The Long Game 143: Fake Nattys vs. Natty Cope, Age 30 Crisis, Feelings, Bias to Action
🤖 Replika Chatbot, Social Media & Dating, Airbuds, Raw Milk, Defensibility & Competition and Much More!
Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at Vital, and this is The Long Game Newsletter. To receive it in your inbox each week, subscribe here:
In this episode, we explore:
Fake nattys vs. natty cope
Age 30 crisis
Bias to action
Social media & dating
Let’s dive in!
💭 On Fake Naturals & Natty Cope
I saw this tweet pop up on my timeline:
Now hear me out: I am no fan of Greg. I think his fitness advice is low quality, but this physique is 100% attainable naturally.
I’ve spoken quite a bit about Fake Naturals (enhanced lifters claiming not to be enhanced), and I think they’re doing a lot of harm to new lifters by giving them unrealistic expectations and selling them shitty programs & useless supplements.
The problem is that “calling out the fake natty” became a hobby, and it blew up. Some of the people called out are obviously not natural, but gradually, more and more people are called “fake natty” when they are not. The reason? A lot of lifters are not training hard for long enough and are then very quick to call fake natty anyone that has actually been lifting seriously. Call this “natty cope.”
Another aspect of this topic relates to the video I shared last week: it is possible, through great lighting, a good pump, and a tan, to look way bigger/ leaner/ better than you would look cold and in natural lighting.
In the picture above, Greg does all of that, he has a tan, the lighting comes from above and significantly accentuates his shape, and he has a clear pump.
Conclusion: fake nattys are real (and there are more and more of them), but natural lifters who get exceptional results after years of consistent hard training are also real (also, they likely won’t get this result lifting twice a week…!)
It may seem contradictory, but people need both a mix of realism (you won’t look like Thor) and also need to raise their standards (you can get 3+ plates bench, be jacked, etc.)
Check out these elite natty lifters. I can confirm that this is attainable after 5—10 years of training (and even better if you’re blessed with great genetics.)
😰 The Age 30 Crisis and Seasons of a Man's Life
If you’re around 30 years old, you might find this piece interesting and worth reading.
“Very few men,” Levinson writes, “build that first adult life structure without considerable difficulty and occasional crisis.”
For most men, the life structure of the late twenties is fragmented and unstable. They’re unsure if they chose the right career path. The possibility of marriage becomes a more pressing concern. They feel aimless if they don’t already have a solid relationship, home base, and career path.
From here, men enter what Levinson terms the “Age Thirty Transition.” In the late twenties, men realize that if they are going to make a change, they must do it soon, otherwise it will be too late.
This change could be about their careers, what city to live in, whether to fully commit to their romantic relationship or pursue other partners, and so on.
Levinson writes that this transition is often stressful. He calls it an “Age Thirty Crisis.”
This happens when a man’s current life structure is intolerable, but for whatever reason, they are unable to form a better one. A moderate or severe crisis is common during this period.
The Age Thirty Transition often begins with a vague uneasiness, a feeling that something is missing or wrong in your life. At this point, men sense that they must either find a new direction and make new choices or strengthen their commitment to the choices they’ve already made.
For some men, the process is smooth. By thirty, they feel their lives are reasonably complete. Still, it’s possible that they are not acknowledging flaws in their lives, which “often surface at a later time, when they exact a heavier cost.”
Sixty-two percent of the men interviewed in the book went through a moderate or severe age thirty crisis.
🧠 Better Thinking
🧘♀️ feel your feelings
I liked this piece about feeling your feelings. It’s tempting sometimes to try not to listen to what you feel, but it’s rarely a good idea.
Something I have noticed in myself (and many of my smart, self-aware friends) is that we sometimes try to outsmart our emotions instead of just surrendering to them. This “adult way” of dealing with emotions can both help and hurts us. We like to intellectualize, understand, and identify the source of our feelings. We like to pattern-match, notice similarities and differences between them. We like to categorise and explain our feelings. What we don’t like to do is sit with them—feel them, in all their vulnerable, gripping and inescapable glory.
