Category Archives: Reis Release

The Reis Release #15

The Reis Release aims to share thought provoking articles, podcasts, questions, and quotes related (sometimes loosely) to business and tech. I do this because I enjoy sharing content with friends, it helps me gather my thoughts, and motivates me to seek more. Each day I search for that article, podcast, interview, etc that provides that inspirational feeling, like the first time I heard Mr. Tambourine Man live.

While on the subway…

After listening to a Mitch Albom interview, I decided to read Tuesdays with Morrie. I’ve been wanting to read this book since my mom chose a powerful excerpt  for a reading at my bar-mitzvah. I can’t believe I waited this long! There’s so much to say about it.

This is how I felt about Tuesday’s With Morrie. It’s a thing that is so good you want to savor it. You want to slow play time as you are falling in love with it and hope to return to that moment many times over. It’s like while enjoying a vacation or a Levain (I mean vegan) cookie, you try to savor it and never want it to end.

I also realized short good books (after this week and On the Shortness of Life from Seneca from last week) go well with my attention span. They don’t drag on and thus I don’t get stuck in them.

Onto the book. Morrie often repeats that by learning how to die, he learned how to live and philosophizes while on his death bed to his former favorite student (Mitch) who he had lost touch with. Interestingly, Mitch is afraid to face Morrie because he is the anti-thesis of many of his points on life, having been focused only on work, materialism, and power for the 16 years.

Morrie is a modern day Seneca and here are some quotes that resonated with me.

“Everyone knows they are going to die but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”

“Do as the Buddists do. Every day, have a little bird on your shoulder that asks, ‘Is today the day? Am I ready? Am I doing all I need to do? Am I being the person I want to be?'”

“I give myself a good cry if I need it. But then I concentrate on all the good things still in my life. On the people who are coming to see me. On the stories I’m going to hear.”

“In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right? But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.”

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

While in bed…

One Strange Rock (on National Geographic. The first episode is free)

Okay, with a line up like this, there are high expectations. National Geographic + NASA’s best astronauts + Will Smith narrating. The first episode did deliver and I’m told by a friend he re-watched the series 2x already. A mix of nature, science, and technology. This hit a lot of my sweet spots. If you haven’t guessed it yet, the strange rock is Earth. The first episode takes you all over the world (an universe) from a flying river in the Amazon (if it were on the ground, it would biggest river in the world), to collapsing glaciers in Norway, and explains how the oceans, rainforests and deserts have a symbiosis via diatoms (single-celled algae). I found it fascinating that astronauts upon returning to Earth all seemingly no longer have a sense of nationalism but a deep sense that the Earth is one shared place with humans, the environment, and other living beings being crew-mates. Similar to what Morrie says, “We all have the same beginning–birth–and we all have the same end–death. So how different can we be? Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those that you love and love.” Separately, I feel the internet and cryptocurrencies are also making the world feel like one shared place.

Preview:

The Amazon (not the company) produces 20x the oxygen needed for all the people in the world, yet all of that oxygen is consumed by the plethora of animal and plant life in the Amazon consumes it (i.e. it does not nourish any humans)!

Why do you see different colors on the surface of the earth/ocean from space? It’s because of the color of trillions of microscopic diatoms which are the secret source of Earth’s oxygen supply!

Dead diatoms that fell to the bottom of the ocean long ago ultimately became salt flats in Africa and this dust reaches and nourishes the Amazon!

It’s still a mystery that Earth’s balance of oxygen has remained constant at 20.9% for thousands of years despite population growth and industrialization.

While on a walk…

Right now I spend roughly an hour a week at Whole Foods. A hundred and fifty years ago a person may have spent an entire day traveling to town to go the the market.

In the next decade, people will think I can’t believe you did that, the old way. You actually drove your own car? You actually went food shopping?

Soon our pantry, fridge, and freezer may feature Amazon’s “dash button” and automatically deliver the items which are running low. This will save countless hours spent shopping for food over a lifetime. Maybe even a chef robot can prepare a meal?

While there’s definitely a benefit of going to the store such as running into a neighbor or getting to choose the exact strawberries that I want (e.g. the ones that still have a fresh smell lingering), I think I’d rather spend that hour playing soccer. Anyway, at this point, I’m not sure an algorithm can support the way I buy food which is detailed below.

My food hierarchy:
* Avoid meat, dairy, processed food, and added sugar (i.e. a plant based diet).
* Cook my own food.
* Buy organic whole foods.
* Buy local/sustainable products.
* Eat seasonally.
* Seek diversity in diet over specialization (i.e. a smoothie with 20 ingredients may not taste as good as one with just 4).
* Buy products without packaging. If not possible, buy in bulk to avoid plastic/packaging waste.
* Save food scraps for composting.
* Freeze food to avoid potential food waste.
* When items are on sale, purchase additional to save for future use.
* If you must eat pork, it has to be the best kind.
* When on vacation, it’s okay to digress in order to experience the culture.

