The Long Game 83: Wearable Data & Lifestyle Modifications, Emotional Intelligence, Optionality, Blood Testing
🌇 The Long-Awaited Revolution in Architecture, Pareto Security, Life Beyond 3, Techno-Optimism, Genopets, 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 now looking for:
Senior Backend Engineer [Python, Django]
Senior Frontend Engineer [Flutter]
We offer $1,000 in Bitcoin if you refer to us a candidate we hire.
In this episode, we explore:
Lifestyle modification using wearable data
The decline of emotional intelligence
The long-awaited revolution in architecture
Understanding blood tests
Let’s dive in!
💍 Lifestyle Modification Using a Wearable Biometric Ring and Guided Feedback Improve Sleep and Exercise Behaviors
I found this recent study very interesting. Here’s the abstract:
Purpose: Wearable biometric monitoring devices (WBMD) show promise as a cutting edge means to improve health and prevent disease through increasing accountability. By regularly providing real-time quantitative data regarding activity, sleep quality, and recovery, users may become more aware of the impact that their lifestyle has on their health. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of a biometric tracking ring on improving sleep quality and increasing physical fitness over a one-year period.
Methods: Fifty-six participants received a biometric tracking ring and were placed in one of two groups. One group received a 3-month interactive behavioral modification intervention (INT) that was delivered virtually via a smartphone app with guided text message feedback (GTF). The other received a 3-month non-directive wellness education control (CON). After three months, the INT group was divided into a long-term feedback group (LT-GTF) that continued to receive GTF for another nine months or short-term feedback group (ST-GTF) that stopped receiving GTF. Weight, body composition, and VO2max were assessed at baseline, 3months, and 12months for all participants and additionally at 6 and 9months for the ST-GTF and LT-GTF groups. To establish baseline measurements, sleep and physical activity data were collected daily over a 30-day period. Daily measurements were also conducted throughout the 12-month duration of the study.
Results: Over the first 3months, the INT group had significant (p<0.001) improvements in sleep onset latency, daily step count, % time jogging, VO2max, body fat percentage, and heart rate variability (rMSSD HRV) compared to the CON group. Over the next 9months, the LT-GTF group continued to improve significantly (p<0.001) in sleep onset latency, daily step count, % time jogging, VO2max, and rMSSD HRV. The ST-GTF group neither improved nor regressed over the latter 9months except for a small increase in sleep latency.
Conclusion: Using a WBMD concomitantly with personalized education, encouragement, and feedback, elicits greater change than using a WBMD alone. Additionally, the improvements achieved from a short duration of personalized coaching are largely maintained with the continued use of a WBMD.
This is a very encouraging result showing the power wearable technology will have in the future. As you know, we are working on making this future a reality at Vital.
💌 Other news in Health:
If you’re into NFTs, I recommend checking Apex Optimizers, the first NFT collaborative project focused exclusively on health and human performance optimization across sleep, nutrition, fitness, mental clarity, and more. Owning an Apex Optimizer gives you access to health brands, top athletes, products, giveaways, and a community with experts in human performance.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong announces NewLimit, a new longevity company 🧬♾
📉 The Precipitous Decline of Emotional Intelligence
Some bad news! And maybe a reminder to drop the phone and use Opal.
The Current Research
The lead author of the present study searched for previous research using the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire, which was conducted between 2001 and 2019. The researchers also limited inclusion in the meta-analysis to those studies involving college student samples from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The present research included 70 studies with nearly 17,000 participants. The researchers then conducted a “cross-temporal meta-analysis” to examine changes in emotional intelligence over time, controlling for the age of the cohorts. They sought to determine “whether societal-level changes have coincided with changes in trait EI [emotional intelligence] in young adults.”
The researchers found (when controlling for gender as well as the country where the study was conducted) that time was significantly negatively associated with three facets of emotional intelligence: well-being, self-control, and emotionality. Furthermore, the declines in emotional intelligence were “stronger as the proportion of females in the sample decrease[d].” The authors also conducted supplementary analyses showing that access to technology in each of the countries was “associated with lower levels of well-being and self-control.”
The authors speculate that the rapid rise in young adults’ use of social media might be responsible for some of the declines in emotional intelligence. “In-person social interaction provides greater opportunity for emotional closeness and bonding compared to online communication, which is problematic if individuals are replacing in-person social interactions with online communication.” Changes in society over the past two decades may also be responsible for “generational decreases in empathy and increases in depression and anxiety symptoms” as well as “increases in mood disorders, suicide ideation, and suicide attempts.”
