The Long Game 94: Behavior Change Through Wearables, Predicting Future Trends, Exercising for Depression
🤔 Skepticism vs. Dogma, Squat Every Day, Strategic Relocation, We Need Crypto, Pirates, Alan Watts, 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:
In this episode, we explore:
Behavior change through wearables
Positive thinking and exercising for depression
Skepticism vs. Dogma
Predicting future trends
Squat every day
Let’s dive in!
⌚ Behavior Change Through Wearables
I found this paper very good and very important for the work we’re doing at Vital.
Here’s the abstract:
Physical inactivity is a global public health problem that poses health risks to individuals and imposes financial burdens on already strained healthcare systems. Wearables that promote regular physical activity and a healthy diet bear great potential to meet these challenges and are increasingly integrated into the healthcare system.
However, extant research shows ambivalent results regarding the effectiveness of wearables in improving users’ health behavior. Specifically important is understanding users’ systematic behavior change through wearables.
Constructive digitalization of the healthcare system requires a deeper understanding of why some users change their behavior and others do not.
Based on self-leadership theory and our analysis of narrative interviews with 50 long-term wearable users, we identify four wearable use patterns that bring about different behavioral outcomes: following, ignoring, combining, and self-leading. Our study contributes to self-leadership theory and research on individual health information systems and has practical implications for wearable and healthcare providers.
For a full breakdown of the paper, here’s a good thread from Sian Allen:
I believe the psychology behind being presented with health data is vastly understudied, and it’s a huge mistake. I am sure it can be very positive if done well, but it will also create anxiety and sometimes even worsen outcomes if done poorly. Essentially, it’s a product/psychology challenge to leverage this wearable data the right way.
What are the products that are doing the best job here? Let me know!
🌥 Positive Thinking & Exercising for Depression
This week, I want to share two seemingly unrelated articles because I think they underline something important. Many of our shared beliefs about health & wellness seem true and obvious but aren’t necessarily working and might even have detrimental consequences. The bottom line isn’t sexy, but things are generally more complicated than they seem, and different people often require different things, making in-depth studies very hard.
The Problem with Positive Thinking
Positive thinking doesn’t work the way most people think.
“Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.
Some critics of positive thinking have advised people to discard all happy talk and “get real” by dwelling on the challenges or obstacles. But this is too extreme a correction. Studies have shown that this strategy doesn’t work any better than entertaining positive fantasies.
What does work better is a hybrid approach that combines positive thinking with “realism.” Here’s how it works. Think of a wish. For a few minutes, imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will. Then shift gears. Spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish.”
Exercise for depression: the evidence does not support this treatment
“All together, again, I find that exercise for depression is not a plausible treatment. It may be worth trying because it costs very little (mainly time).”
My point from this is that maybe one day science will have much clearer protocols and tools to make us feel a certain way, but in the meantime, it’s up to us to experiment and find what works for us from a set of tools that have the potential to be efficient.
🧠 Better Thinking
🤔 Skepticism vs. Dogma
As we saw last week, science should not be “The Science™.” The scientific method requires skepticism and not dogma. It seems we’re currently undergoing a crisis in science, as the field is becoming what it’s supposed to fight. What comes next is Decentralized Science or DeSci. This piece from Anirudh Pai is an excellent way to understand it:
Henceforth, the institution of Science was so successful that it became what itself once despised – a dogmatic cathedral handing out indulgences (tenure) to those who toed the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Of course, universities purported the lie that Science was the underdog to distract prying eyes from their hellish actions on students and staff; the government was a willing conspirator by bankrolling administrators who then persuaded their painfully naive students into indentured servitude.
Overpromising and underdelivering in science has been the general sine qua non of the field until now. Decentralized science, the marriage of science and crypto, is chipping away at the cathedral and, like Martin Luther, is highlighting the perverse incentives of academic research. New organizational structures like DAOs will eventually see the resurgence of fundamental science and, with it, erase the scandalous church of Science permanently.