While drinking tea…

How would you feel if you were retiring abruptly from the job you love and your life was going to be cut short?

Well here’s what Lou Gehrig at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium in 1939 stated as he was heading into retirement after finding out he had ALS.

“For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.” (Here is the complete speech).

I found this ironic because Gehrig held the consecutive games played streak at 2,130 and was known as the “iron man” of baseball. He was healthy yet misfortune got the best of him. What I love about his mentality and this playing streak is that it indicates he did what he loved everyday and reflecting back he had no regrets on how he lived each day over his 17-year career. Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day was a culmination of a fulfilled career (and life) despite only being 37 years old. 62,000 fans came out to cheer him on.

The Reis Release #14

While on the subway…

On the Shortness of Life (De Brevitate Vitae) – From Seneca

I found these moral essays from a Naval Ravikant recommendation and to my surprise Amazon let me “borrow” it for free with their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library , which is apparently offered to Prime members, albeit the book costs $0.99! This adaption of the work of the famous stoic, Seneca, is easily digested despite being “written” circa 49AD. I found his points provocative: questioning how one spends time on seemingly meaningless pursuits (for me, surfing the internet or checking my email constantly) rather than “learning how to live”. I was surprised how many of his “lessons” hold today and he frequently suggests that people of his day too had so many distractions despite no social media! Some of my favorite excerpts are below.

“Reasons for anxiety will never be lacking, whether born of prosperity or of unhappiness; life pushes on in a succession of engrossments.”

“There is nothing the busy man is less occupied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn. Of the arts there are many teachers everywhere; some of them we have seen that mere boys have studied so thoroughly that they could even play the master. It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and—what will perhaps make you wonder more—it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.”

“Life is amply long for the person who uses it wisely.”

“No one is willing to distribute their money, yet among how many people do we see the distribution of their life! In guarding their fortune people are often tightfisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, which is the one thing they should have the right to be miserly over, they show themselves most uncontrolled.”

While in bed…

What lies 2 miles below the earth’s surface? (60 Minutes segment. Watch it soon before it goes behind their paywall)

This was a fascinating episode for three reasons. One, I’m a former gold bug and the segment details the operations of a gold mine. Apparently mines are diminishing at a rapid rate (e.g. of the 11 longtime goldmines in the area of South Africa, only three are still around) because now they must dig so deep to extract the gold which is too costly. Two, I felt like this was the real life version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. “We plunge 450 stories straight down. It’s the longest elevator ride on Earth. Picture five of New York’s World Trade Centers stacked on top of each other. We dropped two miles in a couple of minutes and emerged in an underground city. The noise from the drills is deafening. Massive air conditioners cool the tunnels but it can still reach 120 degrees down here.” And three, the depth of the cave drew a Princeton Professor of geoscience to research there and he uncovered water that is over a billion years old, ancient salt (he’s been searching for twenty years for this type), and tiny worms living in a pocket of water 5,000 years old! I bet there’s no plastic in that water . Also, the finding of these new creatures led them to think that it’s worth digging for life on Mars!

While on a walk…

How many is enough? 59. I have 59 tabs open right now on my browser.

A few opened today. Several open for days. Many open for a week. Most open for weeks. Some open for a month.

I can’t close them. Why? I tell myself it’s because I have a voracious appetite for learning but I realized that is all wrong.

Our thinking is that everything matters. We have to go onto the next thing, then the next thing, and the next thing. We think each click matters. It turns out very few of them matter. The clicks that do matter such as learning how the wolves came back to Yellowstone  can change your life but these are one in a hundred or maybe even one in a thousand.

Did you ever check your browsing history for a day? It looks like a never-ending list of clicks. Which of these clicks were actually meaningful? If you only had three clicks per day, what would you click?

While drinking tea…

“Chiming in on the issue of day is a trap because it protects us from having to take responsibility for a larger point of view. If Descartes had spent most of his time chiming in on the intrigues of the court we would’ve never benefited from any of his work. We don’t care which duke was hurting which baron of those days. Most of it is not very good entertainment and I don’t want to be part of that cycle.” – Seth Godin on the Good Life Project podcast . This is the best articulation of why I’m off social media and prefer to stay away from nearly all news. Said another way, by Naval, “I don’t care about current events because it’s temporal and I’d rather talk about something permanent”.

