Medley 205: Signaling, Happiness, Psychs, Salt, Taxes, Cats, 10x, Memes, Blimps, Fortnite, Inspiration...

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Happy Monday!

I added a bunch of new content to the Roam Course this week, including a list of prompts for your morning pages, videos on using Roam for recipes, and a much more detailed collection of all the secret and advanced features.

And I added my notes on The Art of Fermentation to The Brain. It was a great intro to home fermenting, and I've been playing with a bunch of the recipes in it.

Alright, on to the Medley!

The World of Happiness

😢 All of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 news has driven Twitter conversations to unprecedented new lows according to the Hedonometer. This isn't surprising, I've noticed feeling worse being on Twitter recently. That was, at least, until I blocked all the COVID-19 related terms. Now it's much better.

🙃 But hey, maybe being miserable is a good thing. There's some evidence that too much positive thinking can be bad for the economy. It's kind of tricky, though, and has more to do with fantasizing vs. preparing:

" students who most expected to find a job after graduation were more likely to find one over the next two years, while those who had more positive than negative fantasies sent out fewer applications, received fewer offers, and made less money."

The World of Inflammation

🍄 Aside from their many emotional and mental benefits, there's some evidence that psychedelics might provide some benefit as anti-inflammatory agents. More interesting, they seem to do it through a novel mechanism not seen in other kinds of anti-inflammatory therapies.

🍽 That's good if you consume a lot of vegetable oils. It seems like foods cooked in vegetable oil, especially when it's being constantly re-heated like in restaurants, can contain a toxic, inflammatory compound called "HNE." From the paper:

"HNE is formed from the oxidation of linoleic acid, and reports have related it to several diseases, including atherosclerosis, stroke, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's and liver diseases."

The World of Diet

🧂 I still hear this one get tossed around a lot, so here's a reminder that salt isn't bad. It's an essential nutrient, and unless you have some serious hypertension issues, obsessing over sodium content in food is misplaced fear. Plus it's delicious. There are some great stats in that article about why the push for less salt doesn't make sense, like:

"The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) are large scale surveys of American dietary habits carried out periodically. The first survey found that those eating the least salt died at a rate 18% higher than those eating the most salt"


"the IOM made several major conclusions. Although low salt diets could lower blood pressure, “Existing evidence, however, does not support either a positive or negative effect of lowering sodium intake to <2300 mg/d in terms of cardiovascular risk or mortality in the general population.”. That is, lowering the salt intake did not reduce risk of heart attack or death."

The World of Finance

🏦 What makes a company worth 10x its revenue? This is a great overview from Bill Gurley about some reasons why some companies are worth so much more than others, and it's a great general checklist for making a highly valuable, highly defensible business.

🤔 Here's an interesting idea: what if there were tax incentives for keeping a disaster fund for your business? Right now you have to pay taxes if you retain profits, but you don't pay taxes if you re-invest those profits in growth, so you're incentivized to spend your money instead of save it. If there were some tweak to the tax code to allow a certain percent of profits be retained tax-free for a rainy day fund, maybe businesses wouldn't be so strapped right now.

🐈 It's been great seeing the economy already recover from it's bad low three weeks ago, but it might be going deeper. This is a good overview of the history of "dead cat bounces," and why we shouldn't consider ourselves out of the woods yet.

The World of COVID-19

☢️ Last week more people died of COVID-19 than died in the Nagasaki bombing. That's a pretty crazy visualization to watch, both for how many people are dying each week now and for how many people normally die each week from things like car accidents.

🦠 And here's a comparison of how many people have died from different epidemics since 2000, broken down by day. I didn't even know we had a Cholera outbreak 10 years ago.

🕵️‍♂️ Balaji Srinivasan collected a brutal critique on how VOX handled the Coronavirus outbreak, starting with back in February when they first suggested people in San Francisco were over-reacting and that this wouldn't be a deadly pandemic. It's another great example from him of good citizen journalism, and how we need to hold our publications accountable for part of this mess.

🎈 And here's a fun, surprisingly not so crazy idea: maybe it's time to bring back airship hospitals to help handle pandemics like this.

The World of Memetics

🧠 What if you're just a vessel for a bunch of different ideas? So goes the thinking in this piece on "The Tyranny of Ideas" from Nadia Eghbal. One point she makes that I found particularly interesting is how our relationship with fame, and art, has changed dramatically with technology:

"We don’t listen to entire albums as much as we used to. We don’t know as much about artists as we used to. Instead, we combine and recombine until we find precisely the sound we’re looking for, pumping god-drug into our veins, without really caring who’s behind it."


"Today, internet creators can build up large audiences without ever becoming truly famous; they may command substantial local power, but their global value is very narrow."

🤳 Thinking of signaling as its own form of Memetics, Julian Lehr has this great piece on "Signaling as a Service," riffing on "The Elephant in the Brain" by Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler. He talks about how apps that can create some sort of proxy for the signaling mechanisms of an expensive bag are uniquely profitable and successful, like Fortnite with its character skins and Tinder with Super Likes:

"Instead of monetizing network membership, the software products that monetize most successfully have chosen another strategy: Make memberships free and monetize signal amplification instead."

The World of Just For Fun

🤯 Did you know that if you copy something on your iPhone, you can paste it on your Mac? A lot of people don't!

🏢 There's a little bit of perspective trickery going on, but this is a very spooky photo of the Empire State Building back when it dominated the rest of the NYC skyline.

🚀 This has to be one of the most well timed shots ever.

🤣 And in case you need some inspiration, check out this machine learning generated inspirational memes from Inspirobot. Some of them are pretty good.

End Note

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