The Long Game 44: People Want to Feel like Athletes, the Human Screenome Project, Surviving Long Enough
🇸🇬 From Third World to First, Going Fast vs. Slowing Down, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, and Much More!
Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at lifetizr, and this is The Long Game Newsletter.
Greetings from Paris 🇫🇷
In this episode, we explore:
People want to feel like athletes
Time for the Human Screenome Project
Going fast vs. slowing down
Surviving long enough
From Third World to First
Let’s dive in!
🏅 People Want to Feel Like Athletes
In the past years, I have noticed that people increasingly treat their health like athletes. They track different metrics and are more aware of how they do things in their everyday lives. Given the right solution, I strongly believe that more and more people will continue to take care of their health and fitness like athletes. Just like Marshall McLuhan explains that the medium is the message, I believe with the right health & wellness “medium,” we can trigger new ways of life and new ways of taking care of our health.
“We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us.” — John Culkin
You can expect the high-performance lifestyle to be mainstream in 5—10 years.
The way we’re going to get there is through what I call “Strava for Health”:
Central software with a dashboard
Social features to share the journey with friends & meet like-minded people
Gamification to transform health optimization into a game
Another way it could start is at the office. Understanding that employees who feel great in their body are more productive. Here's the example of Whoop giving bonuses to its employees who sleep better.
Once we make health metrics clearly visible and understood, it will be much harder to ignore the damage you're causing to your body and mind by not being active. Health tracking will trigger a positive feedback loop and make society healthier.
The problem is that data and tracking alone won't work for the mainstream adoption of health optimization solutions. People need to be part of a community & talk about their metrics, habits, struggles with other people. The community needs to be at the center.
Here's how the future of social x health could look like:
Related to the real world in some ways
Has a virtual economy
Some examples include Strava, Quell, and Zwift, but this is only the beginning.
Bringing quantified people together in communities will lead to quantified communities:
V.1: Quantified Self
↳ Gather data, learn about your body, optimize your health.
V.2 Quantified Communities
↳ Learn across thousands of people, do widescale experiments, get better results.
Quantified communities are going to redefine health and human performance. This will enable new possibilities in terms of human trials and understanding how to optimize health.
Naval said recently:
Naval Ravikant: Yeah there’s even a new one making the rounds. Glucagon-like peptide GLP one. I’m sure you’ve seen some study floating around in that, but yeah, these things are very unknown; I wish these were more out in the open and that there was a very very strong anti-aging research community that was functioning out in the open that was trading notes on what works and what doesn’t and, able to run some kind of human trials more efficiently because fighting aging is a very time-sensitive task.
Through quantified communities, Naval's wish will happen soon.
In 2030, health will be very different from now.
Healthcare will be for the conditions to fix.
Health Optimization will be for prevention, performance & longevity.
With the right data, knowledge, and communities, we will do better. This decade will see a massive improvement of health optimization solutions, and the next decade will see the rise of longevity science. Expect the crypto community to be an essential part of this switch to preventive medicine and life extension practices.
Sign up for early access to what we’re building at lifetizr to stay on top of the latest solutions in this space.
📱 Time for the Human Screenome Project
After the Human Genome Project, with people spending most of their waking hours in front of a screen (the average American spends eleven hours a day interacting with media), it’s time for the Human Screenome Project.
This week, I read this excellent article on Nature:
To understand how people use digital media, researchers need to move beyond screen time and capture everything we do and see on our screens.
It has become impossible to talk about wellness and feeling good without talking about digital wellness and how we interact with technology. I’m definitely not great at this, but I’m aware of the problem. Here’s what I wrote last November:
The relationship we have with technology is a recurring theme in The Long Game because it’s still a widely under-discussed and understudied topic. It has only been a few decades that technology came into our lives. We still don’t know the long-term effects it will have on society's health and mental health, even though some indicators already suggest negative mental health consequences.
