The Long Game 69: Altos Labs, Chemical Hunger, Obsessive Walking & Great Thinking, Próspera
📱 Social 3.0, Web3 Resources, Chinese Debt Crisis, Epistemic Wellbeing, the Metaverse, 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 “Strava for Health.” We are currently looking for:
Senior Backend Engineer
Junior Frontend Engineer (Flutter)
We are offering $1,000 in Bitcoin if you refer to us a candidate we end up hiring.
In this episode, we explore:
A chemical hunger
Obsessive walking and great thinking
Let’s dive in!
🧬♾ Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s Latest Wild Bet on Living Forever
More great news for longevity! A new company with a lot of funding was recently announced:
Altos Labs is pursuing biological reprogramming technology, a way to rejuvenate cells in the lab that some scientists think could be extended to revitalize entire animal bodies, ultimately prolonging human life.
The new company, incorporated in the US and in the UK earlier this year, will establish several institutes in places including the Bay Area, San Diego, Cambridge, UK and Japan, and is recruiting a large cadre of university scientists with lavish salaries and the promise that they can pursue unfettered blue-sky research on how cells age and how to reverse that process.
Some people briefed by the company have been told that its investors include Jeff Bezos.
This is very important news because government agencies that usually grant research funding aren’t really interested in funding longevity research yet. So before they start doing so, we need billionaires close to the longevity cause and who aren’t pursuing short-term returns but rather care about advancing the science.
At least initially, Altos will be funding researchers with no immediate expectation for products or revenues. According to one person briefed by Klausner and Milner, the initial output of the company will be “great science.”
Altos is luring university professors by offering sports-star salaries of $1 million a year or more, plus equity, as well as freedom from the hassle of applying for grants. One researcher who confirmed accepting a job offer from Altos, Manuel Serrano of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, in Barcelona, Spain, said the company would pay him five to 10 times what he earns now.
It’s great to see researchers finally paid for what they’re worth.
❓ A Chemical Hunger
This series of articles must be one of the most baffling articles I have linked in the newsletter since its beginning. It explores a new possible explanation for the obesity epidemic in the US.
Mystery 1: The Obesity Epidemic
The first mystery is the obesity epidemic itself. It’s hard for a modern person to appreciate just how thin we all were for most of human history. A century ago, the average man in the US weighed around 155 lbs. Today, he weighs about 195 lbs. About 1% of the population was obese back then. Now it’s about 36%.
The series then explores a possible cause: chemical contamination.
Only one theory can account for all of the available evidence: the obesity epidemic is caused by one or more environmental contaminants, compounds in our water, food, air, at our jobs and in our homes, that change how our bodies regulate weight.
These contaminants are the only cause of the obesity epidemic, and the worldwide increase in obesity rates since 1980 is entirely attributable to their effects. For any two people in a group, the difference between their weights is largely genetic, because everyone is exposed to similar levels of contamination. But the difference between the average weight in 1980 and the average weight today is the result of environmental contaminants.
This idea is worth exploring more. The field of nutrition is ridden with wrong science and industry-sponsored theories. Finding the root causes of the obesity epidemic is essential.
This recent paper published in Nature is another step in the same direction:
The pesticide chlorpyrifos promotes obesity by inhibiting diet-induced thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue
🧠 Better Thinking
🚶♀️ The Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking
I found this article linking great thinking and obsessive walking fascinating (and also a good dose of confirmation bias, I admit!)
Darwin’s best thinking, however, was not done in his study. It was done outside, on a lowercase d–shaped path on the edge of his property. Darwin called it the Sandwalk. Today, it is known as Darwin’s thinking path. Janet Browne, author of a two-volume biography of Darwin, wrote:
As a businesslike man, he would pile up a mound of flints at the turn of the path and knock one away every time he passed to ensure he made a predetermined number of circuits without having to interrupt his train of thought. Five turns around the path amounted to half a mile or so. The Sandwalk was where he pondered. In this soothing routine, a sense of place became preeminent in Darwin’s science. It shaped his identity as a thinker.
Darwin was not alone:
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s and Henry David Thoreau’s walks in the New England woods inspired their writing, including “Walking,” Thoreau’s treatise on the subject. John Muir, Jonathan Swift, Immanuel Kant, Beethoven, and Friedrich Nietzsche were obsessive walkers. Nietzsche, who walked with his notebook every day between 11 am and 1 pm, said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” Charles Dickens preferred to take long walks though London at night. “The road was so lonely in the night, that I fell asleep to the monotonous sound of my own feet, doing their regular four miles an hour,” Dickens wrote. “Mile after mile I walked, without the slightest sense of exertion, dozing heavily and dreaming constantly.” More recently, walks became an important part of the creative process of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.
The questions that come to mind are: is it a correlation or causation, and if it’s causation, why is it the case? These questions remain unanswered, but on a personal level, walking a lot is a deterministic way to feel and think better.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
📱 Social 3.0
I have been thinking a lot about the new age of social products lately. The main reason is that we are building a social product at Vital, specifically, building the first ‘social x health’ product. We decided to focus on this vs. build a data-only product that already exists on the market. You will have all of your health optimization metrics, data, insights, + a whole social app in one! More details will be released soon.
I mentioned a few interesting resources and people related to this topic in the thread below, but I’m looking for more reading, insights, and opinions.
💌 Reply to this and let me know your favorite social products and what you would love to see in our ‘social x health’ product!