The Reis Release #13

While on a walk…

Well in this case, not on a walk but on a run. Have you tried “plogging” which is a new fitness craze sweeping Sweden and the world? While running, carry a bag, and pick up trash along the way. While this may be commonplace for some trail runners, I would love if Patagonia designed a running backpack specifically for plogging. Perhaps local businesses could partner with their community to provide discounts for beautifying their streets. Who wants to go plogging?

So I invite you to my birthday celebration

When: 10:30AM until 12:30PM
Where: Central Park (meeting location 69th and 5th ave). Then our apartment.
What: Experiencing nature in the city followed by a light brunch at our home.
* A walk to some of my favorite spots in Central Park, including the Ramble’s (one of the three woodlands in Central Park) hidden cave, waterfalls, and a few of my favorite vistas.
* Along the way we will be plogging (we can walk though), recycling trash found along the way to clean up Central Park. This part is optional but highly encouraged and the “winner” will receive a gift.
* Then a short walk back to my apartment for a light homemade brunch.

Weather: Dress warmish as Dark Sky says it will be mid-40s (figure an hour of walking).

Who: Significant others, friends, pets, and children welcome (as long as they can keep up!)

Please let me know if you plan to come!

While on the subway…

Adam Gazzaley | The Medical Potential of Video Games  (After On Podcast)

Adam is the head of a lab at UCSF that leverages technology to improve brain function. He is a neurologist and embarked on this journey by realizing that drugs were too blunt. They target neurotransmitters (only one part of the network) and not the neural network (the web of neurons). Thus we require high levels of dosage, causing many side effects. He then began exploring more personalized treatments.

Experiences activate the brain, which is the basis for any kind of therapy, including education. His premise is to create an experience that changes the brain for the better, kind of the opposite of how soldiers experience PTSD. How is he doing this? With video games! Video games allow for personalization, are adaptive, and fun too! Imagine playing a fancy version of Mario Kart instead of taking Adderall.

He started with a game to solve distraction and help attention. During the game they record brain activity. They also employ electrical stimulation while playing the game, which makes it more likely neurons fire. The game is now in final approval with the FDA and is the first non-drug treatment for children with ADHD. The results so far have been promising and the effects were similar to stimulants.

Another game he is working on is, Body Brain Trainer, incorporates physical and cognitive fitness at the same time. He believes this can lead to more cognitive benefits because physical fitness has benefits on brain health. Their special sauce is the adaptive nature of the games. As you focus better and are faster/more accurate, the cognitive challenges increase each moment (getting harder as you getting better). One example, they monitor your heart rate/Vo2 max and the game knows your limits, ensuring you reach that. This allows you to push your cognitive and physical fitness to the edge at the same time, which is rare to do unless you are a world-class athlete.

This got me thinking, we (or machines) may be able to create humans on a new level with physical and cognitive programs designed specifically for each of us. Here’s an analogy, perhaps the best college baseball team today could beat the Yankees in the 1920s. These legacy Yankees didn’t have the same training, equipment, nutrition, and physical abilities. Our education and training today is still quite inefficient and lacks personalization. In 20 years, our intelligence may look like the 1920s Yankees, compared to a young adult who was able to leverage these advanced video games.

His points on consciousness got my mind racing. We interact with the world in two ways: top down (how you perceive the world driven by our goals) and bottom up (how we interact with the environment independent of our goals, or said another way automatic responses). His theory of consciousness is that it happens in between top down and bottom up. Animals/organisms only responding to the environment (bottom up) don’t have consciousness. I’m taking that a step further, what if we also don’t control our top down. What if the likes of Facebook, Google, or some futuristic video game guides (controls) each decision in our life based on our data and “preferences”? Not only will we be zombies without a conscious, but we’ll have no freewill.

While in bed…

The Planet Has Seen Sudden Warming Before. It Wiped Out Almost Everything  (NYTimes)

I was hooked from the first sentence, albeit I’m very interested in climate change. “Some 252 million years ago, Earth almost died.” I’ve long known the earth has a magical healing power and ability to balance itself in mysterious ways. As I recently mentioned, from the NatGeo show One Strange Rock, “It’s still a mystery that Earth’s balance of oxygen has remained constant at 20.9% for thousands of years despite population growth, industrialization, deforestation, and pollution.” The article states that, “In some ways, the planet’s worst mass extinction — 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian Period — may parallel climate change today.” Scientists for the first time have now been able to simulate how this happened and what the ramifications were.

The articles concludes 96% of ocean life disappeared during that episode. If that happens again, life will return but I’d imagine all sorts of new species as different dynamics in the environment will cause life to evolve in alternative ways. However, can the miracle of humans separating from chimpanzees occur again?

We still don’t know how we split in the first place and perhaps therein lies the answer. As Yuval Harari writes in Sapiens, “Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.” He later continues, “The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive Revolution. What caused it? We’re not sure. The most commonly believed theory argues that accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens, enabling them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate using an altogether new type of language. We might call it the Tree of Knowledge mutation.”

