The Long Game 15: Health in 2030, Floating Cities, Mental Health Crisis, Cult Wars, Giving Advice

🇨🇳 China, Marxism, Progress in Philosophy, the Great Unlock in Healthcare, and Much More!

Hey there 👋🏼, and welcome to The Long Game — my take on health, wellness, and better living.

If you missed the past episodes, you could catch up here.

In this episode, we explore:

  • Life and health in 2030

  • The mental health crisis

  • Giving and taking advice

  • Cult wars

  • China

Let’s dive into it!

Greetings from Montenegro 🇲🇪

🥑 Health

📡 Life and Health in 2030 — Backcasting from the Future

A question that I love to reflect on is, “how is going to be life and health in 2030?” I like to think about this because, as an entrepreneur, you have to live in the future and build a product in the present that will bridge the gap and bring your users to this future you imagined.

When it comes to health, there will be a significant shift in this decade, and people will take care of their health in a different way.

The era of reactive healthcare will stop and be replaced by the age of proactive care. People will track almost everything related to their health metrics, and it will be made seamless by technology. Health and longevity will be the N.1 priority of people.

Right now, we already have a lot of trackers monitoring various aspects of our health (sleep, strain, blood pressure, heart rate), each with a different interface and different dashboard. The value of an aggregator is clear here because people want to have a big picture of their overall health.

Such a platform would be incredibly powerful because it would enable a level of personalization beyond what’s imaginable today.

Here’s how it could look like, according to Frank Chen:

When Katie is back from her run, she’s ready for breakfast. This meal is personalized specifically for her. It understands her genetic makeup, as well as the makeup of her microbiome, so it knows exactly how much lactose her body can break down. It’s also tailored specifically for her training regimen. When you’re training for a marathon, you need more protein. The amount of carbs that you need depends on how many miles you’re running that day. And you need a baseline amount of iron to make sure you’re carrying enough oxygen in your blood. So we take her workout plan and her health stats and we send them to the roboticized kitchen, which is going to build a meal specifically for her. It will deliver the food to her autonomously, via a delivery robot.

As I wrote last week on Strava for Health, I believe the best way to start such a platform is to begin with the health enthusiasts of 2020 and turn their passion for health into something they can easily share with other people, more like a sport.

As Mario from The Generalist notes:

There's reason to believe there's a market for such a system. Peloton and Mirror indicate growing consumer fitness spending, while at-home testing companies like EverlyWell, show the wisdom of bringing health and hardware directly to consumers.

If you have other ideas on how to achieve that let me know!

🌱 Wellness

❗ Mental Health Crisis

We’ve already talked about the current mental health crisis in Episode 5 (Mental Wealth and anxiety due to COVID-19). Still, new shocking research just came in, showing the extent of the mental health crisis currently happening.

The CDC just published a report assessing mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was shocked to see that 25.5% of 18-24 years old respondents seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days ⚠️. The other numbers are just as concerning, with 16% of 25-44 years old respondents seriously considering suicide in the last 30 days ⚠️.

The situation is clear; our mental health keeps getting worse and worse. The pandemic only accelerated a trend that was already here.

It begs the question of what’s the reason behind this crisis? I don’t have a clear answer to this as it would require a lot of research from specialists to find it, but I suspect some of the explanations will come from the new ways technology impacts us.

The Center for Humane Technology does a great job on this front. For example, this research shows how daily time in-app impacts the happiness of users for different apps.

I firmly believe that in 10 years, we will look back at social media’s infinite feeds as being as detrimental for our health as sugar. Now, we’re still in the early phase, just like when doctors were prescribing sugar for energy. With the recent update of Instagram that now suggests posts in your own feed to keep you glued to your phone, it’s obvious that our mental health is the latest concern of some big tech companies.

I had an idea last week to tackle this problem: create a continuous dopamine monitor!

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🧠 Better Thinking

🗣 Giving and Taking Advice

A lot of the important decisions we take in life are guided by the advice of the people around us. After taking a few important decisions in my life, I started to feel something was off about how people were giving advice. I remember a few younger friends asking me for advice on what to do after high school. At that moment, I felt I couldn’t give objective advice because we’re all different, and I don’t want to let the prism of my experience guide their lives.

