The Long Game 58: Health Benefits of Nature, Lindy Effect, Precognition, the Pension Apocalypse

🍿 100 Years of Science Fiction Themes, Healthcare in Singapore, Black Holes, the Future, 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:

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In this episode, we explore:

  • The health benefits of nature

  • Lindy life

  • Precognition

  • It takes longer than you expect

  • 100 years of science fiction themes

🥑 Health

🌳 Go Outside

Being outside in nature feels great, yet we forget it too often. Here’s a paper exploring the health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks to remind you to go outside:

This study examines evidence of the health benefits of natural soundscapes and quantifies the prevalence of restorative acoustic environments in national parks across the United States.

The results affirm that natural sounds improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress and annoyance. Also, analyses reveal many national park sites with a high abundance of natural sound and low anthropogenic sound.

Raising awareness of natural soundscapes at national parks provides opportunities to enhance visitor health outcomes. Despite more abundant anthropogenic sound, urban and frequently visited sites offered exposure to natural sounds associated with health benefits, making them a valuable target for soundscape mitigation.

Our analysis can inform spatial planning that focuses on managing natural soundscapes to enhance human health and experiences.

📰 Cool News in Longevity

The PEARL trial studying Rapamycin in humans is funded and will start soon. It’s crazy to see how little money (on the scale of scientific research funding) can make a big difference in the longevity space.

🌱 Wellness

⏳ Lindy Life

In Antifragile, Taleb brought back to life the ancient concept of the Lindy Effect:

If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. This, simply, as a rule, tells you why things that have been around for a long time are not "aging" like persons, but "aging" in reverse. Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy. This is an indicator of some robustness. The robustness of an item is proportional to its life!

Since then, it became a prevalent concept, and many people started to base their life philosophy on it. This week I read this very good profile of Paul Skallas, aka LindyMan.

This way of life aims to focus on what was time-tested and not waste too much time and energy on new things that may not endure.

Lindy is not Luddism: Mr. Skallas is an avid social media user, after all. Rather, he scours the ancient world for applicable nuggets of what he calls “useful tradition,” using the Lindy Effect’s heuristic of older is better as a “bulwark against consumerism,” to sift through the “tons of products coming out every day.”

“When I’m at the store, I think about it,” he said. “It’s a new way of looking at skepticism of modern commercial life.”

An important point he addresses is that “Lindy doesn’t say ‘don’t do it,’ it says ‘we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

So what is Lindy, and what isn’t?

Video games? “Not Lindy.”

Nightclubs? “Lindy. In fact, deep Lindy.”

Sleek midcentury modernism? “Anytime you get away from fractal patterns and ornate details, it’s not Lindy.”

Lastly, it seems that many of these ancient philosophies and ways of life are being revisited at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to find meaning in modern societies.

For more from LindyMan, check out his three-part series on New American Identities.


🧠 Better Thinking

🧐 Precognition

Jason Crawford wrote a great article earlier this week about precognition:

It’s almost impossible to predict the future. But it’s also unnecessary, because most people are living in the past. All you have to do is see the present before everyone else does.

I touched on this idea a year ago, talking about meta-rationality:

Instead of the news, following the meta-rationality principle often referred to by Tyler Cowen, I find experts in every field that I'm interested in, and I read what they suggest. Twitter is an excellent tool for that.

Twitter is an excellent tool to understand the present and be earlier than most people. For example, it would have been obvious to you that a major pandemic was coming in January 2020 if you followed the right people on Twitter.

The article details a few steps you can take to be earlier in your understanding of the present:

  1. Independent thinking. If you only believe things that are accepted by the majority of people, then by definition, you’ll always be behind the curve in a changing world.

  2. Listen to other independent thinkers.

  3. Distinguish independent thinkers from crackpots. Both are “contrarian”; only one has any hope of being right. This is an art, honed over decades. Pay attention to both the source’s evidence and their logic. Credentials are relevant, but they are neither necessary nor sufficient.

  4. Read broadly; seek out and adopt concepts and frameworks that help you understand the world.

  5. Learn how to make decisions in the face of uncertainty. Even when you see the present earlier, you won’t see it with full clarity, nor will you be able to predict the future. You’ll just have a set of probabilities that are closer to reality than most people’s.

⚡️ Startup Stuff

🏎 A Lesson I’m Learning

No article or book this week, just a lesson to learn: things always take longer than you expect.

It’s not an excuse to justify being slow. It’s an important truth that will help you play the long game and not expect things to happen easily and fast.