It is promising, that life would likely return (in some form) and perhaps more promising, that we now have the means to deeply study this prior episode to improve our current situation. However, it is sad, that as the lead scientist notes, “Left unchecked, climate warming is putting our future on the same scale as some of the worst events in geological history.” What are you doing to stop this (besides coming plogging on Sunday)? I heard Naval Ravikant say something that always resonated with me, “how can any parent not be an environmentalist?”

While drinking tea…

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” — John Muir. This is true in so many ways. From the diatoms which are micro algae that are the salt of life, to all of our mitochondria tying back to a single woman, to A journey to thank all the people responsible for your morning coffee, to the wolves of Yosemite changing the rivers.

The Reis Release #12

What to do before 2018 ends…

Frank Abagnale: “Catch Me If You Can”  is an amazing repository of lectures)

I happened to watch the first 20 minutes of this talk a few months ago but stopped despite Frank being a riveting storyteller because I knew a lot of the story from the movie. Then I saw Kapil Gupta (more on him in the next section) tweet about it being one of the best talks he’s heard, particularly starting at minute 21:30. So I watched the remaining five minutes and then watched it again. Frank has a presence about him that speaks deep truth and loyalty. He went on a wild ride around the world by stealing money and was all about deceit, which is ironically the anti-thesis of his matured nature. There is a sincerity he brings, having hit rock bottom in a French prison, repaying his debts over 30+ years, and then relaying what he learned to us. He states, “What is it truly to be a (wo)man has absolutely nothing to do with money, achievement, skills, accomplishment, degrees, professions, or positions…Steven Spielberg made a wonderful film, but I’ve done nothing greater, nothing more rewarding, nothing more worthwhile, nothing that’s brought me more peace, happiness, and joy in my life than being a good husband and a great father.”

While on the subway…

The truth about hard work – Naval Ravikant & Kapil Gupta

I just heard of Kapil Gupta for the first time via a list of the top podcasts of 2018, noting this podcast. Only a week later, my favorite “virtual mentor” Naval Ravikant had a conversation with him. Their clarity of thought is unrivaled and they delve into what hard work, failure, and leadership means in the deepest of ways. Kapil Gupta MD is a world renowned coach to CEOs, professional athletes, and celebrities.

They both start by breaking down hard work and Kapil criticizes it saying, “Hard work has become its own game. It’s like meditation in the way it becomes a competition. So the thing you’re really seeking, becomes replaced by the game of hard work. Hard work, like effort, becomes its own goal.” Along these lines, Naval says, “To the experts, what looks like hard work from the outside, is play from the inside. So a good area to focus on – an area that looks like work to others, but feels like play to you – That’s your superpower and where you’ll outperform everybody.“ Kapil continues, “I think a lot of times hard work is done in order to have an excuse for the mind when the mind comes asking, ‘How come you didn’t make it?’” I wish I had this mentality earlier, because I recall being an analyst and putting in hours of work just for the sake of working hard. I align with Kapil that work (and your career) is a journey or as he puts it, “Failure is ultimate failure. Not getting to where you want to go ultimately. Everything is experimentation along the way.”

Naval again impresses me with his concise truths: “Management is telling people what to do. Leadership is getting them to want to do it themselves.” He then references some great imagery on leadership from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Kapil states, “Humans do many things in order to satisfy those who are watching them.” Naval states, “Real truth is hard to speak”. Profound, but understanding tactics on how to deal with these facts would be helpful since we constantly face them. I also often grapple with telling someone the truth, if it could be damaging to their psyche. I try to do things for myself and not to impress others but that’s much harder unless you work for yourself. For example, here is Why I Run.

I run for myself. Not for a race. Not for anyone else. Not against anyone else.

Without a phone. Without a watch. With just my running shoes and me.

I depart to explore a new part of the world like the explorers did, only if it is for a half hour. I run to take in the surroundings of the outside world. I run to move forward. I run to keep my body fit. I run to take in the cold air and feel it in my lungs. I run to separate from everybody else but me. I run to lose focus on everything except my steps.

I run, most of all, because it makes me feel good.

While in bed…

The Tyranny of Convenience by Tim Wu  (from the NYTimes)

This article on the convenience from Columbia University Professor Tim Wu really resonated with me. I often imagine the way we do things today will be antiquated in a few years and thus we are wasting time food shopping or even answering a simple question for a friend when Google has the answer instantly (taking away your most precious resource of time). I also have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Its carbon footprint from individual boxes and packaging pains me yet it is so much more convenient and often significantly cheaper than retail alternatives in Manhattan.

