September 2023
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2023 RAADFest Summary Day 3

Corderio launched the day with an exciting whirlwind update of changes in the political landscape, naming a couple massive investments. Followed by SENS Foundation highlighting their ability to maintain focus and organize contributions to advance the field. Kenneth Scott then pointed us at some therapies to consider after you have a stable foundation of health.

Bill Andrews gave us an argument of how and why death of individuals is a core part of evolutionary biology. This talk actually marks a major shift in perspective for the field as a whole. Beginning with Aubrey decades ago, the reductionist molecular biologists maintained focus on metabolic pathways and damage accumulation that occur within an individual and ignored the evolutionary biology that set the genetic programs. Michael Rose (a noted evolutionary biologist) followed up with a talk encouraging the use of AI to understand our biological complexity and deploying it to improve our health.

Liz Parrish won the Bacon Prize. Aubrey tells us about the important work funded by the Longevity Escape Velocity Foundation (and asks for donations).

Diane Ginsberg informs us about patient results using young plasma transfer. Nathan Bryan tells us about the importance of Nitric Oxide and nasal breathing and tells us to stop using mouthwash. Nayan Patel follows that with information about glutathione, that gives NO a longer half-life in the body.

Robert Lufkin tells us about the many benefits of rapamycin, encourages us to make some lifestyle changes, avoiding glucose spikes, and highlights ITP trials combining rapamycin with metformin + acarbose. Joseph Purita ended the day suggesting we challenge our bodies with intermittent hypoxia and a hyperoxic chaser.
People really enjoyed my costume.

The Grim Reaper buys “‘La Meuerte de la Meurte” from author José Cordeiro

Actions Items:

  • don’t use mouthwash
  • n-acetyl-cysteine as precursor for glutathione- donate to SENS and LEV foundations

José Luis Cordeiro

  • Technological convergence: NBIC
    • Atoms -> Nano
    • Genes -> Bio
    • Neurons -> Cogno
    • Bits -> Info
  • work with spain + EU parliament
  • Investments in the field:
    • XPrize founder raised $101M for Longevity Vision Fund
    • HEvolution spending $1B/yr
  • Immortality is possible
    • already exists as cancer- continuity of germline

SENS Foundation
Book: Ending Aging
Upcoming Conference (virtual) Sep 21-22 Ending Aging Forum

  • Has been funding basic research on aging for a long time
  • Focus: Rejuvenation by cleanup of accumulated damage
  • Focus: Extension of *max* lifespan
  • Has some spinout companies (cyclarity, ichor, oisin, repair bio)

Kenneth Scott, VivaSparkle

  • amazing tech advances, Yamanaka reprogramming
  • 4 interventions (to make *after* achieving a stable health foundation)
    • amniotic exosomes
    • dasatinib + quercetin (for senescent cell removal) 50mg D + 1000mg Q every 6 weeks
    • follistatin gene therapy (combat sarcopenia)
    • VSELs (very small embryonic-like stem cells)
  • get involved => sign petitions, invest your time and money

Bill Andrews, Sierra Sciences

  • Evolution explains the How? and Why? of population genetics
  • Evo
    • not a force, but a result
    • survival of the species, not of the individual
    • depends on ability of individual to reproduce
    • accumulation mutations must be sustainable
  • Aging
    • distinguish: short-lived = hasn’t raised offspring, long-lived = has
    • mutations that eliminate the short-lived are not sustainable (no reproduction)
    • all other mutations can be sustained, ex: ~1000 antagonistic plieotropic mutations
  • Selection
    • population more robust when genetic pool has large variety
    • need sub-sample of individuals to survive a change in selection criteria
    • older individuals not well-adapted to newer environments
  • Variability: algorithmic advancements
    • Mutation – occurs for a single cell, carried by daughter cells
    • Horizontal Transfer – two cells can mix their genes
    • Ploidy – hold more than one copy
    • Sexual Reproduction – combinations of gene variants
    • Elimination of longer-lived
      • parents = A, B, C
      • offspring = parents + AB, BC, AC
      • grandkids = parents + offspring + ABC
  • end result: elimination of the longer-lived

