The Long Game 51: Crypto x Longevity, Hiking, The Happiness Hypothesis, the End of Credentials, Genome Editing
👽 Taking UFOs Seriously, Can't Hurt Me, Nootropics, Black Holes, Saying No, and Much More!
Hi there, it’s Mehdi Yacoubi, co-founder at Vital (we just changed our name and rebranded the company, let me know what you think! More announcements and updates are coming soon, stay tuned!), and this is The Long Game Newsletter.
In this episode, we explore:
Crypto x Longevity
Hiking and friendships
The Happiness Hypothesis
The end of credentials
Can’t Hurt Me
Taking UFOs seriously
Let’s dive in!
♾ Crypto x Longevity
There’s something exciting I started to notice a few months ago: more and more people from the crypto world start to get very interested in longevity and life extension.
This is great news because many early crypto adopters became billionaires or extremely wealthy through the last cycle. A world with a lot of crypto billionaires is going to be very different.
Here’s how it could be different taken from the appearance of Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong on Conversations with Tyler:
COWEN: Recently, you cited an estimate that if bitcoin were priced at $200,000, that about half the world’s billionaires would be from crypto. How is that world different? What does it look like? How does it feel different from the world we have?
ARMSTRONG: That’s a big question. I guess the most honest answer is, I don’t know for sure. One thought I’ve had, though, is that if there are more people who generate a lot of wealth with crypto — which I think is already happening, and it will probably keep happening. Most of the people who bought crypto early on — they’re believers in the power of technology to change the world. They’re interested in the ethos of crypto in many cases, and I suspect that they would allocate their capital towards more things in that vein.
You could almost have this — I don’t know if you’d call it a renaissance or a golden age or something, of people who are technology believers. They want to see a better future coming from science and technology, and they’re going to use their capital for good in that direction. That could be one outcome.
I strongly believe that the crypto niche and the longevity niche would benefit tremendously from an alliance. An early initiative here is Vita Dao, the world’s first decentralized intellectual property collective, funding research into human longevity. It’s an initiative from Molecule, and I had Paul Kohlhaas, Molecule’s CEO, on The Long Game Podcast (Spotify, Apple) a few months ago to talk bio x crypto!
This week, I read this piece, where Roger Ver, the founder of bitcoin.com, gives his take on life extension:
“Rather than investing in cryptocurrency stuff, I want to focus on the extreme life extension technologies because if you die, you can’t enjoy your life anymore,” he says.
🥾 Hiking & Friendships
Go hiking with your friend! That’s the ideal structure for friendships. Better than calls, better than meals, nothing will beat a long hike with friends.
Jim: And then there’s the advantage of having guaranteed time spent away from your spouse on a regular basis. I love my wife and my family, but it is really nice to know that once a month, I’m going to be away from them, doing some things with my buddies. If it were once a week, it would intrude on my family life. But I owe it to myself to once in a while say, “I’m leaving this morning, and I ain’t coming back for eight hours.”
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🧠 Better Thinking
🌞 The Happiness Hypothesis
We talked about The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt two weeks ago, but I thought it deserved more attention after finishing the book.
Here are a few of my notes on the book:
Our mind is divided: one metaphor for this divided mind is a wild elephant ridden by a human trying its best to control it.
Old structures like the limbic system are in charge of basic instincts like sex and hunger, and the newer neocortex controls reasoning and inhibition, which enables us to keep the desires and drives in check. The rider uses language to plan and advise the elephant.
However, in reality, we usually allow our emotions to direct us: the elephant is more powerful than the rider.
Genes matter a lot in how happy a person is. People have a natural predisposition for happiness and have either a pessimistic or an optimistic outlook on life. Optimism is much more associated with happiness.
The elephant can’t be controlled by the rational mind, but it can be trained. Meditation and cognitive therapy are techniques that can be used to train the elephant.
Reciprocity is the basic foundation we build our social lives on. The principle of reciprocity is so strong that people will react with a vengeance if it is violated (most often by gossiping about the person)
Our inability to see our own faults is a big obstacle in many relationships: we tend not to notice our own faults because realizing we’re fallible is very unpleasant.