Preview:

“As Evan Williams, a co-founder of Twitter, recently put it, “Convenience decides everything.” Convenience seems to make our decisions for us, trumping what we like to imagine are our true preferences. (I prefer to brew my coffee, but Starbucks instant is so convenient I hardly ever do what I “prefer.”) Easy is better, easiest is best.”

“Convenience has the ability to make other options unthinkable. Once you have used a washing machine, laundering clothes by hand seems irrational, even if it might be cheaper. After you have experienced streaming television, waiting to see a show at a prescribed hour seems silly, even a little undignified. To resist convenience — not to own a cellphone, not to use Google — has come to require a special kind of dedication that is often taken for eccentricity, if not fanaticism.”

“Convenience has to serve something greater than itself, lest it lead only to more convenience. In her 1963 classic, “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan looked at what household technologies had done for women and concluded that they had just created more demands. “Even with all the new labor-saving appliances,” she wrote, “the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” When things become easier, we can seek to fill our time with more “easy” tasks. At some point, life’s defining struggle becomes the tyranny of tiny chores and petty decisions.”

“Embracing inconvenience may sound odd, but we already do it without thinking of it as such. As if to mask the issue, we give other names to our inconvenient choices: We call them hobbies, avocations, callings, passions. These are the noninstrumental activities that help to define us. They reward us with character because they involve an encounter with meaningful resistance — with nature’s laws, with the limits of our own bodies — as in carving wood, melding raw ingredients, fixing a broken appliance, writing code, timing waves or facing the point when the runner’s legs and lungs begin to rebel against him. Such activities take time, but they also give us time back. They expose us to the risk of frustration and failure, but they also can teach us something about the world and our place in it.”

While on a walk…

I recently sent a short email but I realized that Gmail actually composed the majority of the message with their new “Smart Compose” feature. Is it wrong to sign my name without acknowledging that I didn’t really write most of the email? Google may soon have the ability to tailor messages to your unique style based on your prior emails or maybe mimick a famous author and write entire paragraph responses (much better than us and with no grammatcal errors). What if I could pay a premium to get access to Google’s knowledge base wherein Gmail comprises the ideal email based on the recipient’s data, which will help sway the course of say a business negotiation? The likes of Amazon and Google are already doing this directly to you, but what if they can do it for you? What this ultimately implies is machine to machine communication because eventually the other side of the negotiation would also use this AI. Oh but then we won’t be needed…

While drinking tea…

As we close the year, I leave you with three quotes.

“Every man is the builder of a temple called his body.”–Henry David Thoreau

We are all architects of a temple and what we plan/envision with compound interest, year after year, can come true with practice, persistence, and passion. This is a lifelong process of learning and improvement.

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”–Walt Whitman

I hope you have spent time with those you love this year and if not, make it a higher priority for next year. It’s likely not too late.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” –Claude Monet

We all have the ability to continue our work and refine it. If you haven’t completed a passion project this year or you are building out your skill-set, there is always next year but do keep in mind, time is not on your side. Yuval Harari suggests in the future we will have to refine our skills every year and jump from industry to industry as jobs get replaced. It’s not to early too practice this! Oh and did Monet abandon Water Lilies? Most ponds have frogs.

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.

Preview:

“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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The Reis Release #10

While on the subway…

Avi Loeb | Our Interstellar Visitor (Rob Reid’s Podcast)

I’ve been wanting to share Rob Reid’s podcast for a while because some of the episodes are mind-blowing such as the evolution of beauty but they were a little too dorky. This one is equally as mind-blowing and extended my realm of thinking and possibilities. Harvard’s chairman of the astronomy department, Avi Loeb, wrote a paper about a mysterious object observed in space called Oumuamua (this sounds like it’s from outer space), which is the first interstellar visitor (i.e. not bound to a star and from a different solar system). Loeb projects that because of its movement (has accelerated in an unnatural way), its peculiar shape (potentially 20 meters long and a millimeter thick), and for other reasons beyond my understanding, this may be an artificial (i.e. alien) object! He believes it may be a solar sail (a method of travel where you exert light to propel an object), which of course he is an expert in, and is building one that travels 1/5 the speed of light. He explains one reason we haven’t seen aliens yet is that it’s likely highly advanced civilizations may not exist for very long because they reach super intelligence quickly and soon end up destroying themselves. I also was enamored with his way of thinking and here are some excerpts that got mind in motion (yes, that was an astronomy pun).

He suggested this could be a fully operational probe on a reconnaissance mission sent intentionally (keep in mind this is the head of Harvard’s Astronomy Department). In order for us to see this is a one in quadrillion chance. Every star in the Milky Way would have create one quadrillion objects in order for us to have the chance to view this. Like Sherlock Holmes, he rules out the impossible and whatever remains what must be true.

