The Long Game 17: From Precision Wellness to Life Extension, Design and Wellness, Charlie Munger, Elite Overproduction, Fame

🧠 The Future of Neuralink, Middle-Income Trap, Lindy Effect, Quillette, and Much More!

Hi friends 👋, and welcome to The Long Game — my take on health, wellness, and better living.

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

In this episode:

  • From precision wellness to life extension

  • Wellness through spaces

  • The middle-income trap

  • Elite overproduction

Let’s dive into it!

Greetings from the Blake Lake, Montenegro 🌲

🥑 Health

🧬 From Precision Wellness to Life Extension

I’m obsessed with life extension and what we can do to make it happen within our lifetime. I firmly believe that 122 years and 164 days won’t remain our limit for long. I’m not the only one to believe that; actually, the top scientists from the field are increasingly vocal about the possibilities of radically extending human lifespan and healthspan (here, here, and here, for example).

Imagine if we’re the last generations not to have the technologies to make us live much longer. Imagine if our grandkids can live 200+ years. It’s like being the last man to die in a war. We would be the unluckiest generations of history!

So, how could we make this happen as fast as possible?

I believe it boils down to two things:

  1. More funding going to anti-aging research

  2. More awareness in public opinion

1/ Anti-aging research needs more funding

This problem is very much related to the second problem listed above, but basically, right now, we’re not addressing aging as a problem by itself. We’re fighting against the diseases that are a consequence of aging.

We have to understand that treating one disease at a time has little impact on lifespan.

David Sinclair writes in Lifespan:

If we could stop all cardiovascular disease—every single case, all at one—we wouldn’t add many years to the average lifespan; the gain would be just 1.5 years. The same is true for cancer; stopping all forms of that scourge would give us just 2.1 years of life on average, because all other causes of death still increase exponentially. We’re still aging, after all.

Right now, according to João Pedro Magalhães, most anti-aging companies are on a relatively narrow scope of research.

Presentation of João Pedro Magalhães at the ARDD2020

In his presentation, João Pedro Magalhães called for more creativity in aging research; there’s more to aging than the pathways currently being explored.

So the right approach to increase our lifespan is to target aging as a disease and try to reverse it. That’s what the SENS Foundation, led by Aubrey de Grey, is doing.

SENS Foundation is developing medicines to restore people at a biologically younger age than when they started. The goal is to build therapies for damage repair because aging is the accumulation of damage.

Damage repair works differently for different parts of the body.

  • You can change the liver, but you can’t change the muscles; you need to repair them, with new stem cells, for example.

  • At the molecular level, many cells accumulate waste products inside them.

How is the research going right now? According to Aubrey de Grey, in 40/50 years, we have a 70/80% chance of reaching “longevity escape velocity.” It means that even though our therapies won’t be perfect, they will be very good, so the residual damage that we can’t repair will accumulate very slowly.

The main challenge is that researchers don’t have enough funding. The SENS Foundation only has a $4 million annual budget, and researchers estimate that with $40 million, they could go three times faster.

A lot of lives are being lost.

2/ More awareness in public opinion

The second element that could have a massive impact on the aging field is awareness from the public. Right now, Nir Barzilai, the founding director of the Institute for Aging Research, estimates that 90% of the population doesn’t know that we can reverse aging.

As Balaji wrote, we need to evangelize the possibilities of technological progress and create more content about it.

Not just articles, but videos. Not just videos, but feature films. And not just a few films, but an entire Netflix original library's worth, a parallel tech media ecosystem full of inspirational content for technological progressives.

In today’s world, I don’t think the efforts will come directly from the state, in a Manhattan Project-like fashion. It will have to start from the bottom up.

So, on top of more content, we need to build and grow a community of people passionate about health and life extension. I believe this community will come from the precision wellness community.

People will start to monitor their health, invest time and money in preventing diseases and getting optimal health. The next step that’s coming soon will be a strong interest in longevity. Once enough people know that it’s possible, they’re going to do everything to make it a reality within their lifetime.

On a personal level, I’m working on a precision wellness startup (we’re helping people optimize their blood glucose levels), and we believe that we can evolve through the years in a company that helps people live the longest and healthiest life they can have.

Longevity is going to be the next major trillion-dollar market.

🌱 Wellness

🏡 Wellness Through Space

With the lockdown that we’ve all been forced to go through, I’ve become particularly conscious about how space influences wellbeing.

The most striking part of how spaces influence wellbeing is through lighting. It’s crazy how good and cozy lighting will instantly make you feel good, whereas white hospital-like lighting will ruin your mood.

According to the paper “The importance of light to health and wellbeing”, by Jens Christoffersen:

What is quite certain is that lighting environments have a direct influence on the health and well-being of the people living and working in them. Circadian rhythms and habits Research has shown that the variation of light is by far the most important factor in setting and maintaining our natural daily rhythm, the so-called circadian rhythm.

Preliminary evidence suggests that low light-exposure is associated with diminished health and well-being and it can lead to reduced sleep quality, depressed mood, lack of energy and reduced social relations.

Of course, lighting isn’t the only important part of a space that promotes wellbeing. For example, wood architecture and Japanese interior design are two patterns very often associated with increased wellbeing.

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🧠 Better Thinking

💭 The Psychology of Human Misjudgement

You may already know this famous speech of Charlie Munger on the psychology of human misjudgment.

But I believe that the point with this kind of timeless material is to read/watch/listen to them repeatedly.

I like to watch this video every first day of the month (using Tab Snooze for that). It’s so easy to get lost in everyday life and forget these ideas. That’s why watching Charlie Munger once a month (or more if you want!) is a great way to remember these principles when you face a decision.