Michael Rose

  • The ideological war between Evo Bio and cellular reductionists ending
  • time to reframe medicine
    • S.A.D. (standard american diet) Physician = thinks aging inevitable, immortality impossible
    • ex reductionism: Heart Disease due to a handful of molecular pathyways
    • but immortality exhibited by some species (jellyfish)- human (and many others) show late-life mortality plateau
    • Biology extremely complex
      • breeding fruit fly to 2x lifespan was 100s of mutations- we need AI to understand this complexity
    • Should put AI tools in the hands of clinicians (and patients)
      • don’t wait for the medical schools (they too slow)
      • or for continuing education programs

Aubrey de Grey, LEV Foundation

  • Note: First time I’ve heard George Church put a specific date on LEV
  • program: Robust Mouse Rejuvenation
    • Sometimes individual drugs have no effect, but the combination synergizes
    • need to fund plenty of testing for these discoveries
    • 1000 mice, expensive interventions
      • rapamycin
      • telomerase
      • young hematopoietic stem cells
      • galacto-conjugation of Navitoclax (senolytic)
    • treatment begins with 1yr of life remaining with goal of extending an additional year and max lifespan

Diane Ginsberg, Young Plasma + Longevity

  • Aging is a result of entropy
  • problem: we accumulate proteins in the ECM
  • our vasculature system is placed around stem cells (so they can mobilize)
  • aging = inability to make proteins in quality + quantity
    • the environment they sit in matters
  • need to inject young factors, removing the old factors insufficient
    • we don’t know what the important factors are
    • but young plasma has them
  • showed patient results from young plasma transfer

Nathan Bryan, Pneuma Nitric Oxide Innovations
Book: Functional Nitric Oxide Nutrition

  • need blood supply to all organs (esp the heart and brain)
    • almost every chronic condition associated with reduced supply
  • NO is a vasodilator, required for hemoglobin to work
  • loss of NO preceeds atherosclerosis by a decade
    • telomere attrition
    • mitochondria function + biogenesis
    • mobilization of stem cells
  • need NO synthase to benefit from intermittent fasting
  • preserve NO creation in the endothelium delays aging pathology
  • use of mouthwash destroys bacteria that signal for NO production (don’t destroy your microbiome)
  • NO applied to skin also improves wound healing + wrinkles

Nyan Patel, Glutathione Revolution
Book: The Glutathione Revolution

  • many sources of oxidative stress, can’t avoid them all
    • high levels linked to many diseases, including auto-immune disorders
  • listed 10 benefits of glutathione (powerful antioxidant)
    • reduced production with age, but need for it stays flat- opinion: insulin is a toxic chemical
  • can increase glutathione with diet + supplements
  • be sure to do a test for you levels
    • measure it inside RBC not in plasma
    • levels in sample decay very quickly
  • ran a trial
    • glutathione + cyclodextrin
    • only needed 3 days, got very quick results!
    • saw inflammatory markers reduce in 1 hr
  • Glutathione will increase the half-life on NO in the body
    • N-acetyl-cysteine is a precursor to glutathione, but metabolic pathway works less well with age
    • arginine is never a rate limiting resource for NO synthase

Robert Lufkin
Book: Lies I Taught in Medical School

  • nutrient sensing pathway conserved from yeast to humans
    • suggest lifestyle change: avoid glucose and nutrient spikes, intermittent fast
  • list of aging phenotypes improved with rapamycin
    • hair: baldness + color (rapa shampoo)
    • skin: collagen production (rapa cream)
    • periodontal disease: reversed (rapa toothpaste)
    • hearing loss: regrow cochlea hair cells
    • cardiovascular: stops stents from closing (rapa coated stent)
    • cancer: less occurrence in heart transplant patients prescribed rapa for tissue rejection
    • alzheimers: improvement in mouse model, now testing in humans
  • longevity?
    • ITP result: dramatically improved survival curves
    • ITP trials show synergistic effect, 2016 combo w/metformin, 2022 combo w/acarbose

Joseph Purita, Intermittent Hypoxia

  • when intermittent triggers hormesis
    • vs chronic hypoxia quite damaging, ex: sleep apnea
    • use a hyperoxic chaser (chamber), ex: train at high elevation recover at low elevation
  • induces change in transcription
    • erythropoietin -> stimulate red blood cell production
    • vascular endothelial growth factor -> make new blood vessels
    • HIF1A expression -> preserve stem cell population, prevents differentiation
  • body has 3 gaseous signals: nitric oxide (HIF1A detection), carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide
  • 2 ways
    • local: blood flow restriction (cuff bands during exercise)
    • systemic: 9%-40% range using a mask w/calibrated air
  • oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve

2023 RAADFest Summary Day 2

I skipped the Expo talks, as those are mostly infomercials from the vendors.