Scientists (professors) have the privilege of maintaining childhood curiosity with tenure (i.e. they can’t really be fired). Children ask questions and are willing to be wrong. When you become an adult you lose that because you fear being wrong.

We are limited in our imagination by what we know but that doesn’t mean what we imagine is not true.

While in bed…

Alexa, Should We Trust You? (The Atlantic)

Yes, not only is everything we do on our computers and cell phones being monitored but we’re now being monitored at home. I’ve always been wary of my Alexa device but it turns out there could be some really compelling positive arguments for monitoring what we say. Amazon may not just be able to know what you want to buy but doctors soon may be able to analyze your voice patterns and detect if you are depressed. As Yuval Harari says, Amazon may start to know you better than you know yourself by interpreting every facial expression while you are reading each word on your Kindle. Anyway, I think there is a compelling well-being element here where Alexa could play my favorite song if I feel down, tell me a joke, or notify a loved one to reach out. According to one research firm, in a few years there may be more voice activated assistants than there are people. Why do I need to tell the kids to stop fighting when I’m on the phone? Alexa can handle that. If you are concerned about your privacy, Europe has better data policies according to a compelling 60 Minutes segment, and that made me want to consider using the search engine duckduckgo.

Preview: “A 2017 study published in American Psychologist makes the case that when people talk without seeing each other, they’re better at recognizing each other’s feelings. They’re more empathetic. Freud understood this long before empirical research demonstrated it. That’s why he had his patients lie on a couch, facing away from him. He could listen all the harder for the nuggets of truth in their ramblings, while they, undistracted by scowls or smiles, slipped into that twilight state in which they could unburden themselves of stifled feelings.”

While on a walk…

What would you do if it was your last day in NYC? I’m thinking about piloting this event for my upcoming birthday. Friends would be welcome to join for any part. Here is what I would do.

Sunrise looking at the 59th Street Bridge (from Sutton Place). Some early morning soccer in Sara Roosevelt Park. Then breakfast at Russ & Daughters. Stop by the Patagonia store and check out the new gear. Spend some time people watching in Washington Square Park. Walk down Bleeker Street and have a slice at Joe’s. Buy a slice for a stranger too. Head over to Taverna Kyclades for lunch then McSorleys for a beer (dark). Share a table with random tourists there. Head uptown and stop by Green Acre Park for a mindful moment followed by a visit to the MoMA. Stroll over to Central Park and hit up my favorite secret nature spots (you’ll have to join to find out). Stop at the Met (impressionist wing) then go to the northern path of the reservoir for sunset (looking south is breathtaking). Walk over to the UES to my favorite kaiseki Japanese restaurant which seats only 12 people. Van Leeuwen for some amazing vegan ice cream (with a candle) and a beer (Old Speckled Hen) at Jones Wood Foundry.

Who’s in?

While drinking tea…

I was super impressed with this Eric Schmidt interview because he seems to know everything about every subject. I loved his closing advice on what someone should do who wants to be the next Eric Schmidt.

“It goes back to the question of luck. I was lucky because I had good taste in friends and it helped me out. The best things in your life will come from the people who you hang out with. I mean the people who you love to work with, who you have passionate talks with all night. If you can find those people, sign them up on your ship. The quality of the people you work with will determine an awful lot about your outcome. Success is a team sport. Those are the people who work the 16 hour days and did so because they love the founders, the vision of the company, and cared a great deal about that. They went home to their family exhausted and they said they were proud to go to work. Those are the people you want to associate with. Those are the people that will change the world.”

Oh and I love how modest he is that he attributes his success to luck (being friends with the other founders).

The Reis Release #9

What I’m listening to…

Ryan Caldbeck – Quant in Private Markets (Invest like the Best podcast, available on iTunes)

Ryan is the founder of Circle Up which is a fund and an online platform that connects entrepreneurs to funders, democratizing investing in private markets. The episode focuses on Helio which is described as a machine learning platform (a division of Circle Up) that identifies, classifies, and evaluates early-stage consumer and retail companies to shine a light on breakout brands. Ryan does not miss a beat during this conversation and sounds like a drill sergeant turned savvy investor. What intrigued me was the datasets they built and their non-traditional approach to private investing. He discusses how they breakdown product packaging using computer vision, colors, and words to identify success factors. For example, clean product packaging (simple/limited text) has a correlation to success which was one factor that led them to invest in RX Bars. I was surprised by his comment, “offline matters a lot still” as well as the biggest thing investors think matters that doesn’t is units sold per store per week (they have found no correlation to success here). He ends with a touching story on how he developed a mindset to try with confidence/self worth and went on to make the Duke basketball team!

