The Long Game 12: Early Disease Detection, Storytelling, Being Wrong, Talent, Universal Basic Income

👩‍🔬 The Logistics of COVID-19 Testing, Tracking, The Passion Economy, Academic Writing, 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:

  • The challenges of early disease detection

  • What gets measured gets improved

  • Enjoying being wrong

  • Universal basic income

  • The passion economy

  • The Logistics of COVID-19 testing

Let’s dive into it!

Mural from Hopare in Paris 🎨


🥑 Health

🦠 The Challenges of Early Disease Diagnosis

This week, researchers made a breakthrough in disease prevention. They created a blood test that accurately diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease. It’s major progress because it would enable widespread testing and accelerate more studies on the condition that concerns roughly 30 million people worldwide.

However, it raises some crucial questions in the field of prevention.

Right now, there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (the work of Richard Isaacson is still worth checking, especially this podcast episode.) So what’s the point of early detection if there’s no treatment, one might ask.

There is a misalignment here between the individual and the science. Researchers would need to study people where the disease was detected early to find cures eventually. But for the individual, knowing you have this disease can be an emotional burden that will ruin your life.

We will need to find ways to overcome this challenge if we want to make prevention a reality and improve the collective health of societies.


🌱 Wellness

📈 What Gets Measured Gets Improved

I’m a big believer in self-tracking for multiple reasons. The main reasons are information and behavior. Tracking metrics of your health, wellness, and life, in general, will give you the data you need to make the appropriate decisions. The second reason, perhaps a bit underrated, is that tracking is a behavioral tool.

For me, tracking specific metrics pushes me in the right direction. If I see that I didn’t tick “meditate” for a week, I will soon get back to it and get on the right track. 

A recent addition I made is “Level Up” that I got from Patrick OShaughnessy, host of Invest Like the Best.

To put a checkmark next to "level up," that day, I have to do something new or better than what I have done before.

I’ve been trying many different tools to track habits and other parameters (for example, Excel or Habit App), but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with none of them.

I recently came across the great interview of Adrian Alfieri on Wellness Wisdom, and I liked his Notion template to track multiple metrics.

It looks like this:


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🧠 Better Thinking

🌓 Enjoy Being Wrong

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with finding habits and building a mindset that would, as a side effect, help me think better. What can you do to have better discussions and better ideas?

One answer to this question is to view your ideas and your thinking as evolving through time. To achieve this, seeking the truth and enjoying being wrong is the solution.

Most people get attached to their beliefs; they become inextricably linked to them. Being unable to detach themselves from their fundamental ideas prevents them from updating their thinking when they should.

If you don’t pay attention, when you’re in a debate, you will want to win no matter what. The discussion no longer concerns the truth anymore, and it becomes centered around the basic human need to be right.

If you retrain yourself to enjoy being wrong, you will continuously be improving and updating your ideas as soon as you’re proven wrong.

Next time you’re in a debate, genuinely try to prove yourself wrong! This is the best way always to win: if you’re right, you win, and if you’re wrong, you learned something new - so you win!

Life is too short (hopefully longer soon!) to run on old software.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

👥 How to Become a Magnet for Talent and Assess Talent, Lessons From Keith Rabois

In the early days of a startup, few things are more important than hiring. As a first time founder, I don’t have any experience in hiring, that’s why I’ve been reading about it extensively.

Your first 10 hires will set the bar for the next 90 and they’ll likely be the ones who recruit them. Set the bar too low, and your startup is doomed forever.

Keith Rabois is a well-known contrarian from Silicon Valley. He explains how small startups can find hidden talent to prosper. Here are a few points he makes:

  • Talk about your startup publicly and loudly, so people know what you are working on

  • Go out and meet with A+ talent, so you know what to look for when interviewing

  • Look for risk-takers and avoid people who are comfortable going down the trodden path and climbing the ladder

  • Being an early employee means you will encounter tons of obstacles, look for people willing to run through walls and learn whatever they need to learn


📚 What I Read

💸 Universal Basic Income

I don’t know a lot about this topic, but after a discussion about UBI this week with some friends, I figured I would read some more about it. In this climate of extreme polarization, UBI is very interesting because it unites thinkers from the left and the right.

I first got interested in UBI after listening to Andrew Yang talk about it in 2019. The compelling argument he makes is that the most common jobs in the US (administrative work, retail, food service, truck driving, manufacturing) accounting for half of all jobs will disappear very soon due to technology.

In his book The War on Normal People, Yang calls this phenomenon the Great Displacement. And unlike many economic situations, it’s one that the market isn’t set up to solve. According to a report published by the Obama administration in 2016, 83% of jobs that pay less than $20 per hour could face automation or replacement.

People have been talking about retraining people as the solution, but it seems very unlikely that a 50 years old truck driver will start enjoying school and education all of a sudden.

The job losses that were already happening only got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. That got many countries to launch basic income pilots. The Spanish government has started what might be the world’s biggest economic experiment by offering monthly payments of up to €1,015 to the poorest families in the country. Kenya already started a UBI experiment two years ago that will last 12 years.

