The Reis Release #11

While on the subway…

Tim Chang – Consciousness Hacking (On the Kevin Rose podcast)

Tim Chang is unlike most other VCs. His knowledge on bio/conscious hacking appears unparalleled.

On biohacking, he’s most excited about cross correlations across multiple sensors. For example, combining many biomarkers such as heart rate, heart-rate-variability, movement, and skin temp can lead to profound human insights. He mentions the evolution of wearable devices from wrist, now finger (check out Oura ring), and soon much smaller devices like an earring perhaps or maybe even something ingestible?

He is constantly doing A/B testing on biohacking. He’s realized his experiences all come back to a few basic facts and thus he renounces a lot of biohacks: Get proper sleep, eat clean, fast, move frequently, mediate, and have healthy relationships. It’s boring to hear that because we all want want silver bullets.

I really liked how he said there is “one mountain top but infinite ways to get there and that your journey isn’t necessarily right for anyone else”. Applying this to self-improvement, he suggested there are a wide swath of tools such as neurofeedback, Buddist meditation, entheogens, and binaural tools. He delves into a neurofeedback procedure he had that recorded his brainwaves and sent them back for 15 seconds. “It gets you into a deep state as if the brain is seeing itself. It was like a meditative state that would take you a week to get to but achieved in seconds.”

He recounts an anecdote and uses it as a metaphor for life. At Burning Man, diffraction glasses were distributed so when you look at light you see hearts, dollar signs, happy faces, or unhappy faces (depending on which glasses you got). The way you perceive the world shapes your reality. You wear those glasses long enough and it becomes your reality.

On slowing down time, he notes we fill our day with tiny to-dos and chores. Where does time go? What if could make every moment feel like forever. He tells of a three hour lunch in Sardinia he had that felt like it lasted for a week, making time have a fullness.

More on time, he suggests savoring the in-between moments. For example, when walking between meetings or waiting in line, think of these moments not as dead time but make it alive by noticing what’s around you.

He is skeptical of probiotics, which I have also heard from a lot of sources because they are not very “bioavailable” (i.e. despite claiming to having billions of bacteria, most of the bacteria die before you get to consume them). Then he mentioned “stool transplants” being much more effective. Yes, you read that correctly. Basically taking someone else’s stool and replacing yours to obtain their bacteria.

While in bed…

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Harari

I’ve shared before a podcast from Yuval’s book tour and most of you know him already from Sapiens. I was highlighting the book but soon found myself highlighting an entire page, then the entire next page, and then the next page. Each paragraph is so thought-provoking, even Bill Gates wrote about it. His book Sapiens was about human history/evolution, Homo Deus was about his predictions on the future of humans, and the 21 Lessons provides a philosophical and historical perspective on the present.

He begins by saying we never enjoyed peace or prosperity like this before. “For the first time in history, infectious diseases kill fewer people than old age, famine kills fewer people than obesity, and violence kills fewer people than accidents.” He soon juxtaposes this with the fact that the technological revolution might push billions out of work creating a ‘useless class’. He notes, humans have two abilities, physical and cognitive. Previously machines were only competing with us on raw physical abilities, but now AI is beginning to outperform us in more and more cognitive abilities.

I was intrigued by his arguments about AI taking over all forms of art and designing art exactly to suit our inner most desires. Of course, since your web browser is tracked, Google will know you well and, in fact, they may know you better than you know yourself by incorporating biometric sensors: “the algorithm knows it because your heart skips a beat and your oxytocin levels drop slightly whenever you hear that annoying part. The algorithm could rewrite or edit out the offending notes.” He continues that personalized art may not catch on because people “prefer common hits that everybody likes.” He claims, yet maybe with a massive biometric database the algorithm could produce global hits for millions of people.

He discusses that “during previous waves of automation, people could usually switch from one routine low-skill job to another.” However, now the jump is too hard. Yes, AI does lead to additional jobs: “the replacement of human pilots by drones eliminated some jobs but created many new opportunities in maintenance, remote control, data analysis, and cybersecurity. The US  armed forces need thirty people to operate every unmanned drone.” Taking it a step further, no job will be safe and the drone pilot may have to reinvent herself again ten years later, because flying of drones was automated. And what will that do to the human psyche? “It is far from clear that billions of people would be able to repeatedly reinvent themselves without losing their mental balance.”

He summarizes why we are at an inflection point, “For we are now at the confluence of two immense revolutions. Biologists are deciphering the mysteries of the human body, and in particularly of the brain and human feeling. At the same time computer scientists are giving us unprecedented data-processing power.” I’m completely fascinated with what is to come for a lot of these fields such as CRISPR, the microbiome, and biohacking.


“Who will have the time and energy to deal with all these illnesses? In all likelihood, we could just instruct our health algorithm to deal with most of these problems as it sees fit. At most, it will send periodic updates to our smartphones, telling us that seventeen cancerous cells were detected and destroyed. Hypochondriacs might dutifully read these updates, but most of us will ignore them, just as we ignore those annoying antivirus notices on our computers.”

“When a monkey, mouse, or human sees a snake, fear arises because millions of neurons in the brain swiftly calculate the relevant data and conclude that the probability of death is high. Feelings of sexual attraction arise when other biochemical algorithms calculate that a nearby individual offers a high probability of successfully mating, social bonding, or some other coveted goal. Moral feelings such as outrage, guilt, or forgiveness derived from neural mechanisms that evolved to enhance group cooperation. All these biochemical algorithms were honed through millions of years of evolution. If the feelings of some ancient ancestors were wrong and as a result that person made a fatal mistake, the genes shaping these feelings did not pass on to the next generation. Feelings are therefore not the opposite of rationality—they embody evolutionary rationality. We usually fail to realize that feelings are in fact calculations, because the rapid process of calculation occurs far below our threshold of awareness. We don’t feel the millions of neurons in the brain computing probabilities of survival and reproduction, so erroneously believe that our fear of snakes, our choice of sexual mates, or our opinions about the European Union are the result of some mysterious ‘free will.’

While on a walk…

What is enough? How does one reach enoughness?

I’m thinking about this in two capacities 1) trying to abide by what Adam Robinson talks about in becoming the best version of yourself which is finding magic in every moment of your life and 2) as we approach year-end, have I achieved my personal goals as well as my gave back enough.

Doing means getting the work done that is required. Doing means giving directions to tourists who stop you in the street. Doing means giving when asked.

But that surely isn’t enough. Surely you won’t be remembered when you are gone just by doing when asked.

Doing more means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to. Doing more means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions. Doing more means inviting strangers to your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal.

But is that enough? How will we know?

Doing enough means going out of your way to show a colleague you care about their work even when you didn’t have to and it’s after 10PM. Doing enough means approaching tourists on the street who look lost and offering directions and buying them a pastry at your favorite bakery. Doing enough means inviting strangers into your home on Thanksgiving who can’t afford a meal when you can barely afford it.

The only way to ensure you are doing enough is “whatever you want to do, think higher and feel deeper” as Elie Wiesel said to a crowd of 1,200 students at Boston University. Only you will know when you reached enoughness.

So will you do, do more, or do enough?

While drinking tea…

“As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” – Leonardo Da Vinci. This certainly ties in with doing enough because you’ll feel it, maybe in your sleep that night. Your body will ache of work or you’ll be in bed unable to fall asleep because of too much delight. And if you do enough, your hands will become magic wands and you’ll find a rabbit behind every hat. But of course, in the end, enough and well spent is all measured by you.

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