What I’m reading…

Are you living in a computer simulation? By Nick Bostrom

Admittedly I have only the read the intro (below) so far but I am sufficiently intrigued particularly as some well-respected minds believe as outlandish as it sounds, it could be possible. For example, Elon Musk on the subject said, “There’s a one in billions chance we’re in base reality” (i.e. we are in a simulation). If only there was a way to test if we are in a simulation…

Preview: Many works of science fiction as well as some forecasts by serious technologists and futurologists predict that enormous amounts of computing power will be available in the future. Let us suppose for a moment that these predictions are correct. One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones. Therefore, if we don’t think that we are currently living in a computer simulation, we are not entitled to believe that we will have descendants who will run lots of such simulations of their forebears.

What I’m pondering…

While at to a bar last night I noticed there’s very little technology inside besides the credit card processor and the lights (oh and everyone on their cell phones). Of course I had to wait in the crowd for a drink and then attempt to get the bartenders attention for a mere beer (I have no skills here). Then I questioned, why isn’t there a beer vending machine that delivers a beer with a quick swipe of a credit card? Apparently, one does exist called Beer Box but I have yet to see anything like this in NYC (this would also be great for sporting events and perhaps you could scan your ID to verify your age). In the future there will likely be a robot mixologist that makes any fancy cocktail you desire and hey maybe you won’t even have to tip the robot.

Quote I enjoyed…

“I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” – Jonas Salk. I like this for two reasons: 1) it suggests pushing yourself harder and 2) that those who do (i.e. are proactive) are given the opportunity to do more (originating from what they already did). It kind of reminds me of the quote, if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.

The Reis Release #8

What I’m watching…

Free Solo a National Geographic Documentary featuring the world’s best free solo climber

This movie is actually all about risk management. Alex takes on the most dangerous and iconic climb — free soloing (i.e. using no rope) the face of El Capitan (i.e. a behemoth granite monolith in Yosemite that is likely the most famous wall in the world). Everyone warns Alex that every free climber winds up dead but Alex believes “there’s risk and there’s consequence.” He explains there’s high consequence but he works to ensure it is low risk. His level of practice and meticulous study is incredible (memorizing minute details of the wall) to accomplish this 10-year long dream. I was also impressed by his mindset: his ability to walk away with confidence if feeling a slimmer of doubt and his raw honesty in his approach to life and climbing. His friend and co-climber, Tommy Caldwell described this climb as requiring him to win the Olympic gold medal but one tiny misstep resulting in his life rather than the bronze. By the way, this human Spiderman is a vegetarian (for primarily environmental reasons he states and a little bit of ethics). He also founded the Honnold Foundation (pledged 1/3 of his annual income), which seeks to reduce environmental impact and address inequality by supporting solar energy initiatives worldwide. This doc received a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and in case you were wondering, I also really enjoyed it.

Spoiler alert: When I think about human advancement, it is amazing to think not long ago El Cap used to take days to complete with the aid of ropes, safety gear, and a partner but Alex ascents in 4 hours without a rope!

What I’m reading to…

Raised by YouTube in The Atlantic

Traditional cable TV / movies are commonly thought of being disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon but as described in the article, one Indian media startup, ChuChu, has attained astounding viewership…more than 19 billion views on YouTube, making it a top 25 most watched channel. The catch is, the viewers are all children. Meanwhile Sesame street only has 5 billion views on YouTube. I found it humorous how the article called YouTube, “the world’s babysitter – an electronic pacifier during trips or when adults are having dinner”. It is quite interesting (or concerning) that “parents are seeking out videos that soak up more time. So nowadays what’s most popular on Toddler YouTube are not three-minute songs, but compilations that last 30 to 45 minutes, or even longer.”

Preview: “YouTube analytics show exactly when a video’s audience falls off. ChuChu and other companies like it—whatever their larger philosophy—can see exactly what holds a toddler’s attention, moment by moment, and what causes it to drift. If a video achieves a 60 percent average completion rate, ChuChu knows it has a hit. Using these data doesn’t let it “crack the algorithm”; everyone has access to a version of these numbers. Instead, Chandar uses the analytics to tune his and other creators’ intuition about what works.”

What I’m pondering…

Should I purchase the Halo Sport? Lately I’ve been fascinated by the mixing of technology/biohacks with human performance and Halo Sport’s headset stimulates the part of your brain responsible for muscle movement. This accelerates training by employing neurostimulation to induce a state of hyperlearning. For those skeptical, there are testimonials from a plethora of professional sports teams, they have a formidable team of Stanford neuroscientists who previously used similar technology to treat epilepsy, and they’re also backed by Lux Capital (a well-respected VC firm) whose founders was featured in one of my all-time favorite interviews (This is Who You Are Up Against).