In the US, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, announced that he would donate $3 million to a group of mayors of a dozen US cities to fund UBI pilot programs. The idea behind these experiments is to gather data about how it works to inform the potential data-driven policies.

If nothing is done while people keep losing their jobs, Yang fears that growing discontentment and desperation might lead to widespread upheaval. It seems that these fears were justified when we look at the wave of protests and riots happening in many countries.

💼 Unbundling Work from Employment, by Li Jin

This piece by Li Jin complements very well the theme of UBI. Many people left unemployed have found other ways to monetize their time, very often relating to one of their passions. We are currently witnessing the rise of the passion economy.

Tech platforms have removed gatekeepers and democratized access to customers, enabling people to do work outside of the traditional employer-employee relationship

It’s interesting to learn that the primary motivations of self-employed people are non-financial; most people seek “a combination of freedom, fulfillment, and career control”.

Author Daniel Pink’s theory of motivation corroborates this finding, arguing that humans are driven by autonomy (desire to be self-directed), mastery (urge to improve), and purpose (desire to do something meaningful)—all of which independent work can facilitate.

Li explores the opportunity for tech startups to build both horizontal (think youtube) and vertical (Substack, Skillshare) platforms to support the workers.

There’s a massive opportunity for digital platforms that lower the barriers to micro-entrepreneurship to support the growth of these workers, in whichever directions they seek.

🧗‍♂️ The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

I recently changed my reading strategy to focus more on books that will help me at the stage I’m at. I’m going to focus on early-stage founder’s books for the next months.

I started The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and I find the author’s approach refreshing.

Here are some quotes that resonated with me:

There are no shortcuts to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience. Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at all.

During this time I learned the most important rule of raising money privately: Look for a market of one. You only need one investor to say yes, so it’s best to ignore the other thirty who say “no.”

🖋 The Problem with Academic Writing: Publish and Perrish, by Agnes Callard

Listening to The Portal by Eric Weinstein made me aware of all the problems of academia. This article by Agnes Callard explains why the wrong incentives of academia result in academic papers that no one reads, and why it’s a problem.

Writing for the sake of publication—instead of for the sake of being read—is academia’s version of “teaching to the test.”

This problem is worrying because scholars are a source of ideas and progress for society.

When I am asked for sources of “big ideas” in philosophy—the kind that would get the extra-philosophical world to stand up and take notice—I struggle to list anyone born after 1950. 

And this isn’t only a point about writing style. Their work is inviting—it asks new questions, it sells the reader on why those questions matter and it presents itself as a point of entry into philosophy.

Is it because today, due to widespread education and information, important ideas come from unexpected directions? The great thinkers of our eras may come from very different backgrounds than they used to.


🍭 Brain Food

👩‍🔬 The Logistics of COVID-19 Testing

This video is a great one to understand the challenges of COVID-19 testing. Machine learning could make testing much more efficient by suggesting optimal group-test protocols. It could help us overcome the next flu season, where a lot of people with flu symptoms will need to get tested.


🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

🌌 Why Storytelling is Vital to Entrepreneurship, with Nancy Duarte

I love how Mike Maples frames the way an entrepreneur should think. For him, you should start from an insight that comes from the future. A great founder lives in the future and bridges the gap between the present and the future, with the early adopters of the product.

But how do you convince people to embark on the journey with you?

The answer is storytelling!

Storytelling is the primitive that’s going to cause people to join your movement.

In the era of information, your story needs to be compelling enough to be attractive to people.

⚖️ Poker, Probabilities, and How We Make Decisions | Annie Duke on Conversations with Tyler

Annie Duke is a professional Poker Play and the author of How to Decide and Thinking in Bets.

Here are a few takeaways from the episode:

  • It’s hard for people to make bets that hedge against their identity

  • People will hedge against disaster with fire insurance but are less likely to hedge against their marriage with a prenup

  • “We have this idea that if we do hedge against something, that somehow if the bad thing happens, we caused it. And this is particularly problematic in situations that do have very high emotional valence.” – Annie Duke

  • “In order to really succeed at the top levels of the game, you have to be so open-minded. You have to be so willing to ponder on a daily basis the idea that you might be wrong, the idea that the things that you think to be true or what you think about an opponent — that it just might be inaccurate.” – Annie Duke


🔧 The tool of the Week

🕸 Connected Papers

Connected Papers is a tool to help you connect research papers together and achieve a better understanding of the fields you want to explore. It’s a little bit like the Roam Research for academic papers!

You can use Connected Papers to:

  • Get a visual overview of a new academic field

  • Make sure you haven’t missed an important paper

  • Discover the most relevant prior and derivative works

As you may know, I’m working on blood glucose levels optimization; this tool helps us find all the important papers for our product.


🪐 Quote I’m Reflecting on

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holders lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.

Bertrand Russell


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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!

If you’re enjoying The Long Game, I’d love it if you shared it with a friend or two! I try to make it high signal, low noise, and I hope you’re enjoying it!

Have a great day,

Mehdi

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