The Long Game 62: US Army & Longevity, Good Strategy Bad Strategy, Happiness vs. Comfort

🏦 Billionaires, Drawing Cities, Going First, Oura Ring, The Myth of Panic, Dark Triad, 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:

📣 We are hiring at Vital, help us build the future of health optimization.

In this episode, we explore:

  • The US Army to Launch a Longevity Clinical Trial

  • Trading Happiness for Comfort

  • Going First

  • Good Strategy Bad Strategy

  • Drawing Pictures of Cities

  • Billionaires

Let’s dive in!


🥑 Health

🧬♾ U.S. Special Operations Command to Test Anti-Aging Pill

A lot of great news in the longevity space recently. This week, this article caught my eyes:

The U.S. military says it is months away from launching clinical trials of a pill designed to block or reduce many degenerative effects of aging—an oral treatment that a leading researcher in the field says is better than nothing while questioning how effective it will ultimately prove.

I find this extremely exciting because you know that you can expect a lot of progress in the years to come when something becomes a strategic asset.

This trial will most likely not be a revolution in the world of longevity. Still, the US army is actively looking to extend the healthy lifespan is a great step for longevity advocates.

“Get something that works”

While acknowledging that an oral treatment to reverse aging would be much easier for patients than a surgical approach, de Grey of SENS added; “The way I look at it is, first of all get something that works, even if it’s really nasty in terms of needing surgery, and then you can refine it and make it injectable and maybe even oral.”


🌱 Wellness

📉 Trading Happiness for Comfort

One of the great paradoxes of modern life is that happiness doesn’t always follow economic growth and more comfortable lives. This is an important point that Sebastian Junger makes in Tribe.

This week, I came across this great article exploring the question in more detail:

New American homes in 2016 were 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973 and living space per person, on average, has nearly doubled. The number of Americans who use the internet increased from 52 to 90 percent from 2000 to 2019. The percentage who use social media grew from 5 to 72 percent from 2005 to 2019.

But amid these advances in quality of life across the income scale, average happiness is decreasing in the U.S. The General Social Survey, which has been measuring social trends among Americans every one or two years since 1972, shows a long-term, gradual decline in happiness—and rise in unhappiness—from 1988 to the present.

The article gives three reasons that may explain this:

  • It could be that people are uninformed about all of this amazing progress

  • that we can’t perceive progress very well when it occurs over decades

  • that we measure the wrong indicators of “quality of life”

More generally speaking, I think society makes a mistake assuming that more comfort should lead to more happiness. It’s hard to know where to put the limit between a healthy amount of comfort and too much comfort.

The article concludes with an idea I find particularly important: we don’t get happier as our society gets richer because we chase the wrong things.

Here’s an antidote to modern consumerism the author suggests:

  • Don’t buy that thing

  • Don’t put your faith in princes (or politicians)

  • Don’t trade love for anything


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🧠 Better Thinking

🌛 Go First

I often come back to this speech from Peter Kaufman. I believe it holds some crucial elements that will help you think better about everything in your life:

All you have to do, if you want everything in life from everybody else, is first pay attention; listen to them; show them respect; give them meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Convey to them that they matter to you. And show you love them. But you have to go first. And what are you going to get back? Mirrored reciprocation. Right? See how we tie this all together? The world is so damn simple. It’s not complicated at all! Every single person on this planet is looking for the same thing. Now, why is it that we don’t act on these very simple things?

Going first has the potential to change your life.


⚡️ Startup Stuff

⚖️ Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

This week was about strategy. I read Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt following the advice of some friends. The book is a great entry point to the world of strategic thinking that I recommend. It will help you become an effective strategist.

Here are some notes on the book:

  • Don’t confuse strategy with ambitious goals, visions, or slogans.

  • A vision or a goal is simply an idea. A strategy, however, is a set of different ideas that include a plan to achieve these goals.

  • Every good strategy has the same foundation: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and a set of coherent actions.

  • A good strategy demands that you choose to move in one specific direction. Most people don’t like to choose between two things. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible. A good strategy requires that you prioritize what’s most important and focus your resources there. You can’t have it all.

  • To profit from your strategy, you need to ensure that it gives you leverage over your rivals.

  • A good strategy is composed of actions based on your current situation, and all fit together to maximize your advantage.

  • You can use the dynamics of changing business circumstances to gain high ground in a market. The world of business is constantly changing: you need to develop a strategy that takes advantage of these shifts.

  • Approach strategy like a science: determine a strategic hypothesis to test and then adjust with the results of the hypothesis.

  • Avoid fatal mistakes at all costs. Look at your situation from an outside perspective and learn from others’ past failures. Remember: you need to stay alive before anything else.