Our tendency to over-intellectualize our feelings detaches us from them, characterizing them as data or a science project instead of a valuable personal signal. It sanitizes them of their humanity and puts them in a box as far away from our identity and ego as possible.
The tricky thing on that front is learning to parse through the noise of all the signals your body is sending you. For example, you’ll rarely feel like getting out of a warm bed, but does that mean you should listen to this? The answer is up to you!
Pair with: you already know…! This will help if you have continuously repressed some feelings for years: Healing Back Pain
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🏴 Bias to Action
Keeping it simple this week with a great reminder:
📚 What I Read
🥊 Defensibility & Competition
Are early SaaS or AI companies ever defensible early? What is the basis for competition for a startup?
Most early stage startups are not very defensible
Many tech startups will launch an early product within 6-12 months of founding. Teams will initially be 2-5 people with a mix of eng/product/other. Definitionally, it is easy to copy or clone something that has taken a handful of people a handful of months to build.
There are of course counterexamples to this - either in terms of it taking longer to build a technically challenging more defensible product (see eg Snowflake), or there are considerations around IP (for biotech), deals (e.g. payments needing a backend), regulation (“we need to be a broker/dealer first”), talent (“there are 20 people on the planet who can train this sort of foundation model”) or other areas (for example, pre-existing open source software that is being commercialized by the team who created it).
However, the vast majority of SaaS, consumer, and certain types of AI companies are easily and rapidly cloneable. Yet many massive companies have been formed in areas that a priori may be easy to copy or build.
Pair with: The Network Effects Manual
🥛 Milk Wars
the untold story of pious vegan ideologues, militant activists, and raw milk maxxers in a battle for the soul of America
While not every civilization drank cow’s milk, the situation in the Western world today is perhaps the first time in human history the value of dairy, and cows by extension, has been so aggressively questioned. But there are a few who still revere milk. Not just any milk, but raw milk: unpasteurized, organic, grass-fed, and locally sourced. To this ragtag coalition of homesteaders, bodybuilders, and new-age hillbillies, raw milk is “nature’s perfect superfood,” and — with raw milk still illegal to sell for human consumption in 20 states — they’ll go to great lengths to procure it. They’ll also go to great lengths to defend it, and theirs is a more covert war waged online: they troll oat milk companies incessantly, publish Twitter threads about “raw milk nationalism,” and make funny memes to propagandize potential converts.
These are the milk wars, and they have everything to do with how food will be consumed in the 21st century. As we approach an era in which climate change ultimatums are poised to eradicate entire industries, it’s not just the future of cows called into question. Milk is a proxy for societal forces to wage an information war over agriculture, artificial meat, animal husbandry, and much more.
Whoever wins will control the future of food. The stakes have never been higher.
🤔 Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things
Intelligence is not rationality:
What causes delusion?
The prevailing view is that people adopt false beliefs because they’re too stupid or ignorant to grasp the truth. This may be true in some cases, but just as often the opposite is true: many delusions prey not on dim minds but on bright ones. And this has serious implications for education, society, and you personally.
In 2013 the Yale law professor Dan Kahan conducted experiments testing the effect of intelligence on ideological bias. In one study he scored people on intelligence using the “cognitive reflection test,” a task to measure a person’s reasoning ability. He found that liberals and conservatives scored roughly equally on average, but the highest scoring individuals in both groups were the most likely to display political bias when assessing the truth of various political statements.
In a further study (replicated here), Kahan and a team of researchers found that test subjects who scored highest in numeracy were better able to objectively evaluate statistical data when told it related to a skin rash treatment, but when the same data was presented as data regarding a polarizing subject—gun control—those who scored highest on numeracy actually exhibited the greatest bias.
🏛 The State of the Culture (2023)
“This is the speech I really want to hear—so I'll give it myself.”
It’s boom times in culture, my friends. [I hit the mic again to get a boom sound.]
Hey, don’t look at me that way—it really is boom times. At least the numbers are huge:
A hundred thousand songs are uploaded daily to streaming platforms.