The Nature article is fascinating because researchers didn’t just look at screen time:
A major limitation of the thousands of studies, carried out over the past decade or so, of the effects of digital media is that they do not analyse the types of data that could reveal exactly what people are seeing and doing on their screens — especially in relation to the problems that doctors, legislators and parents worry most about. Most use self-reports of ‘screen time’. These are people’s own estimates of the time they spend engaging with screens or with platforms that are categorized as ‘smartphone’, ’television’, ‘social media’, ‘political news’ or ‘entertainment media’. Yet today’s media experiences defy such simplistic characterization: the range of content has become too broad, patterns of consumption too fragmented, information diets too idiosyncratic, experiences too interactive and devices too mobile.
Among all the studies exploring the correlations between screen time and well-being, many found no particular correlations. The problem? These studies only look at screen time:
The meta-analysis found almost no systematic relationship between people’s levels of exposure to digital media and their well-being. But almost all of these 226 studies used responses to interviews or questionnaires about how long people had spent on social media, say, the previous day.
The expectation is that if someone reports being on Facebook a lot, then somewhere among all those hours of screen time are the ingredients that influence well-being, for better or worse.
Instead, researchers need to observe in exquisite detail all the media that people engage with, the platforms they use, and the content they see and create. How do they switch between platforms and between content within those? How do the moments of engagement with various types of media interact and evolve? In other words, academics need a multidimensional map of digital life.
That’s what they did with the Human Screenome Project, and below is an example of a screenome.
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🧠 Better Thinking
🏎 Speed, Going Fast vs. Slowing Down
I came across this tweet about listening to books & videos at 2x speed, which made me think about speed in life. I must admit that I agree with Chris Albon, and listening at normal speed feels insanely slow. It’s clear that for some things like learning, reading faster is usually better (if we can ensure understanding and retention—and that’s a whole different topic).
The problem is when we try to be fast when we should instead be very slow and diligent. Getting used to doing everything fast can be detrimental when you’re facing irreversible decisions.
A great framework to follow is to be super fast if the decision you’re making is reversible and the cost of a mistake is low. However, for irreversible decisions, we must be slow and deliberate in our decision-making process.
For the most important decisions, Shane Parrish has a great way to put it:
If you want to make better decisions, you need to do everything you can to reduce the pressure you’re under. You need to let your brain take whatever time it needs to think through the problem at hand. You need to get out of a reactive mode, recognize when you need to pause, and spend more time looking at problems.
It’s not exactly the topic here, but I’m not sure going fast all the time leads to a very enjoyable and happy life. Slowing down can make your life better.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🏇 Surviving Long Enough
This week in VC Twitter, I really liked this tweet from Leo Polovets about perseverance. It made me think of a quote from Ben Horowitz in The Hard Thing About Hard Things:
Play long enough and you might get lucky. In the technology game, tomorrow looks nothing like today. If you survive long enough to see tomorrow, it may bring you the answer that seems so impossible today.
This pattern seems to apply to more than just startups. Morgan Housel explains it’s the same for most forms of investing.
On this topic, I like to re-read these paragraphs often:
A big secret is that you can bend the world to your will a surprising percentage of the time—most people don’t even try, and just accept that things are the way that they are.
People have an enormous capacity to make things happen. A combination of self-doubt, giving up too early, and not pushing hard enough prevents most people from ever reaching anywhere near their potential.
Ask for what you want. You usually won’t get it, and often the rejection will be painful. But when this works, it works surprisingly well.
Almost always, the people who say “I am going to keep going until this works, and no matter what the challenges are I’m going to figure them out”, and mean it, go on to succeed. They are persistent long enough to give themselves a chance for luck to go their way.
📚 What I Read
🇸🇬 From Third World to First, The Singapore Story
This book has been on the top of my list for the last months, and I finally started it. I have always been fascinated by how fast Singapore managed to become a first-world country in 35 years. This achievement is nothing but exceptional. Being from a developing country, becoming a developed country so rapidly seems impossible. That’s why Singapore's story should be thoroughly studied in Africa.
Here are some introduction quotes to the book:
Unfortunately, the explosion in information has not been accompanied by a similar increase in knowledge. The continents interact, but they do not necessarily understand each other.
The uniformity of technology is accompanied by an implicit assumption that politics, and even cultures, will become homogenised. Especially the long-established nations of the West have fallen prey to the temptation of ignoring history and judging every new state by the criteria of their own civilisations.