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.

— Ben Horowitz


📚 What I Read

☣️ The Myth of Panic

Scholar Stage explains the Myth of Panic:

The people must be trusted with fear, and the governing class must be comfortable with leadership during times of crisis. Fear is an unpleasant emotion— but at times, a useful one. Fear lends urgency to action. Fear forces the afraid to focus on that which matters. This is the great lesson of the 2020 coronavirus: We should have been allowed to fear. Alas, our leaders feared our fear more than they feared our deaths. The world bears the consequences of this stark faith in the myth of panic.

🏳🏴 The Light Triad vs. Dark Triad of Personality

The great newsletter of Rob Henderson on Human Nature got me interested in Light Triad vs. Dark Triad personalities. This article is a great starting point:

The dark triad has already been well-studied. First discovered by Delroy Paulhus and Kevin Williams in 2002, the dark triad of personality consists of narcissism (entitled self-importance), Machiavellianism (strategic exploitation and deceit) and psychopathy (callousness and cynicism). While these three traits had traditionally been studied mostly among clinical populations (e.g., criminals), Paulhus and Williams showed that each of these traits are clearly on a continuum—we are all at least a little bit narcissistic, Machiavellian and psychopathic.

🌇 Drawing Pictures of Cities

On top of longevity and space, I’m very interested in Charter Cities. I got Mark Lutter, Mwiya, and Patri Friedman on the podcast to talk about charter cities at large (new episodes of The Long Game Podcast are coming this summer.) Noah Smith had a great piece this week about why we need to visualize the kinds of urban environments we want to live in.

This is a famous picture by the artist Imperial Boy (帝国少年), who works in the anime industry. I sometimes claim that the entire genre of solarpunk is simply a riff on this picture. That’s an exaggeration, obviously — a few people have thought very seriously about the design principles of solarpunk — but the influence and appeal of Imperial Boy’s design is undeniable. And other solarpunk art, while often lovely, tends not to immediately look like the kind of city you’d want to build; often it’s either a picture of a high-tech farm, or some variant of “put a tree on the side of every building”.

I highly recommend following Wrath of Gnon for urbanism threads:


🎙 Podcast Episode of the Week

This week in podcasts:

As a follow-up to the episode, check out this cool study showing that, if you’re fasting, it might be beneficial to get your meals early in the day instead of later. It’s harder on a social level but better for sleep and muscle hypertrophy. 🤷‍♂️


🍭 Brain Food

🏦 Billionaires

So many people complained about billionaires going to space this week, so I thought it was the right moment to bring this great article about billionaires by Applied Divinity Studies.

In a certain view, billionaires are not merely wealthy, they are nearly god-like in their influence. As the New York Times op-ed Abolish Billionaires reads:

Billionaires should not exist — at least not in their present numbers, with their current globe-swallowing power.

One practical upshot of this view is that we ought to increase the marginal tax rate, break up tech monopolies, sharpen the pitchforks and so forth.

Yet an equally valid interpretation is this: if you truly see billionaires as all-powerful oligarchs who exert enormous control over world affairs, you should try very hard to become one of them.

How should you go about it? Conveniently, the NYT provides helpful–if Straussian–advice:

A few superstar corporations, many in tech, account for the bulk of American corporate profits… Artificial intelligence is creating prosperous new industries that don’t employ very many workers; left unchecked, technology is creating a world where a few billionaires control an unprecedented share of global wealth.

So there you have it. Work in tech, preferably artificial intelligence, and you’re well on your way to control an “unprecedented share of global wealth”. From there, the world is your sandbox.

The same idea, but from Chamath!


🎥 What I’m Watching

🇸🇬 Singapore: The World’s Only Successful Dictatorship?

Ever since I read From Third World to First by Lee Kuan Yew, I’m fascinated with everything related to Singapore. I found this video thought-provoking.

♾ Why Living Forever Would (Probably) Be Awful

A beautiful reflection on whether death is what gives life meaning. I find Pursuit of Wonder to be exceptionally good at imagining how the future could look like.


🔧 The Tool of the Week

Oura Ring

I got an Oura Ring recently to track my sleep. Before that, I was using Autosleep with the Apple Watch. To be honest, I like how the ring looks, but I find the experience underwhelming so far. I’ll write more about it in the coming weeks.

How do you track your sleep? Let me know!


🪐 Quote I'm Pondering

I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort. Sometimes I call it the “backwards law.” When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float. When you hold your breath, you lose it—which immediately calls to mind an ancient and much neglected saying, “Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.”

Watts, Alan W. Wisdom Of Insecurity


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👋 EndNote

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Until next week,

Mehdi Yacoubi

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