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What I Found Interesting in 2019

At the end of each year, I see posts from people and brands recapping the year. They post their favorite books, music, movies, plans for a resolution, and all sorts of things.

This is my scattershot version. 

Side note: I encourage you to do something like this and send it to me. There is a chance that this is posted well into January, so don’t feel bad taking time to reflect and post it late.

Health 

Let’s dive in.

My doctor explained to me is that I had high homocysteine for someone my age. This isn’t a disastrous, life-changing result for me right now by any means. 

However, considering my interest in longevity and my intensity when it comes to solving complex issues, it became a small obsession regardless. The evidence suggests that if I live with higher levels of high homocysteine it could be bad. It is correlated with all of these issues later in life.

According to Ben Lynch, Author of Dirty Genes, high homocysteine levels are associated with a gene called MTHFR. New studies are showing that MTHFR helps with the methylation cycle in your body. The methylation cycle is sort of like your body recharging the system that allows you to heal (This is what laypeople like me understand it to do).

Bad MTHFR leaves your genes with an empty battery, for lack of a better metaphor. So, even though I haven’t gotten my gene’s tested yet, the treatment is pretty similar for any dirty genes. Basically, I must clean up my diet less refined sugar, grain, alcohol, bread, and pasta. As well as taking certain liver and immune system supplements. When I feel sluggish or depressed, I relax the intake. Mostly Glutathione and phosphatidylcholine. The latter is for the PEMT gene. B12 is an important part of the mix. 

I take these when I do not have a meal with meat or eggs (rich in Choline) or if I am overindulging during the holidays, for example. This Christmas has been a good test in particular. Increasing my dosage of these supplements when folks break out the mimosas at brunch helps me protect my body.

Enough about me.

I follow other experts in the field of longevity than Ben Lynch. My favorite this year has been David Sinclair. His book Lifespan reframes longevity in a way that makes the treatment of age-related disease much more critical to our long term health than it is currently viewed by the medical community. I find this argument very persuasive as I happen to believe that most disease is treated best through preventative care than through reactive medicine, or, as I call it, too-late-to-care. 

Sinclair’s book focuses on a derivative of niacin that helps your genes in a different way than that of the supplements my doctor and I discuss (Glutathione and Choline). This molecule is called NMN which is a precursor to NAD+. NAD+ helps your sirtuins (part of your epigenome) stay plentiful and active. This process is like keeping the blueprints for your DNA error-free which means, over the lifetime of your cells’ birth and death, they do not lose any of their original design information intent. Sinclair references information loss theory. In summary, when the body makes new cells, it can easily read the gene blueprints when they are kept healthy.

Now, I have to admit, me following and understanding all of this has been challenging and I have to intentionally dumb it down for my own understanding. There are a lot of details that will be best to get from the sources provided below. 

Lastly, in regards to individual healthcare, one of the organs that comes up over and over again is the liver. Maybe it is one of the common denominators in all of this. It seems that if you don’t do what you can to take care of it, that’s when things start to go wrong. How you avoid this, you would need to find out based on your own personal health and lifestyle. For me, finding an integrative doctor was a good start. They tend to focus on preventative care rather than too-late-to-care. 

Speaking of integrative doctors. The following really interested me in regards to the current healthcare discussion in the U.S.

I heard a great podcast with a surgery center that was profitable without taking insurance. During the podcast, the owner of the center discusses with the podcast host the costs of the care, how the poor are treated, corruption through status quo ideals, and other interesting facets of our country’s current issue with healthcare. 

To my surprise, this business is able to do all of the things politicians claim to do all by eliminating the incentives that lead to price gauging, rewarding doctors who help those in need and showing patients a transparent price. During the podcast, we find out the price ends up being close to the same price as the final insurance deducible that the patient pays anyway. The only difference? No 3rd party intervention is necessary. The loser? Not the patient.

During the podcast, the interviewee said patients flew in from all over the world for surgery. A significant number of them from countries that have some form of complicated healthcare systems. I have never understood how insurance got so entangled in our healthcare. Insurance is gambling, but statistics and smart risk analysts make it seem like a certainty business. If anything, my view is that insurance and healthcare need to be untangled if the public ever expects to pay reasonable prices.

Give it a listen. You may find a new opinion about healthcare. 

Decision Making

When it comes to decision making, I found Thinking In Bets to be an interesting take on the process of making decisions. The author, Annie Duke, has become known for her take on this process from her experiences as a poker player. 

The book describes decision making as a series of steps or a process, rather than a binary option. This was a good read about minimizing risk and maximizing the likelihood of your preferred outcome. I think similar to Annie in this way since I enjoy organization optimization and efficiency

The most interesting part of the book was towards the end. She discusses part of decision making as the pursuit of truth. Or, in more mechanical language, finding errors to further optimize the process. During my creation and on-going refinement of Cause-Oriented Efficiency, I have also wondered how to pursue truth much like the scientific method, but at a higher level. The main problem with facts is being able to prove they are, in fact, not subjective.

With people, it is tough to set up the right environment with the right rules. Annie solved this by creating a structure within her poker group which incentivized them to error correct towards recalling the most truthful version of the game that they were discussing. This enhanced the accuracy of their error discovery. Once you have an accurate problem, the solution is more likely to be identified which is a step towards being solved.

My methodology is similar in this way because the pursuit of truth is a foundational pillar of how to start identifying problems (read more about it on this site). 

Body Language

When it comes to my interactions with people, I try to be present. A good listener. I listened to the book called The Power of Body Language by Joe Navarro, a former FBI interrogator. 

If you want to be present during a conversation, this book is a good way to start. It helps you identify some meta-levels of a given conversation by paying attention to other queues besides simply focusing on the words in the conversation. It is not all the body. There is a mix of intuition and reasoning that has to be applied.