Here are some of the DAOs you can look up if you’re interested:
Some DAOs that are already doing this include Molecule, VitaDAO, PsyDAO, and LabDAO. In fact, Vita is a pioneer in IP-NFTs, having purchased The Longevity Molecule last year, giving the DAO full legal IP rights and data access to the Scheibye-Knudsen Lab at the University of Copenhagen.
The pioneering work of these DAOs is a lodestar for anyone who is yearning for a return to fundamental science, and for those who want to avoid the contemporary dichotomy of nihilism and mendacity.
Moreover, the challenges we’ll face in the coming century – the fertility crisis; the end of NATO and America as the world’s policeman, and a nonviolent transition into becoming a multiplanetary species to name a few – all depend on a functioning, apolitical scientific apparatus.
Ultimately, decentralized science is an exciting tailwind that will underpin discoveries many of us cannot yet fathom, but more importantly, is a start to returning science to its roots, placing the quest for knowledge above politics, and ending its insidious era of dogmatism that has plagued us all.
⚡️ Startup Stuff
📡 On Predicting Future Trends
Over the last couple of months, I’ve grown more and more of the opinion that execution is the name of the game. Yet, as Sivers eloquently puts it: ideas are a multiplier of execution:
Ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.
To make a business, you need to multiply the two.
The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.
The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.
That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas.
I’m not interested until I see their execution.
So yes, execution might be the most important, but you still need to be working on something that people want.
I found this article by George Mack on predicting future trends excellent. These points are essential:
If it’s on Reddit, you’re early. If it’s on LinkedIn, you’re very late. I also recommend Twitter if you follow the right people.
If nobody mocks you, it’s a bad sign!
Mainstream topics come downstream of memes.
If you wait for the news to tell you, you will be wrong or late. Relevant here and here.
Fight the algorithms. Curate your feeds. Mute all negative/draining accounts: you become what you consume.
📚 What I Read
🏋️♀️ Squat Every Day, by Matt Perryman
I started to really enjoy high-frequency training. I’m thinking of squatting 5/6 times per week, and I’m reading this book to learn how to do it the right way.
Some key elements:
High frequency doesn’t destroy joints, quite the opposite.
Using music is not advised because it can help you push harder and then take a toll on recovery before the next session.
Right now, the approach I’m testing is a variation on the max effort method:
Every day work up to a comfortable max (RPE ≈ 9)
Then alternate every other day between 4x9@70%, 7x5@75%, 8x4@80%, and 10x3@85%.
🏔 Strategic Relocation, by Joel M Skousen
This is the book you’d prefer not to read, but… it might be useful.
I don't trust the commonly held, rosy-eyed view of life held by most people. While not a pessimist, I believe in seeing what is real in life, not what I wish it to be. I firmly believe that excessive optimism or positivism can lead to a partial blinding of our ability to see the future, especially relative to security issues. Today we live in a world awash in illusions of peace, prosperity and security and if you build your life around these illusions, they can leave you woefully unprepared when things get really bad.
💰 I was wrong, we need crypto
You don’t need crypto until you realize that “democratic” Canada can freeze the bank accounts of thousands of people just like that:
Beyond all these very real problems and challenges, my bigger beef was actually fueled by a lack of imagination. I could see the fundamental promise of a digital currency free of banks if you were living in a failing state like Venezuela or an overtly authoritarian one like China or Iran, but how was this relevant to the vast number of Bitcoin boosters living in stable Western democracies governed by the rule of law? Beyond the patina of philosophical respectability it could apply to yet another get-rich-quick scheme?
Now what's that saying again. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you. It's starting to smell like that. Just because Bitcoin's most virtuous argument was presented – in if not bad-faith then in fig-leaf-faith – by get-rich-quick boosters, doesn't mean it isn't true!
Enter the trucker protests in Canada. In just three weeks of honking, blocked streets and bridges, bouncy castles and flag waving, this peaceful protest movement managed to provoke the most shockingly authoritarian response from the Canadian government.
First the Ottawa police department got GoFundMe to confiscate donations with the intention of redirecting them to other causes, then after an outcry, they backed down to merely blocking the money for 7-10 days before refunding. That seemed like a draconian escalation completely at odds with the tens of millions of dollars raised for social justice causes during the protest summer of 2020. But at the time, I thought it was something another fund-raising platform – one less likely to collaborate with the Canadian authorities – could route around. And GiveSendGo indeed started doing just that.