Quote I enjoyed…

In theme with climbing…“We cannot lower the mountain; therefore we must elevate ourselves.” – Todd Skinner (another free climber)

 

 

 

The Reis Release #7

What I’m doing…

The Science of Well-Being from Yale University (on Coursera)

Professor Laurie Santos pivoted her esteemed career as a cognitive psychologist studying monkeys to address alarming statics of depression and unhappiness on American college campuses. She created Yale’s most popular class in the university’s 300+ year history with 1,200 students enrolled. With all the buzz around this week’s Powerball, I’ll share some studies she cites. In the US in 2015, the US lottery spend was 70bn which is more than people spend combined on books, music, movie tickets, sports teams, and video games combined. Yet according to a study (and many others) from Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton (economists who won the Nobel Prize), happiness does not increase once your income is above $75,000. Along these lines, people who win the lottery and those in severe accidents which require amputating limbs, after a short period, see happiness levels revert to their prior levels.

What I’m listening to…

Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker (on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast)

Firstly, why do British people sound so much smarter? Anyway, Matthew Walker really appears smart. He is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Berkley, founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science, and author of the bestseller Why We Sleep. On this podcast he delves into the mysterious science of sleep providing tips and citing studies. He goes as far as saying, “sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting” and for those of you who think you don’t need sleep, that’s unlikely (less than 0.5% of the population have a gene which allows them to function on 5 hours of sleep). He highlights that one hour of iPhone use will delay the onset of melatonin production by about 3 hours and that drowsy driving kills more people on the roads than alcohol or drugs combined. And sorry, according to Walker unless you are an older individual, it’s unlikely melatonin supplements help you sleep but they could be useful traveling. Also, under slept employees take on fewer work challenges and end up taking the simpler work rather than creative/deeper project work. Ahead of the upcoming daylight savings, be aware: during daylight savings time, in the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, we see a 24% increase in heart attacks and in the fall, when we gain an hour of sleep, there’s a 21% decrease in heart attacks

What I’m pondering…

Continuing the importance of sleep, one point I didn’t include above, which is likely obvious, but the quality of sleep is degraded by alcohol consumption. I’ve been more mindful of this and came across a startup, Dry Farm Wines which claims (please do your own research if you are over 21) “you can enjoy the richness of the evening without the headaches, hangovers, or poor sleep”. There are aspects I’m skeptical of but I found points in the interview with the founder on the Human Optimization Podcast thought provoking. For example, there’s been a massive corporate consolidation in the wine industry (52% of all wines in the US are made by the top three companies), there are 76 additives approved by the FDA that can be used in wine (i.e. it’s not just natural grapes you drink), and contents are not required to be labeled on the bottle unlike merely all other food products. Dry Farms Wines seeks honest and natural wine from family farms and they do their own lab testing on the products they distribute (e.g. to ensure they are sugar free). Anyone want to do some tasting? Is this a nascent trend that will disrupt the wine industry just like we’ve seen in the food and beverage industry with more natural products?

Quote I enjoyed…

In theme (contrast?) with the above…”If you want your dreams to come true, don’t over sleep.” ~ Yiddish Proverb

The Reis Release #6

What I’m reading…

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

This book has been talked about and recommended so much and so far, it’s been very compelling. To research for this book, Dr. Cialdini worked undercover in fields like sales (as a used car salesman), PR, advertising, and fundraising to discover what makes people comply with demands of others.

Preview: Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush? The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: Ninety-four percent of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line. Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only: Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine? Under those circumstances, only 60 percent of those asked complied.

What I’m listening to…

Serge Faguet – How to biohack your intelligence with everything (on the Kevin Rose Show)

This interview was mind-blowing. Serge, a tech entrepreneur, is so intense about doing focused work. I was impressed by his raw honesty and deep knowledge on improving his personal performance. He wrote a popular blog post called, I’m 32 and spent $200K on biohacking. Became calmer, thinner, extroverted, healthier & happier. He gives tips on sleep, health, supplements and more. I enjoyed tidbits such as enhancing learning by exercising afterwards and learning about a product called Oura, which is a tech-enabled ring that tracks your sleep. Finally, he mentioned that he learned a lot from Learning How to Learn on Coursera (the most popular course in the world).

What I’m pondering…

What percent of news is newsworthy? There’s a growing movement of people who are of the view that if something is newsworthy then they’ll be notified via a different medium and prefer not to read the news. Shouldn’t there be a smart and genuine filtering device that knows what kind of news you will want to read based upon your browsing history/cookies and set preferences (maybe there is or it’s called Twitter?)?

Quote I enjoyed…

“The only zen you find at the mountaintops, is the zen you take with you.” I’d like to pair this quote with the following cartoon.