Some of the other queues I now can’t help but notice are the direction a person’s body is facing while they talk, their shoulders, their face, their feet, and some other things. All of this can tell you the feeling of the person, even if the words are saying something else. You have probably heard that words are only 10% of the conversation and I think that is pretty close to true.

Uncle Joe

Joe Rogan is a favorite show host of mine. His podcast The Joe Rogan Experience is huge now. My girlfriend and I call him Uncle Joe. He has a lot of great episodes this year, but two stood out to me.

  1. Naval Ravikant (Episode #1309). The recurring message in this episode is that you create your own happiness. Allowing yourself to become the victim robs you of your agency and ability to take responsibility for your actions whether good or bad. It is a good reminder at any time in your life.
  2. Alex Jones (Episode #1255). Alex Jones is an incredibly telling reflection of our society. Partly because of the absurdity of his style whether real or symbolic. The mere fact that he has a national audience demonstrates either the ability of people to understand the hyperbolic performance as such or the fact that there is a powerful, enticing disillusionment filling the minds of millions (hopefully for entertainment purposes only). 

Memory

On Hidden Brain, an NPR podcast, the host discusses memory in one of the newest episodes. How, unlike the stories we believe to be true, memory is not a static piece of life that we get to recall at a moment’s notice. We can only access memories as they were experienced for a limited time. Very quickly they are altered to fit our preexisting biases and conforming to older patterns of thoughts that already exist within our being. 

Add the lack of perfect sensory experience to this confusion. What I mean is, you will never experience a situation outside yourself, much less through the infinite perspectives the experience is potentially sensed with or occurring in.

It is no wonder that throughout history, the most effective civilizations have had a grand narrative to tie directly into their being. Perhaps grand narratives allow us to associate our experience with others as we move through the world making decisions together (forming our history). The idea that some actions are bad and some are good is also tied to these narratives. Which makes some types of group-think very dangerous while others are prosperous.

The Portal 

Another interesting thing this year was the rise of the Portal podcast with Eric Weinstein. He is a well-known figure who rose to prominence by attributing the name to the Intellectual Dark Web to some figures on the internet. The first episode with Peter Thiel was really interesting. They discussed how systems like higher education have become too old and monolithic. My words, not theirs. During the discussion, I picked up on the contrarian nature of Peter Thiel and his stance on modern topics. Contrarianism isn’t necessarily right but at this moment, it definitely sounds like a calm breeze blowing over a grassy hillside after a large storm. One of the interesting tidbits of info Peter dropped in this podcast is his appreciation of René Girard. The reflective look at the memetic nature of people in groups (paragraph #3) leads us in odd places in society. I drew a lot of my own conclusions from this that they did not really discuss. 

In another podcast with Anna Khachiyan, Eric and Anna discuss, among other things, “…her project of the reconstructed feminine combining irreverent intellectual dominance with a return to valuing motherhood informed by her claims on Soviet & American heritage.”

I’m not sure what I enjoyed about this one in a word. Maybe it was the sarcasm and how they almost sounded like twitter memes talking with each other. I liked Anna for her honesty and ability to articulate her thoughts on society in a way that I had not heard.

Conclusion

In closing, here are the thoughts I have been dwelling on this year. I guess you could say they stemmed from or included my interest in the above topics.

While we have been at peace for one of the longest periods in human history, to use Dan Carlin’s metaphor, perhaps we have forgotten that the gun is still aimed at our head. In society, as could be with technology, we don’t fully understand the consequences of what we are participating in innovating. Enlightenment thinkers like Steven Pinker are great at pointing out the worldwide decrease in violence, our increase in prosperity and liberty.

That’s comforting and all, yet even though we have discovered our ability to be more tolerant towards other views, we have also, therefore, accepted more grand narratives to guide our global interconnected lives. Moral relativism confuses the heck out of ethics. Add to this that news cycles have increased their exploitation of guilt and shame to sell more advertising space. This makes a somewhat foggy day more like ash clouds during a volcano eruption. Consumerism, in my opinion, has dominated our grand narrative lens for interpreting the world by disguising itself as a necessary evolutionary admission of our animalistic hierarchical nature. The exploitation of the self-centeredness of the world during the early 20th century by large institutions seems to have just begun. 

These are some big trends that could go right or wrong. Not that we have gotten things right in the past, but perhaps we have some work to do if we really want to have a system of non-violence mixed with liberty. In my opinion, we need to be open to finding commonalities with each other to build a foundation in which to continue our exploration into the new.

One of the words that continually surfaces in my mind is “logos” (typically used to convey meaning itself). In the book Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl tells the story of himself as an Auschwitz survivor. As an early psychologist, he coined the term Logotherapy (meaning therapy). What he said helped his patients find meaning was typically the adoption of responsibility. Not in the sense, that you have a list of chores to do, but that understanding that without us (people who live), the endless potential of the universe is never realized in a way that matters. This is because as humans one of our primary faculties is reasoning and decision making (as individuals and groups). What he pointed out was that even though he was in a concentration camp, he still had the ability to find small bits of happiness in suffering (paraphrasing). This was a decision or him taking responsibility for the current problem and using his agency to decide how to treat the situation.

Jordan Peterson said:

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality (it means acting to please God, in the ancient language).

Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

In my opinion, this trend of consuming is blinding us and we are using our most important faculties on an illusory meaning which is poisoning our society. Instead, in 2020, I am going to try to focus on becoming a meaning creator, not a meaning consumer. It is my belief that the all-consuming self is a quick way to find hell. Instead, I am going to try to focus on rising above myself to make better decisions, believe in truthful speech and pay attention. Have a wonderful year. 

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