A Few Things....

October 30, 2019

A. Would you like to meet your great great grandkids ? Increasing both our life and health span continues to be a strong interest of mine.

I just finished David Sinclair’s Lifespan this weekend, and one of the great charts (original Nature paper here) in it is below.

Quoting from the book:

It turns out that the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year fighting cardiovascular disease. But if we could stop all cardiovascular disease - every single case, all at once - we wouldn’t add many years to the average lifespan; the gain would be just 1.5 years. The same is true for cancer; stopping all forms of that scourge would give us just 2.1 more years of life on average, because all other causes of death still increase exponentially. We’re still aging, after all.

Aging in it’s final stages is like a fast sprint over an ever-higher and ever-closer set of hurdles. One of the hurdles will eventually send you for a tumble. Take away one hurdle, and the path forward is really no less precarious. That’s why the current solutions, which are focused on curing individual diseases, are both very expensive and very ineffective when it comes to making big advance in prolonging our healthspans. What we need are medicines that knock down all the hurdles.

Based on what I’ve seen in the last few months, I think that it’s very likely that a newborn today will see it’s 150th birthday, in fact if you are a 30-50 year old in reasonably good shape, you could get to 120 also.

Here’s how David Sinclair does the math (paraphrasing):

Firstly average life expectancy in the US is 79 years..…Let’s assume that each of the vastly different monitoring technologies emerging over the next fifty years will cumulatively give us a decade (seems conservative to me). Things like DNA monitoring, regular EKGs, breath analyzers…..

Taking better care of yourself by eating well and staying active will easily get you five years.

Molecules that bolster our survival circuit, putting our longevity genes to work, have offered between 10 to 40 percent more healthy years in animal studies. But if you assume 10 percent, that gives you eight years (things like Metformin, NAD, NMN, Resveratrol, Rapamycin….)

Lastly technology like 3D printing of organs, resetting your epigenome, and genetically modifying our bodies likely gets us another decade.

That’s 33 extra years on top of the 79 we had, so you could average life expectancy easily reach 112 years. That’s a very different life. How would you live if you thought you could see your great great grand kids ? How would you make your decisions ?

One of the arguments that people make against extending lifespans is that the Earth can’t sustain it. I thought so too…..

But here is the math, if you could prevent every single death, every day. That would be 150,000 people a day or 55 million a year. That’s on top of a 7.5 bn world population, so an annual growth of less than 0.7% of the global population if we stopped every death permanently. I think we can find ways to cope with that.

One of the best ways you can extend your life (and save the environment) starting today is switch to a plant based diet. After reading a bunch of papers and books, that’s where I find myself. I’ve switched 4-5 of my weekly meals to be plant based only. It turns out that the best athletes are doing it too - check out the Netflix show - Game Changer.

It turns out Roman Gladiators were vegetarian!


B. Populism continues to spread. One of my clients asked me to read Money Land: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World by Oliver Bullough.

Moneyland is a country you’ve probably never heard of. It does not appear on any map. Nor, beyond their collective wealth, do its residents possess identifiable national characteristics….and that is what has likely brought our democracies to this place.

To quote from the beginning of the book:

Once upon a time, if an official stole money in his home country, there wasn’t much he could do with it. He could buy himself a new car, or build himself a nice house, or give it to his friends and relatives, but that was more or less it. His appetites were limited by the fact that the local market could not absorb endless sums of money. If he kept stealing after that, the money would just build up his house until he had no rooms left to put it in, or it was eaten by mice.

Offshore finance changes that. Some people call shell companies getaway cars for dodgy money, but - when combined with the modern financial system - they’re more like magical teleporter boxes……

The book is a clever and entertaining exploration of the parallel and poisonous realm of tax havens and shell companies and it was one of those books that helped me connect a lot of disparate events like the Hong Kong protests to Hariri resigning in Lebanon to the make America great again movement and Putin’s Russia.

Because of the ideas covered in the book and structural failure on the part of many institutions, the next generation is growing up in a world where they see limited opportunities for wealth creation and the price of most things are so high that it’s hard to be independent without help from your parents (even grandparents).

The wealth divide is great and for most people the choices are either a) be a ‘serf’ or b) roll the dice - have a start up and hope you are the 1-5% that make it. Many entrepreneurs have said as much to me.

If you’re interested in learning more check out the book or watch The Laundromat movie which covers the Panama Papers in a super entertaining way.


C. Habits that have a high rate of return in life:

- sleeping 8+ hours each day

- lifting weights 3x week

- going for a walk each day

- saving at least 10 percent of your income

- reading every day

- drinking more water and less of everything else

- leaving your phone in another room while you work

H/T James Clear


D. A few things worth checking out:

1. The Hedonic Treadmill - The technologies we have today could allow us all to work less and live better lives. The reasons we don’t and aren’t, are social and economic, not technical.

2. Building great companies and Level 5 leadership - Jim Collins was on the Knowledge Project podcast discussing what differentiates Level 5 leaders and how companies can stay great.

3. Dyson and the art of making quick decisions - Avoiding painful decisions is a common problem, as companies prove almost every day. James Dyson, on the other hand, is "unsentimental about unsuccessful experiments" and he recently decided to abandon his long-held, expensive project to develop an electric vehicle.


Quotes I’ve been thinking about:

“When I work I have no sunk costs. I like changing my mind. Some people really don’t like it but for me changing my mind is a thrill. It’s an indication that I’m learning something. So I have no sunk costs in the sense that I can walk away from an idea that I’ve worked on for a year if I can see a better idea.

It’s a good attitude for a researcher. The main track that young researchers fall into is sunk costs. They get to work on a project that doesn’t work and that is not promising but they keep at it. I think too much persistence can be bad for you in the intellectual world.”

- Daniel Kahneman

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