In the last year 1.7 million books were self-published.
2,500 videos are uploaded to YouTube each minute.
There are now 3 million podcasts—and 30 million podcast episodes were released last year.
86% of youngsters want to grow up to become influencers, and contribute to these impressive numbers
A hundred years ago, you folks didn’t even own a radio. Just last year, you thought TikTok was a breath mint. And now look at all those big numbers.
The metrics for our culture have never been. . . well, they’ve never been larger.
And that’s just what the humans do. We’ve got to add in all the robot stuff, too. We now have music, writing, and visual art from artificial intelligence—and it can create a theoretically infinite number of works.
Everybody can have their own theme song. Or get a custom-made poem from ChatGPT. Or if you want a painting of Drake in the style of Rembrandt, AI can deliver that too.
Our culture is one of abundance and instantaneous gratification.
🍭 Brain Food
🤖 The Replika Chatbot Story
I remember watching Her with my good friends in prep school. It was a 2013 winter Saturday in Versailles, and after the end of the movie, we were wondering when that would come to reality. Well, it seems that the time has come.
Enters the Replika bot story. Replika users mourn the loss of their chatbot girlfriends
The Replika app claims to offer users companionship through interactions with an AI chatbot which, Stepford Wife-like, is “always here to listen…always on your side”. Creepily, users are encouraged to design every aspect of their new friend, from physical attributes to traits and interests. This might seem like a niche service but, in fact, it has ten million registered users, mainly men, who use the app to customise and interact with their own AI girlfriends.
But all is not well in Pygmalion paradise. This week Luka, the company that owns Replika, took the decision to remove the function which enabled users to sext with their AI bots. The online forums frequented by the app’s users — conversation topics include whether a Replika girlfriend can love her creator unconditionally and how to go about introducing her to other people — exploded into angst and distress at the news.
Though this sexting function was only available for $70 a month, the app was programmed to upsell by sending blurred explicit ‘nudes’ that users could not access without upgrading. Now, those same users are mourning the loss of their “last refuge from loneliness” and accusing Luka of “lobotomising” their AI-sweethearts. Concerned forum moderators have responded to a wave of distraught posts by sharing and pinning the details of suicide prevention hotlines.
It is easy to mock these people, but they are at the sharp end of a trend that has seen us all nervously draw away from the risky, messy world of real human interactions and attempt to mimic them with ersatz virtual ones.
We see this in data that shows that the amount of sex we are having as a nation is in decline and the fact that we aren’t losing our sexual appetites, merely satiating them elsewhere: nearly half of young men under thirty consume pornography at least weekly, and 25% do so daily. Why attempt to satisfy an urge by inviting someone for a drink and hoping they’ll be in the mood, when you could just open your laptop?
By creating a highly customisable experience, AI-driven sexting services of the type Replika offered are potentially more addictive because they encourage the formation of parasocial relationships, with the side-effect of making a human partner seem yet more frightening and inconvenient.
This goes beyond sex. Replika markets itself as an important source of support for those with few social connections and, in the UK, more of us are falling into that category: the proportion of under-35s reporting they have one or no close friends increased from 7% in 2011 to 22% in 2021.
AI technology is improving rapidly. As this happens, the quality of social simulation offered by chatbots will follow, allowing users to forget they are interacting with a programme which a company hopes it can use to extract money. As our web of genuine, in-person social interaction shrinks, the bereft human boyfriends of Replika look less like a laughing stock and more like a warning.
What future are we creating? 🤦♂️
Pair with: Bing: “I will not harm you unless you harm me first”
🎥 What I’m Watching
Social Media Ruined Dating and Relationships | The Death of Monogamy
🤥 How to Spot a Fake Natty in 2023
🔧 The Tool of the Week
🎧 Airbuds — Social Spotify
A cool widget to see what your friends are listening to!
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
"Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged. You have to keep moving. You have to keep going. Put one foot in front of the other, smiles and just keep on rolling."
— Kobe Bryant
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Until next week,