have similar watches and apps that keep track of our heart rate, our blood sugar, our brain signals. When this information is coupled with what is available on the internet, it will mean the ability to diagnose and suggest treatments instantly.”

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