All these ideas were a little bit disorganized in my mind until I found this excellent piece by Alex Guzey on advice.

It starts like this:

It’s easy to give useless advice that feels profound.

There are a lot of different reasons for people giving bad advice, but it always starts with the fact that we’re all different.

People differ a lot in their levels of conscientiousness, extraversion, energy, ambition, curiosity, independence, risk-seeking, fame-seeking, neuroticism, conflict-aversion, obsessiveness, etc. By default, high conscientiousness people don’t understand low conscientiousness people. High extraversion people don’t understand low extraversion people. High energy people don’t understand low energy people.

Then, the second reasons, perhaps a bit less obvious, is that we’re systematically wrong about why we do the things we do, and why some things worked for us. This one is deeper and requires self-reflection to understand.

Most advice is basically people mistaking correlation for causation.

Leo Polovets

I try to be very careful now when taking advice from someone because, as Alex reminds in the article, “most people only did 1 or 2 things in their life. The probability that one of them is exactly what you should be doing with your life is very low, and they probably know next to nothing about everything else.”

Read the responses to this tweet if you’re searching for inspiration.

⚡️ Startup Stuff

Cult Wars: The Making of a Cult Brand, by Jordan Odinsky

Following last week’s article on hype and exclusivity, I found this article to be an excellent complimentary read on the topic of branding.

Cults are not new, they’ve been around forever, but today, cults serve as an incredibly powerful brand-building tool.

There has been a meteoric rise in cult brands that play at a higher level than their peers; brands that infuse their followers with a great sense of pride and purpose who then go beyond rationality to see their brand win.

At the core of a cult, there is an enemy, from which the new brand creates an opposed vision of the world. Defining the enemy is a crucial step in building a cult brand.

In the late ’90s, Apple’s famous “Think Different” campaign helped start the movement of picking sides: “I’m a Mac, you’re a PC.” The paradigm continues today as “are you Notion or Roam”

At a time when community often plays a crucial role in the success of a startup, cult brands have a massive advantage because their customers are also playing an active role in advertising and making the company win.

As my friend Thomas suggested to me, there is an interesting parallel to draw with René Girard’s Mimetic Theory. Through a mimetic lens, these brands paint a model of who the user could become, setting their desires, and act as the object towards which the desire is applied.

New members join because they strive to align their self-image with the influencer on their quest to discover their true identity, and only afterward connect to the ideology that drives the cult brand.

A powerful thread to explain how cults work.

📚 What I Read

🇨🇳 China

I started getting interested in China in the aftermath of the TikTok story. I don’t know a lot about China, and “The TikTok War” by Ben Thompson helped me update my ideas.

The quote that struck me was:

What few in the West seem to realize, though, is that the Chinese Communist Party very much believes that Marxism is the means by which that must be accomplished, and that Western liberal values are actively hostile to that goal.

After talking to some friends, I realized that this statement is true: very few people understand the threat that China poses to the West.

If you’re skeptical about this, I suggest you read this piece by Bill Bishop on Sinocism on Xi Jinping’s philosophy and the infamous Document N. 9.

This Document No. 9, “Communique on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere”, set  “disseminating thought on the cultural front as the most important political task.” It required cadres to arouse “mass fervour” and wage “intense struggle” against the following “false trends”:

  1. Western constitutional democracy - “an attempt to undermine the current leadership”;

  2. Universal values of human rights - an attempt to weaken the theoretical foundations of party leadership.  

  3. Civil Society - a “political tool” of the “Western anti-China forces” dismantle the ruling party’s social foundation.

In the coming weeks, I will try to read more on the topic. Nicolas Colin curated a great list of books on China; I will personally start with The Dawn of Eurasia: On the Trail of the New World Order, by Bruno Maçães.

If you want to start with some videos, this video on the TikTok Ban is excellent, and this one on China’s masterplan for the world’s domination is thought-provoking.

Just like with other complicated topics, talking about China can be tricky. Let’s be clear here; the main issues are with the CCP, not with Chinese people. Mixing the two is dangerous on both sides (leading to racism and discrimination on one side, letting the CCP unchecked and realize what’s happening too late on the other.)

I would love to read your book/article recommendations if you came across something great on this topic, please reply to this email and let me know!