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time -- none, zero. You'd be amazed at how much Warren reads--and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I'm a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

⚡️ Startup Stuff

🎯 The Only Thing That Matters

I like to read Marc Andreesen’s guide to startups frequently. This part on the only thing that matters—the market you’re going after as a startup—particularly resonated with me this week.

In a great market -- a market with lots of real potential customers -- the market pulls product out of the startup.

Marc adds:

The product doesn't need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn't care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product.

The bottom line to remember from this blog post is:

  • When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.

  • When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.

  • When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.

On my part, I’m betting on the health optimization/longevity market. I believe that in 10 years, almost everyone will monitor their health and try to optimize the whole system.

📚 What I Read

⚠️ How to Avoid the Middle Income Trap?

After reading How Asia Works, I wondered why African countries don’t try to replicate the success of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. As a Moroccan, I’m particularly interested in how we could avoid the “middle-income trap”.

The middle-income trap is an economic development situation in which a country that attains a certain income (due to given advantages) gets stuck at that level.

For example, this happens when a country gets richer because of cheap manufacturing, then pass on the wealth to its citizens by rising living standards and salaries, and then loses the very things that enabled this economic growth in the first place (this is a good video to explain how Vietnam got there.)

As this paper explains, for Africa, the key is to switch from an economic activity subject to diminishing returns (agriculture, mining, fishing) to an economic activity subject to increasing returns (industry, for example).

On a different note, Mehrdad Esfahani suggested to me that freedom of speech, enterprise, and religion is required and that once accomplished, it would resolve the other problems (China would be counterexample here, though.)

Nicolas Colin also developed an interesting perspective by considering Europe as a developing economy that could benefit from the playbook of “How Asia Works.”

Again, the core of my thesis is that our old continent has become a developing economy again: it still has to catch up in growing companies tailored for the Entrepreneurial Age.

I’m wondering, however, how the playbook of “How Asia Works” should be adapted to today’s economy where technology is ubiquitous. I’m afraid that missing the train of technological development could be even more dramatic than the previous economic revolutions we’ve been through.

🚨 Elite Overproduction

Peter Turchin is an essential thinker to understand the problems happening currently in the US and other parts of the world.

In the article Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays, he explains that civil unrest follows elite overproduction. It’s like populism, but for elites. When there are too many people with advanced degrees or B grade celebrity status who can’t get jobs, they want to flip the board over.

Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class. This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable, has been denied access to elite positions.

What happens when you studied for ten years, you got a Ph.D., and you’re a B grade elite?

You get resentment, anger, bitterness, big donations to activist groups, and eventually, civil unrest.

What’s the outcome of all of this?

Of course, catastrophe isn’t preordained. History shows a real indeterminacy about the routes societies follow out of instability waves. Some end with social revolutions, in which the rich and powerful are overthrown.
In some cases, however, societies come through relatively unscathed, by adopting a series of judicious reforms, initiated by elites who understand that we are all in this boat together.

That’s a good question!

♾ The Lindy Effect

According to Wikipedia:

The Lindy effect is a theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy. Where the Lindy effect applies, the mortality rate decreases with time.

To say it in other words, if something has stood the test of time, it must be important. It’s a great heuristic to decide what to read, what to watch, and what to work on.

On my part, I’ve noticed a Lindy Effect for todo lists, the longer an item has been on the list, the longer it will tend to remain on the list!

🍭 Brain Food

🛩 On the Dangers of Becoming Famous

This piece by Tim Ferriss is eye-opening and even shocking. A lot of people dream of becoming famous but don’t really understand the challenges of being famous.

From stalkers to death threats, being famous can get very complicated to handle.

Once in Central Asia, I had a driver show up at my hotel to take me to the airport, but… he used my real name, and I’d given the car service a fake name. To buy time, I asked him to wait while I made a few phone calls. About 10 minutes later, the real driver showed up to take me to the airport, using the designated pseudonym. The first fraudulent driver took off, and to this day, I have no idea how he knew where I was staying or when I was leaving.

This raises the question of pseudonymity. With all these problems associated with fame, on top of the increasing social media mobs, the pseudonymous economy could be a solution to all these problems.

For more about the pseudonymous economy, you can watch this talk. For a quick introduction, I wrote a summary in the thread below!

🎥 What I’m watching

🧠 The Future of Neuralink

On the 28th of August, the Neuralink team presented what they’ve been working on for months.

The results are already impressive, and it’s easy to imagine how transformative this new technology will be once ready for broader use.

In this video, Lex Fridman explores what could be the future of Neuralink.

The main points of the evolution of the product may be:

  1. Alleviating Suffering

  2. Consciousness and Intelligence

  3. Augmented Body, Mind, and Reality

  4. Gaming & Virtual Reality

  5. Merging Tech & Biology

  6. Telepathy

  7. Memories & Immortality

  8. Merging with AI

If some scientists are already trying to debunk the claims of Neuralink, it’s hard to overestimate how important this innovation could be for humanity.

🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

📰 Claire Lehmann: Building an Internet Media Company — North Star Podcast

Claire is the founder of the magazine Quillette, which is home to some of the best articles on the internet.

It’s a great conversation about lifelong learning, evolutionary psychology, childhood education, and more.

We've conflated lifelong learning with credentialism. It's not worth it unless you have a certificate to put on the wall.

I took some notes on the episode 👇👇

Read the full notes

🪐 Quote I’m Reflecting on

The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

William Gibson

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👋 EndNote

Thanks for reading!

I will see you next week. As always, if you’re finding this newsletter interesting, give me your feedback, you can respond to this email or tweet at me!

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