To be happy in life, you need the right people in your life and do what you’re good at. The most relevant external factors to our happiness are the number and intensity of our relationships.
Love is a necessary feeling in our lives, but not passionate love (it quickly fades away). Look for compassionate love (the long-lasting one). Erich Fromm also mentions this in The Art of Loving.
Altruism and virtue need to be practiced, not taught. The elephant needs daily training because altruistic behavior gives meaning to our lives—which is beneficial to our happiness. For example, Ben Franklin had a list of 13 virtues he was working on every day.
We have a basic need for the divine: whether religious or not, our minds need awe-inspiring experiences.
Finally, the most interesting idea in the book is the concept of the “adversity hypothesis.” There are two versions of this hypothesis, a strong and a weak. In the strong version, you need adversity to grow, and in the weak, adversity can lead to growth. The book explains that going through hardships may very well be a necessary element to personal growth. Still, there are some caveats: adversity works better between 15—25 years old, and the adversity shouldn’t be too intense and lead to PTSD, for example. This has a lot of implications for parenting styles. For example, a kid that’s too protected might not have the necessary life experiences to become the best version of themselves.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
🐥 The End of Credentials
This week, Balaji tweeted about a concept that I’ve been thinking about for a while: the end of the 20th-century credentials. It used to be: get a degree from the best university (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc.), and then you’ll be set for life.
It doesn’t work like this anymore. More and more people don’t care if you went to Harvard, MIT, or else, they care about real-world skills, which can be demonstrated outside of the current education system.
Most of these universities pick people at 17. How is that supposed to demonstrate something durable about someone?
On the opposite, being active on Twitter, showing your side-projects, writing and creating content, learning and going deep on what interests you are the real skills a founder or a company is looking for.
It’s convenient to think, “I just need to get a great degree,” and I’ll be good for life, but this will be over very soon. You need to show something real, tangible. You need to show your energy and your skills.
On a personal level, Twitter has been the most valuable tool I introduced in my life in the last 2 years. I met there countless friends, investors in Vital, potential hires, and much more.
The bottom line is: be out there, show that you can write, that you can think, that you’re positive and energetic, and you’ll generate countless opportunities. Stop relying on a degree to speak for yourself, or you’ll quickly become outdated. It’s a continuous process, you need always to be learning and improving, and Twitter is the perfect example to connect with people doing exactly this.
📚 What I Read
🚫 Can’t Hurt Me
I finally picked David Goggins’ autobiography Can’t Hurt Me, and, honestly, it’s a fantastic book. You can say everything you want about self-help. I think this is different. Goggins brings it to another level. I highly recommend the audio version because Goggins himself narrates it.
Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.
👽 UFOs and the need to take them seriously
Our inability to take UFOs seriously tells a lot about our current society. I don’t know the exact causes, but I can’t understand why so many people and scientists are reluctant to admit that we should study these phenomena thoroughly. This New Yorker piece is a good example of the recent positive switch at the Pentagon regarding UFOs.
Over several decades, according to Greer, untold numbers of alien craft had been observed in our planet’s airspace; they were able to reach extreme velocities with no visible means of lift or propulsion, and to perform stunning maneuvers at g-forces that would turn a human pilot to soup. Some of these extraterrestrial spaceships had been “downed, retrieved and studied since at least the 1940s and possibly as early as the 1930s.” Efforts to reverse engineer such extraordinary machines had led to “significant technological breakthroughs in energy generation.” These operations had mostly been classified as “cosmic top secret,” a tier of clearance “thirty-eight levels” above that typically granted to the Commander-in-Chief. Why, Greer asked, had such transformative technologies been hidden for so long? This was obvious. The “social, economic and geo-political order of the world” was at stake.
📚 Smar People are the Best Nootropic
I really enjoyed this interview with Samo Burja. I particularly liked the concept of people as nootropics.