We cannot afford to forget that public order, personal security, economic and social progress and prosperity are not the natural order of things, that they depend on ceaseless effort and attention from an honest and effective government that the people must elect.
👨🔬 Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman
I finally got to read this book that so many people recommend. It tells the fascinating story of the physicist Richard Feynman. I really enjoyed getting in the mind of what many call the best teacher who ever existed.
I highly recommend this book for anyone curious about science, clear thinking, and education. I’m a little bit sad that I didn’t get to read it when I was a kid starting to study science. I spent way too long working in the wrong way. Understanding how to approach science the way Feynman does should be the first science class every student takes.
Here’s a lecture from Prof. Feynman on the scientific method!
🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week
New episodes of The Long Game Podcast are coming soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in charter cities and governance—a topic I find fascinating—here’s a series from The Long Game Podcast with the main actors of the field:
#11: Mwiya Musokotwane on Building the Future of Africa, Charter Cities, Innovation and Institutions
#12: Patri Friedman on Competitive Governance and Technology
🍭 Brain Food
💣 The Moments that Could Have Accidentally Ended Humanity
As you may know by know, existential risk is a topic I think about a lot. I believe that as human beings, our future would be much safer if these questions were more widely debated and understood by society.
As former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry explains:
Nuclear weapons were made by making, and it will take making to address the threat.
At 92 years old, he continues to travel the world in pursuit of his goal of reducing the threat from nuclear weapons. Listen to this conversation for more.
This week, I got my weekly dose of existential risks through this great piece.
In recent history, a few individuals have made decisions that could, in theory, have unleashed killer aliens or set Earth's atmosphere on fire. What can they tell us about attitudes to the existential risks we face today?
It’s impossible to overstate how important it is for humanity to be aware of
At a handful of moments in the past century, a few rare groups of people have held the world's fate in their hands, responsible for the tiny-but-real possibility of causing total catastrophe. Not just the end of their own lives, but the end of everything.
So, what happened that led to these decisions? And what can they tell us about attitudes to the kinds of risks and crises we face today?
Why are we so bad at treating those catastrophic risks? It’s because people misperceive extreme catastrophic risks as "tragedies of the uncommons."
A tragedy of the uncommons is different, explains Wiener. Rather than people mismanaging a shared resource, here people are misperceiving a rare catastrophic risk.
He proposes three reasons why this happens:
The first is the "unavailability" of rare catastrophes. Recent, salient events are easier to bring to mind than events that have never happened. The brain tends to construct the future with a collage of memories about the past. If a risk leads the news – terrorism, for instance – public concern grows, politicians act, tech gets invented, and so on. The special difficulty of foreseeing tragedies of the uncommons, however, is that it is impossible to learn from experience. They never appear in headlines. But once they happen, that's it, game over.
Elon Musk is perhaps the most prominent figure working on the long-term future of humanity. His motivation to create a civilization on Mars comes directly from his understanding of the existential risks our species faces if we remain a single planetary civilization.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🤖 Warfare is Going Autonomous and Robotic
Science and technology are advancing so fast that we could create a horrible world if we don’t pay attention. This video is very interesting to understand how a world with autonomous and robotic weapons would look like and why it’s crucial to address the problem in a preventive way.
On the same Youtube channel, I also enjoyed A New Scramble for Africa, covering the future of Europe—Africa relations.
🔧 The Tool of the Week
⛔ Newsfeed Eradicator
It’s not always easy to delete a social media account because if some parts of it are annoying, other parts can be essential. The problem is that when you log in to a social media account, you’re presented with a feed optimized to make you react and stay longer on the platform.
On my side, I love Twitter, but I absolutely hate LinkedIn and Facebook, and I don’t want to see the updates there (for Instagram, I like to check it about once a week on my laptop). The solution to these annoying feeds is a Chrome extension called Newsfeed Eradicator. It very simple: you can do everything you want, but you won’t see any feed! This is one of my favorite extensions, and it removed so much noise from my life.
🪐 Quote I'm Pondering
So how did he get them inverted?
We believe he’s functioning as some sort of a broker between our time and the future.
He can communicate with the future?
We all do, don’t we? Email, credit cards, texts. Anything that goes into the records speaks directly to the future. The question is, can the future speak back?
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