📚 What I Read

😓 Harder Than It Looks

With social media, we always have the feeling that others have a perfect life because everyone is just sharing their highlights. This article masterfully puts words on what we all feel:

There’s a saying – I don’t know whose – that an expert is always from out of town. It’s similar to the Bible quote that no man is a prophet in his own country. That one has deeper meaning, but they both get across an important point: Everyone’s human, everyone’s flawed, nobody knows everything. So it’s easiest to convince people that you’re special if they don’t know you well enough to see all the ways you’re not.

When you are keenly aware of your own struggles but blind to others’, it’s easy toassume you’re missing some skill or secret that others have.

👵 On The Pension Apocalypse

As you may already know, I’m really into longevity and life extension. On top of the scientific challenges to get there, there are social and economic challenges. Pensions are and will be a problem to solve. This is a great piece explaining the problem.

In the past there were many workers and few retirees, so it seemed like a good idea to have the workers pay for old peoples' pensions and promise them the same in return. Thus the pay-as-you-go pension system was born. But people stopped having children, started living longer, and the worker:retiree ratio has been falling and will continue to fall precipitously. These problems will be coming home to roost over the next few decades.

To put things into perspective: simply maintaining the current prime:aged ratio would require 383 million additional prime aged people by 2050. The math is clear, and even if fertility tripled tomorrow morning there's a huge lag until that actually starts affecting the economy.

Among the solutions the author suggests:

  • Grow

  • Pay out less

  • Raise the retirement age

  • Tax

  • Immigration

  • Debt

One thing is sure: if people start living more than 100 years in good health, it makes no sense to maintain the retirement age at around 60. I know that people who don’t love their job will push back strongly on this, and I understand their perspectives but helping people find a job they like should also be a priority.

🌌 Can Science Survive the Death of the Universe?

Are progress and science going to continue forever, or are we going to destroy ourselves first?

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that within the next century or two we solve our biggest problems, including tyranny, injustice, poverty, pandemics, climate change and war. Let’s say we create a world in which we can do pretty much anything we choose. Many will pursue pleasure, finding ever more exciting ways to enjoy themselves. Others may seek spiritual enlightenment or devote themselves to artistic expression.

No matter what our descendants choose to do, some will surely keep investigating the universe and everything in it, including us. How long can the quest for knowledge continue?

David Deutsch believes that progress is unbounded.

🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week

I knew Dan Carlin of Harcore History for a while, but I only recently started to pay attention to his show. It is absolutely fascinating, and I think I will take the summer to go down the history rabbit hole. I started with the Kings of Kings series that covers the Achaemenid Persian empire. I really liked zooming out of the current events and exploring the lives and concerns of our ancestors thousands of years ago.

Go for a long, long walk, run or ride because the episodes are more than 4 hours.

🍭 Brain Food

🍿 100 Years of Science Fiction Themes. OR. A time-lapse web of human dreams.

I mentioned a few times science fiction here on The Long Game, mainly for its power to inspire society to do great things. I believe optimistic science fiction is essential for human progress.

I found this great article exploring science fiction themes for the last 100 years:

I see science fiction as the ultimate literary genre for understanding the wildest hopes and deepest fears of society. It explores new social ideas and the possible impact of emerging technology, and is a vehicle for asking philosophical questions about personhood and consciousness.

You can explore the map here. You can use it for many purposes, and notably, to explore future realities:

Do you have a dark view on AI? Not sure how we could cohabitate? — Read Ancillary Justice. Curious about possible interstellar colonization scenarios? -Try a Mote in God’s Eye, or Revelation Space, or Rendezvous with Rama. Philip K Dick writing on cognition is so topical right now. With all this current hype about ‘are we already in a simulation’ and ‘full brain transcription’, you might want to go back to the master and read about the possibilities he imagined in Ubik.

What are your favorite sci-fi books? Let me know!

🎥 What I’m Watching

🇸🇬 How Singapore Solved Healthcare

I read The Price We Pay last year, and I was shocked to learn the craziness of the US healthcare system, the bankruptcies, the predatory pricing of Helicopter Ambulance, and more (I highly recommend reading the book.)

This video explores how Singapore manages to have the best healthcare globally while paying the least per capita. Every country has a lot to learn from the repeated successes of Singapore.

⚫ Why Black Holes Are Astonishing

An answer to what might be the most mind-bending question in the universe.

🔧 The Tool of the Week


A16Z took the saying “every company is becoming a media company” really seriously. They came up with a great website exploring the technologies and ideas that will shape the future. I highly recommend checking their articles.

🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

Charles Bukowski

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👋 EndNote

Thanks for reading!

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Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

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