Smart people are the best nootropic, if you can afford the leisure of it, in the sense of the Roman concept of otium, the concept of leisure that improves you. Set aside a day and have six back to back conversations with the smartest people. I guarantee you're going to be full of new, seemingly unrelated ideas a few days later. The best explanation I have for this is that it just does stimulate your brain that much. And especially if you take detailed notes, it's by far the best possible education. It’s the best way to hit the cutting edge of research.
Astral Codex Ten had a great piece this week, exploring what the most commonly used nootropics are. Are you taking nootropics? If yes, which ones and why? Let me know!
🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week
A few great episodes this week:
We talked about The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm a month ago, and this episode is a perfect refresher on the ideas of Erich Fromm on love. I highly recommend this, especially if you are single (but honestly, even if you’re in a relationship—these ideas are fundamental.)
Georges St-Pierre is arguably one of the greatest fighters ever. It’s a fantastic conversation about fasting, fear, mind games, the science of fighting, Khabib, aliens, and more. On a personal level, I really look forward to going back to martial arts, and after 12 years of Judo, start BJJ.
🍭 Brain Food
🧬 The Genetic Mistakes that Could Shape our Species
We talked about genome editing a few weeks ago. Here’s another fascinating article on the topic. It explains how genetic mistakes developed through genome editing could lead to disastrous consequences for our species.
In the years since, it's become clear that He's project was not quite as innocent as it might sound. He had broken laws, forged documents, misled the babies' parents about any risks and failed to do adequate safety testing. The whole endeavour left many experts aghast – it was described as "monstrous", "amateurish" and "profoundly disturbing" – and the culprit is now in prison.
However, arguably the biggest twist were the mistakes. It turns out that the babies involved, Lulu and Nana, have not been gifted with neatly edited genes after all. Not only are they not necessarily immune to HIV, they have been accidentally endowed with versions of CCR5 that are entirely made up – they likely do not exist in any other human genome on the planet. And yet, such changes are heritable – they could be passed on to their children, and children's children, and so on.
Scientists are inventing new techniques to solve problems like diseases and improve human health, but the risk associated with a mistake keeps growing. When we only had stones and fire, a mistake wouldn’t be existential, but with nuclear weapons and gene editing, the mistakes could be much more dangerous.
"In the whole global accounting of Crispr [gene editing] therapies, somatic cell genome editing is going to be a large fraction of that," says Krishanu Saha, a bioengineer at University of Wisconsin-Madison who is currently part of a consortium investigating the technique's safety. "I mean, that's certainly the case now, if you look at where trials are, where investment is."
It works like this. Rather than altering a person's genome while they're a fertilised egg or early embryo in a petri dish, this method is intended to alter ordinary cells, such as those in specific organs like the eye. This means the changes should not be inherited by the next generation – but as with all gene editing, it's not quite so simple.
"So let's say we are injecting a genome editor into the brain to target neurons in the hippocampus," says Saha. "How do we make sure that those genome editors do not travel into the reproductive organs and end up hitting a sperm or egg? Then that individual could potentially pass the edit on to their children."
🎥 What I’m Watching
⚫ The Ultimate Guide to Black Holes
If you’re up for a mind-bending video, this one will do the job. The physics of black holes is the craziest thing you’ll find out there. I still remember vividly some of the scenes of Interstellar, especially the black hole scene. I can’t get tired of this!
🧠 Who is the Doomer?
The key to suffering is knowing how to use suffering.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
An inspiring video exploring self-actualization and the search for meaning in one’s life.
🔧 The Tool of the Week
⛔ How to Say No
Depending on where you are in life, you either have to say yes to every single opportunity or no to most. Derek Sivers has a great concept: “Hell Yeah or No.” At the beginning of your career, you should say yes to most things, but at some point, it becomes smart to start saying no more often.
We all know how hard it is, so here are a few templates to help you:
How to say no like a badass.
How to say no to going to an event.
How to say no to a meeting.
How to say no to doing free work.
🪐 Quote I'm Pondering
“I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done.”
The most beautiful city in the world—Rio de Janeiro.
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