The Long Game 49: Optimizing Testosterone, Social Relations & Wellbeing, Fooled by Randomness, Próspera
☄️ How to Survive a Killer Asteroid, Warren Buffett, a House in the Forest, First Contact, and Much More!
Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at lifetizr, and this is The Long Game Newsletter.
Greetings from Montenegro 🇲🇪
In this episode, we explore:
How Important are Social Relations for Our Wellbeing?
Fooled by Randomness
Embracing the Grind
The Happiness Hypothesis
Let’s dive in!
🏋 Optimizing Testosterone
Fertility is declining. Testosterone levels are dropping significantly. All these are symptoms of modern life and are the early signs that something isn’t going right. It’s true that life expectancy increased and that we’re generally much better off, but it also true that modern life negatively impacted fertility and our hormonal balance.
The average levels of the male hormone dropped by 1 percent a year, Dr. Thomas Travison and colleagues from the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts, found. This means that, for example, a 65-year-old man in 2002 would have testosterone levels 15 percent lower than those of a 65-year-old in 1987. This also means that a greater proportion of men in 2002 would have had below-normal testosterone levels than in 1987.
We’re still at the beginning of our understanding of why this is happening, but studies like this one conclude that exposure to radiofrequency radiation significantly “decreases ACTH, cortisol, thyroid hormones, prolactin for young females, and testosterone levels.”
I watched the great Andrew Huberman talk about testosterone optimization this week. After reading about the concerning drops, I researched what could help men (sorry ladies, I’m focusing on the man-side of things here) increase their testosterone levels.
I don’t have all the answers yet, but I believe this would greatly benefit from having a group of peers to share our self-experimentation protocols. If you’re interested in optimizing your testosterone levels using nutrition, exercise, sleep, and supplements, fill in this form.
The idea is to get an initial blood work/home test done to see where we stand in terms of testosterone levels, then try a practice for a month and monitor the change. Hopefully, after conscientiously trying a few things, we should be able to get to optimal levels.
👥 How Important are Social Relations for Our Wellbeing?
I’ve written multiple times about the importance of social relations on The Long Game. Still, I keep coming back at it because I think it could be a high-impact, low effort practice that would make society better off.
I came across this good overview of the data this week. Here’s how it starts:
Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States, recently wrote: “Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day”.
This may sound crazy to you, but loneliness takes a heavy toll on our mental health and, more generally, our health. I mentioned a revealing study in February, concluding:
A layperson-delivered, empathy-oriented telephone call program reduced loneliness, depression, and anxiety compared with the control group and improved the general mental health of participants within 4 weeks. Future research can determine whether effects on depression and anxiety can be extended to maximize clinical relevance.
Here, the review of the data on loneliness shows that:
There is a huge amount of evidence showing individuals who report feelings of loneliness are more likely to have health problems later in their life.
There is credible theory and explanation of biological mechanisms whereby isolation can set off unconscious surveillance for social threat, producing cognitive biases, reducing sleep, and affecting hormones.
There is likely a causal link, but there is no credible experimental evidence that would allow us to precisely estimate the magnitude of the causal effect that loneliness has on key metrics of health, such as life expectancy.
The fact that we struggle to pin down the magnitude of the effect of loneliness on health doesn’t mean we should dismiss the available evidence. But it does show that more research is needed.
☎️ Bottom line: pick up your phone, and call a friend today, ask them how they’re doing.
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🧠 Better Thinking
🤡 Fooled by Randomness
I read Fooled by Randomness 6 years ago when my father had recommended it to me. I remember liking it, but it wasn’t very fresh in my memory, and with the frequent mention of Taleb’s ideas, I decided to re-read his work, starting with the first book of The Incerto.
The basic premise of the book is that we are frequently fooled by randomness. It means that we underestimate the impact of luck and random events on our lives. We use terms like “skills” and “determinism” when we should be using “luck” and “randomness.”
Taleb explains the limits of induction: no theory can ever be proven right, but observation can prove some theories wrong. This is a critical point that experts and scientists often forget: our theories, even the best ones, WILL be proven wrong if we give ourselves enough time. I would bet everything I have that Einstein’s theory of relativity will be a distant memory of the past 1,000 years from now. Remember that the half-life of scientific facts is 45 years.
Another idea I found very interesting is that it’s not necessarily the fittest who always survive. In other words, the best do not always win. This goes back to acknowledging the role of luck in our lives. Asking someone what’s the role of luck in their life will tell you a lot about this person. People who believe everything they achieved was only through their deterministic hard work and skills are fundamentally misguided.
Another idea I find essential is to understand that we are terrible at understanding the impact of rare events. You can see this all the time, but it was evident in January 2020, when most people couldn’t believe what was happening.
Finally, Taleb calls for stoicism to accept that we will always be fooled by randomness at some point. The author also insists on enjoying poetry and art as a form of harmless randomness.
It’s a great book that I recommend. I’ll continue my Taleb journey in the next few weeks.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🚂 Embracing the Grind
I know I said I didn’t like general advice a few weeks ago… but I read this piece, and I found it to be worth sharing:
I often have people newer to the tech industry ask me for secrets to success. There aren’t many, really, but this secret — being willing to do something so terrifically tedious that it appears to be magic — works in tech too.
Yes, I like optimization, but there’s a time for everything. Once you reach a certain size and success, you can start optimizing, but premature optimization is the root of evil.