🧠 Better Thinking
🛣 You Don’t Need Optionality, Go All-In
I’ve already written multiple times about optionality and how it has become modern life’s happiness killer. Still, I had an interesting conversation over the weekend that pushed me to revisit some articles about this.
This piece explains perfectly the trouble with optionality:
The shortest distance between two points is reliably a straight line. If your dreams are apparent to you, pursue them. Creating optionality and buying lottery tickets are not way stations on the road to pursuing your dreamy outcomes. They are dangerous diversions that will change you.
By emphasizing optionality, these students ignore the most important life lesson from finance: the pursuit of alpha. Alpha is the macho finance shorthand for an exemplary life. It is the excess return earned beyond the return required given risks assumed. It is finance nirvana.
But what do we know about alpha? In short, it is very hard to attain in a sustainable way and the only path to alpha is hard work and a disciplined dedication to a core set of beliefs. Given the ambiguity over the correct risk-adjusted benchmark, one never even knows if one has attained alpha. It is the golden ring just beyond your reach—and, one must enjoy the pursuit of alpha, given its fleeting and distant nature. Ultimately, finding a pursuit that can sustain that illusion of alpha is all we can ask for in a life’s work.
Another of my favorites on the topic is this one:
Commitment need not be for life or even particularly long term, but the refusal to commit to something at all can defeat the purpose of doing it in the first place. It’s a Faustian bargain: trading away impact for optionality.
Make no choices, keep all options open, pay the price.
In other words, burn the boats.
I think a big reason people want to maintain optionality at all cost is related to not having a clear understanding of how the “dream life” looks and feel in real life. Once you understand that the life that’s being advertised doesn’t exist and that, no matter what you choose to do, it will be hard, you can leave this wrong idea of optionality and dedicate yourself to something meaningful for you. No one writes it better than Morgan Housel:
Instagram is full of beach vacation photos, not flight delay photos. Resumes highlight career wins but are silent on doubt and worry. Investing gurus are easy to elevate to mythical status because you don’t know them well enough to witness times when their decision-making process was ordinary, if not awful.
The problem is that when you are keenly aware of your own struggles but blind to others’, it’s easy to assume you’re missing some skill or secret that others have. It’s a sure path to feeling inadequate.
Everyone’s dealing with problems they don’t advertise, at least until you get to know them well. Keep that in mind and you become less envious and more forgiving – to yourself and others.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
📚 Books of the Moment
I have a startup-related book backlog at the moment! I’ve been paying more and more attention to the timing of the books I read. Right now, I try to focus 80% of my reading on the current work we’re doing at Vital. Whenever I feel a book isn’t right for our current challenges, I leave it for later.
The books I’m focused on right now are about product and communities. I’m currently reading these three. I’ll share more about those next week:
Let me know if you have book recommendations for this theme!
📚 What I Read
🌐 Great Protocol Politics
The 21st century doesn’t belong to China, the United States, or Silicon Valley. It belongs to the internet.
Traditional geopolitics of the Mackinder school of thought concerns itself with the eternal location of territorial powers. Russia and Japan might have different ideologies over time, but their geography remains constant—or so the argument goes.
However, the internet is adding a new dimension to this. It is not merely a passive data layer that states enable and contest but a new kind of geography comparable in scope to the physical world. Think of it as a digital Atlantis—a new continent floating in the cloud where old powers compete and new powers arise. Within this cloud continent, the unit of distance between two people is not the travel time between their positions on the globe but rather the degrees of separation in their social networks.
🧬 Techno-Optimism for 2022
What you should be excited about for 2022:
The energy revolution
AI, Nanotech, Space
🐶 Genopets Whitepaper
I’ve been very interested in the intersection of web 3 and health. Genopets is precisely at this intersection.
Genopets is a blockchain-based virtual gaming metaverse that is shaped and molded by your real life actions. Living in a parallel digital universe intimately connected to our own is your digital familiar, your spirit animal, your Genopet.
It is born and nurtured through your mind and body data, captured by your wellness wearables. As you evolve, it evolves. Challenge yourself physically and mentally to unlock your Genopet’s full potential, your full potential.
As you and your Genopet bond and mature together, set out and explore a mysterious and expansive realm. Build a cozy home for your Genopet, battle for tokens in the PvP Arena, form a powerful tribe with your friends. Discover, conquer, and create realms for others to explore.
As you play, your health data is stored and secured under your sole ownership forever, transformed into a valuable digital asset you can lease to medical researchers to aid in their life-saving research.
Genopets introduces a heart-warming and financially rewarding way for us to all become healthier - physically, mentally, and emotionally - together.