📚 What I Read
🌇 Próspera FAQ
Learn more about the new charter city Próspera in Honduras:
This FAQ is intended as a reference, covering the basic facts and current status of the project. My hope is that this document will help startup city builders learn from the path Próspera is carving. It covers a range of topics:
infrastructure in Próspera and its neighbors
Honduras' unique legal autonomy framework
institutional structure of Próspera
taxes and tariffs
Próspera's business model
political environment in Honduras
local context, economy, and culture of Roatán, the island where Próspera is located
e-residency and physical residency
current population of Próspera and what made them to decide to move there
... and more!
✋ The antidote to fake news is to nourish our epistemic wellbeing
On epistemic wellbeing:
You have no doubt come across some advice about how to deal with the epistemic crisis already – we’re told to double-check the information we receive online, to look for indications that our sources are trustworthy, to block that certain uncle from our social media – and this can be similarly good advice when it comes to our epistemic wellbeing. It’s perhaps worthwhile to develop a habit of periodically auditing one’s epistemic habits. You might reflect on the ways in which you acquire information, and whether you’re listening to certain sources because they’re likely to lead you to the truth, or because they’re telling you what you want to hear. While there’s no panacea for all the problems the epistemic crisis has brought, conscientious self-reflection on the ways in which we seek knowledge is at least a good first step to increasing epistemic wellbeing.
📈 Our Visions of the Future Determine Our Society Today
Your weekly dose of optimism, and why it’s essential:
But let’s not be cynics: we build a future for ourselves by outpacing the errors of our errant past and refining the plausibility of our visions, so that one day our descendants may eventually achieve a horticulture of the heavens. And perhaps the inevitable coloring of our visions of the future by the worries and ideological conflicts of our own times is not such a problem if we can learn to swim comfortably in the post-modern uncertainty. Once more, acknowledging that we alone are in charge of our values is nothing other than taking accountability for them; and, what’s more, recognizing the fallibility of our resulting beliefs and actions is no warrant for disillusionment, but the first step toward correcting them.
Follow-up reading: Definite optimism as human capital
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week
This week in podcasts:
You absolutely need to listen to this one! I’m not a gamer, never have been, so I’m not familiar with the gaming ecosystem, but I just learned a bit about it, and what’s happening is crazy. That’s how the Metaverse will start, so we should all be paying attention.
I enjoyed learning more about robotics with one of the most prominent figures in the field. What I find particularly interesting is Rodney’s thinking around hype. As opposed to Elon, Rodney doesn’t like being overly optimistic with timelines. I understand his point, but I believe that Elon’s crazy deadlines create an outcome that wouldn’t have been possible with a more realistic deadline. In short: Amp it Up!
🍭 Brain Food
🌴 Solarpunk Art Contest
I recently came across a cool initiative to sponsor artists who come up with beautiful and inspiring Solarpunk art pieces.
There Is A Better Future And We Can Build It
We have been conditioned through relentless negative media and predictions of apocalypse to believe that mankind has no hope. While it is true that we face unprecedented challenges and have made many collective mistakes, I believe that humanity has the spirit and ability to overcome them. We can create a better future. We need a new and optimistic vision of our world.
To bring about this future we require not only science and technology and better politics, but a new aesthetic. We need art and music and film and even advertising that paints the picture for us of what our future can be, if only we are willing to work together and build it.
That’s what this contest is about. If you believe as I do, I invite you to join me.
nasjaq came up with an interesting criticism of the Solar Punk aesthetics that’s worth mentioning:
to expand outward and create more Earths - more Terras - this is terrapunk. We do not cower, we build new worlds. We do not dismantle capitalism, we utilize it to create more resources than ever imagined. We are sovereign masters of our surroundings, and we create relentlessly.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🇨🇳 Chinese Debt Crisis
I’m learning as much as I can about China. I enjoyed this video about the Chinese Debt Crisis. To pair with the latest episode of The All In Podcast, where they discuss China’s recent ban on video games.
🌐 You Can Beat Google
I highly recommend Garry’s Youtube channel.
This video covers an article by Waze former CEO Noam Bardin that I already shared in the newsletter but is worth resisting: Why did I leave Google or, why did I stay so long?
Work life balance. When I was growing up in Tech in the ‘90’s - there was no such thing as work life balance. We loved what we did and wanted to succeed so we worked like crazy to achieve great things. As I had kids, I learned the importance of being at home for them and that's how I understood Work Life balance - its a balance, sometimes you need to work weekends and nights or travel, sometimes you can head out early or work from home - we balance the needs of the employee and the company. Today, in Silicon Valley, work life balance has become sacrificing Work for Life - not a balance. Young people want it all - they want to get promoted quickly, achieve economic independence, feel fulfilled at Work, be home early, not miss the Yoga class at 11:00am etc. Having trouble scheduling meetings because “it's the new Yoga instructor lesson I cannot miss” or “I’m taking a personal day” drove me crazy. The worst thing is that this was inline with the policies and norms - I was the weirdo who wanted to push things fast and expected some level of personal sacrifice when needed. I don't believe long hours are a badge of honor but I also believe that we have to do whatever it takes to win, even if its on a weekend.
🔧 The Tool of the Week
🤓 Web3 Reading List
If you’re on Twitter, you know that everyone is obsessed with NFTs and Web3 lately. It might remain an obscure topic for most, but this reading list should help you get up to date.
"If you think something is important but people older than you don't hold it in high regard, there's a reasonable chance that you're right and they're wrong. Status lags by a generation or more."
🪐 Quote I'm Pondering
“Winning has a price. And leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled. I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. And I earned that right … Once you join the team you live at a certain standard that I play the game (at) and I wasn’t going to take anything less … I wanted to win but I wanted them to be a part of it as well.”
— Michael Jordan in The Last Dance
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