As an early-stage startup, you’re far from being there, so “embrace the grind,” embrace the state of having a situation far from optimal, is actually the best advice there is. Wanting every process, every interaction, every roadmap to be optimal is antithetic with the early stages of a startup.
Embrace the disorganization, embrace the doubts, and keep going.
On the same topic of the starting of a startup, here’s a great thread by Suhail:
📚 What I Read
The Happiness Hypothesis
Following up on The Righteous Mind that I mentioned a month ago, I started The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. It’s an exploration of both ancient wisdom and recent science to understand the question of happiness and meaning in life. Haidt uses a lovely analogy in his books: the emotional side is the elephant, the rational side is the rider.
Epiphanies can be life-altering, but most fade in days or weeks. The rider can’t just decide to change and then order the elephant to go along with the program. Lasting change can come only by retraining the elephant, and that’s hard to do.
🌇 Próspera—The New Charter City in Honduras
Scott Alexander had a great deep-dive on Próspera this week. If you want to understand better how charter cities will rise in the future, I highly recommend checking the article.
Who among us hasn't looked out at the great edifice of human civilization in all its complexity, and thought "Yeah okay but I could do it better"? Centuries of utopian communes, micronations, and seasteads have dreamed of rebuilding society from first principles, free from entrenched interests and the debris of the past. If you got all the laws and values just right, maybe you could prevent poverty and corruption from finding their first footholds. Do the "liberty and justice for all" thing, but for real
If you’re interested in charter cities, I talked with three of the most interesting people in the field:
#11: Mwiya Musokotwane on Building the Future of Africa, Charter Cities, Innovation and Institutions
#12: Patri Friedman on Competitive Governance and Technology
🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week
The good episodes of the week:
The Network State: Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit
A great conversation exploring the future of states and the possibility of a new type of country: the cloud country.
Thomas Zurbuchen: Adventures in Astrophysics
Thomas Zurbuchen is currently Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, where he seeks answers to big questions about the universe and our place in it. A discussion about commercial spaceflight, exciting experiments at the International Space Station, the challenges of space flight, how he makes decisions, whether humans will ever live on Mars, and more.
🍭 Brain Food
☄️ How to Survive a Killer Asteroid
This piece is a fascinating description of what would happen if a killer asteroid hit Earth again. Existential risks are something I think about constantly, and today, asteroids are not the most dangerous existential risk we face because we have good space observation capabilities. Still, as physicist Alex Filippenko explains, we’re never safe from an asteroid suddenly appearing from outer space and heading for our planet.
The piece explores how you could survive a killer asteroid:
In this case, 100 million times greater. If this asteroid hit in the same spot today, the blast wave would kill you in Texas, deafen you in New York, and blow out window panes in Buenos Aires.
The rock rings Earth like a bell. Waves in Earth’s crust radiate away from the impact zone at 2.5 miles per second. These waves then trigger fault-slipping earthquakes across the continents. If you’re on the other side of the world, you can expect to feel the ground-shaking effects 30 minutes after impact. Stay away from the banks of any large body of water, where earthquakes may trigger tsunami-like seiche waves even in fjords or lakes. Even more importantly, stay off the beach.
The impact triggers tsunamis—plural—as high as skyscrapers. The first of them hit gulf coastlines within the hour. Waves ranging from 600 feet to perhaps as tall as a 1,000 feet smash into what is now Mexico and the southern United States and flood tens of miles inland. The waves temporarily reverse the flow of rivers, rushing up river beds like 30-foot tidal bores.
Here’s a sobering description of how we would die if it were to happen again:
For more, I recommend the movie Greenland, with Gerard Butler. It’s not an outstanding movie, but it’s a good depiction of what would happen if we discovered an asteroid was going to hit us.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🏡 One Year Alone in Forest of Sweden | Building Log Cabin like our Forefathers
Sometimes we hear a call from nature. When I was 18 years old I ventured out alone with only a backpack full of simple hand tools to actualize my dream. Build my own traditional off grid log cabin by hand from the materials of the Swedish wilderness. Just like our Forefathers did.
👽 The First Contact—Alien Worlds of the Past
I just discovered the channel Pursuit of Wonder, and it’s an absolute gem. This video might be the best thing I’ve watched this year on Youtube. I love “Smart Youtube,” let me know your favorite in this category!
🔧 The Tool of the Week
📈 Buffet FAQ
If you’re into investing, you’ll love this resource. It’s a compendium of Q&A sessions with Warren Buffett covering everything you would want to know regarding investing.
I particularly liked the “personal” section:
How would you define your character? And what portion of your character do you believe contributed the most to your success?
The important qualities you need are intelligence, patience, and interest, but the biggest thing is to be rational. In ‘97-8, people weren’t rational. People got caught up with what other people were doing. Don’t get caught up with what other people are doing. Being a contrarian isn’t the key, but being a crowd follower isn’t either. You need to detach yourself emotionally. You need to think about what is going on around you.
Will you share what or who had the biggest influences on you?
The most important job you have is to be the teacher to your children. You are the big, great thing to them. You don’t get a rewind button. You don’t get to do it twice. Teach by what you do, not what you say. By the time they get through formal school, they would have learned more from you than from school.
🪐 Quote I'm Pondering
“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt—it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.”
— Hal Boyle
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