Also useful for 🇺🇦
🎙 Podcast Episodes of the Week
This week in podcasts:
Freedom, PTSD, war, and life through an evolutionary lens
“In this wide-ranging discussion, Sebastian shares stories from his time as a war reporter and how it shaped his understanding of the psychological effects of combat, including the sacred bond of soldiers, the forces that unify a tribe, and the psychological mechanisms that protect humans from painful experiences.”
Nicole Perlroth: Cybersecurity and the Weapons of Cyberwar
Timely episode. The parts on Zero-day vulnerability, cyberwar, social engineering, and Snowden are particularly interesting.
Pair with: 16 Privacy Tips for Your iPhone
🍭 Brain Food
⏳ The Order of Time, by Carlo Rovelli
I picked up The Order of Time and listened to it last week. It blew my mind. 🤯
Here are a few notes—I highly recommend it.
It sounds impossible, but there’s no such thing as one objective or “true” measure of time that can be applied both in the mountains and at sea level. That’s because times are relative to one another. Each point on a map has its own time.
Heat also plays a part in this dynamic. Heat and time share a fundamental similarity – they can only travel in one direction. Time moves from past to future, while heat always moves from hotter to colder objects.
In both cases, reversing that movement is impossible. But we can only tell the past and future apart because of heat.
Without heat, nothing moves, and past, present, and future would be indistinguishable.
The concept of “the present” only works when applied to things close to us. It doesn’t make sense to ask what is happening in a different galaxy ‘right now.’ When you look at Proxima b through a telescope, you see what happened there four years ago.
The world is made up of events, not things, and there isn’t a privileged variable of time.
The present can’t be defined globally because each point in space has its own time. We also know that time isn’t an orderly succession of events from the past to the present and into the future. That means that everything that exists in any one of these three time frames must be equally real – call it eternalism.
Time is an “emergent phenomenon” that arises from our perception of the world.
Our understanding of time comes from systematically storing subjective information and experiences. Time is rooted in the internal workings of the mind and makes us who we are as a species.
🎥 What I’m Watching
🧘♂️ Alan Watts - Zen Philosophy
I’ve been enjoying those lectures from Alan Watts.
🏴☠️ Why This is the World’s Pirate Capital
Piracy has moved from East Africa to West Africa; learn why:
🔧 The Tool of the Week
🧬♾ The Longevity Guide
I found this page to be a good place for longevity resources. What are your favorite longevity resources? Share them with me!
Pair with: Reverse engineered approach to human longevity
🪐 Quote I’m Pondering
Do not love half lovers
Do not entertain half friends
Do not indulge in works of the half talented
Do not live half a life and do not die a half death
If you choose silence, then be silent
When you speak, do so until you are finished
Do not silence yourself to say something
And do not speak to be silent
If you accept, then express it bluntly
Do not mask it
If you refuse then be clear about it
for an ambiguous refusal
is but a weak acceptance
Do not accept half a solution
Do not believe half truths
Do not dream half a dream
Do not fantasize about half hopes
Half a drink will not quench your thirst
Half a meal will not satiate your hunger
Half the way will get you no where
Half an idea will bear you no results
Your other half is not the one you love
It is you in another time yet in the same space
It is you when you are not
Half a life is a life you didn't live,
A word you have not said
A smile you postponed
A love you have not had
A friendship you did not know
To reach and not arrive
Work and not work
Attend only to be absent
What makes you a stranger to them closest to you
and they strangers to you
The half is a mere moment of inability
but you are able for you are not half a being
You are a whole that exists
to live a life not half a life
— Kahlil Gibran
If you enjoyed this newsletter, make sure to subscribe if you haven’t 👇
Thanks for reading!
If you like The Long Game, please share it on social media or forward this email to someone who might enjoy it. Podcast reviews are also gratefully received. You can also “like” this newsletter by clicking the heart just below this, which helps me get visibility on Substack.
Feel free to email me or find me on Twitter if you have any feedback or questions.
Until next week,
PS: Lots of newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a big difference.