🔴 The Challenge of Marxism, by Yoram Hazony

This piece is one of the best ones I’ve read this year. It does a masterful job of explaining how dangerous Marxism is for liberal societies.

Marxism is growing in the US and other parts of the world:

There is blood in the water and the new Marxists will not rest content with their recent victories. In America, they will press their advantage and try to seize the Democratic Party. They will seek to reduce the Republican Party to a weak imitation of their own new ideology, or to ban it outright as a racist organization. And in other democratic countries, they will attempt to imitate their successes in America. No free nation will be spared this trial.

To understand the situation better, we have to understand why Marxist ideas are so attractive.

In every society, there will always be plenty of people who have reason to feel they’ve been oppressed or exploited. Some of these claims will be worthy of remedy and some less so. But virtually all of them are susceptible to a Marxist interpretation, which shows how they result from systematic oppression by the dominant classes, and justifies responding with outrage and violence. And those who are troubled by such apparent oppression will frequently find themselves at home among the Marxists.

So what’s the solution to fight Marxism in a free society? Just like Brett Weinstein and Unity 2020, Yoram Hazony proposes a pro-democracy alliance between liberals and conservatives. Democracy is at stake here.

Simply put, the Marxist framework and democratic political theory are opposed to one another in principle. A Marxist cannot grant legitimacy to liberal or conservative points of view without giving up the heart of Marxist theory, which is that these points of view are inextricably bound up with systematic injustice and must be overthrown, by violence if necesscary.

🍭 Brain Food

🛸 Floating Cities: The Future of Civilization, by Jake Tran

I loved this video describing how floating cities might be the future of our civilization on Earth. Just like with health, we need more experiments with governance styles to find what works best. Universal Basic Income? More taxes? Fewer taxes? We will never know what’s best without experimenting with these policies, and floating cities are a great way to do so. More generally, we need more experiments and less identity based thinking.

I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people's identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity. By definition they're partisan.

Paul Graham

🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

💭 Agnes Callard on Philosophy, Progress, and Wisdom, on EconTalk

Philosopher Agnes Callard talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the state of philosophy, the power of philosophy, and the search for wisdom and truth.

This conversation was a refreshing episode, I don’t listen or read to a lot of philosophy, but when I do, I always find it compelling.

Here are a few highlights from the discussion:

  • Why isn’t there more progress in philosophy? Agnes explains that progress in philosophy means something different than in science. Scientists evolve together to build consensus around big questions; philosophy doesn’t work this way. There isn’t consensus building in philosophy.

  • Progress in science means there will be less science to do on the questions we’ve answered. Progress in philosophy isn’t about making there be less philosophy that has to be done. It’s about making it the case that the people who are philosophizing in the future can do it better.

  • The shortcoming of utilitarianism: “it’s really hard for modern human beings to avoid utilitarian calculus.”

  • Why is progress in philosophy important? “I think maybe Chalmers’s view is that there’s something like kind of outsourcing a philosophy where in effect philosophy creates these ideas, and then they go off into other fields to become progress.”

🏥 Healthcare: The Great Unlock, by a16z

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rare, perhaps unique, opportunity to transform the healthcare industry. In this short video, Julie Yoo from a16z explains why we’re experiencing a major shift right now, and what opportunities may lie in this transformation.

Among the main points she makes:

  • Industry dislocation: both from the supply side and the demand side.

  • Rewiring of the Value Chain: “We used to see multiple categories of companies each owning a different aspect of the patient journey... Now we’re going to see a new generation of digital-first providers seeking to own the end-to-end patient journey.”

  • Opportunities for startups: “We need to move from a mindset of relying on intuition and human judgment, to an engineering-oriented mindset of deploying reusable components and codified learnings for a 10x level of scale and efficiency.”

🔧 The tool of the Week

🏋 FitBeast Bands

As we already discussed before, 2020 will be a turning point in the world of fitness, with more options happening at home rather than in packed gyms with people not wearing masks.

I can’t wait for the moment I will have my home gym, but in the meantime, I find that focusing on bodyweight movements and complement them with some band exercises works well.

These bands are perfect, versatile, and will help you maintain, grow, or just have fun!

🪐 Quote I’m Reflecting on

The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.

— Marc Andreessen

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