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week
This week in podcasts:
Neal Stephenson: Sci-Fi, Space, Aliens, AI, VR & the Future of Humanity
A wide-ranging conversation on space exploration, aliens, climate change, VR vs. AR, and more. When it comes to space exploration and aliens. I’m always surprised to see people think that potential alien civilizations would follow a similar logic to ours. Saying “I don’t understand why X civilization would do Y” makes no sense to me. Could a human living 2,000 years ago understand modern humans posting pictures on social media to get “likes”?
Neal Stephenson concluded with something important: the best advice to young people is to find something you enjoy doing because that’s the only way you’ll be able to sustain a high intensity (close to obsession) and make big things happen.
Erasing Fears & Traumas Based on the Modern Neuroscience of Fear
An essential episode if you want to get a clear understanding of the latest science of how to take care of fears and traumas.
🍭 Brain Food
🌇 When is the Revolution in Architecture Coming?
This is an excellent piece exploring why modern architecture is so boring compared to past architectures.
New (a recent winner of the Pritzker Prize):
Why are the new celebrated monuments much less aesthetically pleasing than the old ones?
The fact that beauty is both subjective and objective means that a thing can be beautiful to some people and not to others. I think it is fair to say that Pritzker Prize-winning buildings are beautiful to architects, who clearly receive pleasure from looking at them. They are just not beautiful to me. I suspect they are not to the majority of people, either, or at least I suspect that the majority of people get (objectively) more pleasure out of looking at the ancient buildings of the first half of my presentation than the contemporary buildings in the second half. I believe definitive proof of this is that tourists come from all over the world to just to look at Hindu temples, Japanese gardens, the French Quarter, Venice, and Gaudi’s buildings in Barcelona. People literally plan entire trips, carrying themselves across the world, just so they can be near these buildings and drink them in up close. I cannot imagine anyone who is not an architect visiting the Pritzker Prize buildings.
Why? Is it just because the first buildings are “old?” I do not think it is. Instead, I think that people do not visit the contemporary buildings because they do not give certain feelings to the viewer, feelings that people enjoy feeling. They do not amaze, enchant, or make the jaw drop. They lack the kind of intricacy that means you can stare at them endlessly and keep finding new things. They feel dead. Architect Christopher Alexander, whose work I cite frequently, would say that they lack what he calls “the quality without a name,” which he uses to describe a certain kind of quality that places can have that gives us a certain kind of feeling that is difficult to describe but nonetheless real. Alexander argues that our subjective feelings matter, and so “word associations” assessments like the one above do matter. If a place feels cold and off-putting and you don’t want to visit it, well, it’s badly-designed, unless the purpose is to repel people, in which case it is well-designed but just strangely sociopathic.
What is missing from the contemporary prize-winners above? My own feeling is that there are a few things that spark feelings of delight in a place that are missing:
Lots of plants and patterns from nature
Sense of history
“Places for the birds” (to be explained)
More controversially: feelings of “life” and “beauty”
I’m lucky enough to be working two blocks away from Illa de la Discòrdia:
🎥 What I’m Watching
👽 Life Beyond 3: In Search of Giants
From the creators of Journey to the End of Time (the most beautiful and powerful video on Youtube.)
💉 Blood Work for Athletic Performance: What to Order, Look For, & How to Interpret
I’ve been going down the blood test analysis rabbit hole lately. It’s so hard to understand results, and the whole process is broken. This is a good video about this. I’ll share more on this topic soon.
🔧 The Tool of the Week
🔒 Pareto Security
I found out about Pareto Security a couple of days ago. It’s a tool that will help you avoid the common security mistakes on your mac. It has 33 security checks, runs automatically in the background, and is transparent and private.
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
"You find therefore, that if you get with reality,
All sorts of illusions disappear,
All sorts of illusions disappear
But you must remember, that the secret to all this is:
Not to be afraid of fear
When you can really allow yourself to be afraid
And you dont resist the experience of fear
You are truly beginning to master fear
But when you refuse to be afraid
You are resisting fear
And that simply sets up a different show
Being afraid of fear and being afraid of being afraid of fear
If then you try, to obliterate fear
You're working in the wrong way
To attack fear is to strengthen it
As if you were God, that is to say that you don't trust anybody
And you're dictator to have to keep everybody in line
You lose the divine
'Cause what you're doing is simply defending yourself
So then principles is:
The more you give it away, the more it comes back
Leaning of the fact that everything is dissolving constantly
We are falling apart
We are all in the process of constant death
Then you truly understand, that you don't have to let go
Because there's nothing to hold on to."
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