Liz Parrish opened up the day by identifying herself as a pioneer for having taken 4 different gene therapies! She must do this in foreign lands because the FDA prohibits that kind of experimentation. Medical tourism will definitely grow in size over the next decade. Kien Vuu gave us inspiration, showing how a change in mindset and perspective can change our choices. Thinking longer-term leads to actions that make your future self better off.

We had two keynote speakers today, George Church and Ray Kurzweil. Both gave rambling talks and it was difficult to find a core thread that tied it all together. Lots of stuff is happening, the pace of change is increasing, and these folks are scattered trying to track and participate in it all.

Mike Chan bamboozled us with a story of growing complexity in the human body, and a recurrent emphasis on using stem cells in clinical treatment. Jason Williams encouraged us to do early screening for cancer, because a noticeable lump is already too big. Jeffrey Gladded reminded us that the road to living longer is not without challenges. The medical system (and each of us) must not fear making changes.

Bernadine and Strole closed out the day with a call for contributions.

Calls to Action:

  • Sign the petition
  • Use Grail’s Galleri test for early stage cancer screening (based on trace amounts of DNA in bloodstream)
  • Pre-order a free book, The Singularity is Nearer link
  • The common supplement form of selenium doesn’t work, you want Methaneseleninic Acid

Liz Parrish
company: BioViva, Genorasis

  • has taken 4 gene therapies, using CMV and AAV delivery vectors
    • Klotho to combat dementia
    • Follistatin to combat sarcopenia
    • Telomerase to prevent stem cell depletion
    • ?? to prevent glaucoma
  • Need to petition the FDA, otherwise these treatments remain inaccessible

Christian Drapeau, Endogenous Stem Cell Mobilization
Book: Cracking the Stem Cell Code

  • lab experiment where heart muscle was killed off, leaving only the ECM, then infused with stem cells that regenerated the muscle and became a beating heart again
  • stem cells are triggered by damage to invade/perfuse, divide, specialize and replenish tissues
  • mice: trigger stem cell mobilization post heart attack => rapidly recover
  • mice: cure diabetes by mobilizing stem cells into the pancreas, where they specialize into insulin cells
  • conclude: loss of circulating stem cells drives aging disease
  • AFA extract, hippophae rhamnoides, encourages stem cell circulation

I’m skeptical: wouldn’t forcing the circulation of stem cells result in a declining population as they repair any damaged tissue?

Dr Kien Vuu, The Thrive State

  • very inspiring speaker, got strong Toastmaster vibes
  • engaging story about daughter’s birth + near death in the ICU
  • used it as a cliffhanger, didn’t tell us about recovery until end of talk
  • default mode network activity => life of anxiety and stress
  • doctors sacrifice their health for status, are often as sick as the patients
  • encourages a change in perspective:
  • core message: Biography changes Biology, tell yourself a story of thriving, not surviving

George Church, Keynote (remote video)

  • now have technology to radically alter our genome
  • both reading *and writing* have come dramatically down in cost
  • but gene therapies still very expensive
    • most are low volume so cost ~$2.5M, ex: individualized CAR-T or rare point mutation mendelian disease
    • need scale to drive cost down, ex: covid-19 vax, cost ~$2
  • need to generate large libraries of data for ML to consume
  • the difference between a bowhead whale living 200yrs and a mouse living 2 yrs is genetic, not diet + exercise + metformin
  • have two approaches to changing the genome
    • germline: affects all tissues, low off-target risk, could transplant into adult
    • somatic: shorter clinical trial, applies to anyone already born (past the germline opportunity)
  • There are 4 point mutations that would make cells very DNA repair resilient
  • There are 69 edits, made in pigs, that granted resistance to immune system rejection in xenotransplant experiment
  • We can also produce cellular viral immunity through codon swapping:
    • recode TCA, TCG (Serine) -> null -> Leucine
    • now all infecting viruses can’t build their proteins
  • Rejuvenate Bio shows that gene therapy can extend mouse lifespan
  • Transposon Therapeutics working on LINE SINE rDNA and CEN repeats to attack senescence
  • sometime we re-use viral functionality, ex: human placental lining incorporates a viral envelope protein, Syncytin

Ray Kurzweil, Keynote (remote video)
Book: The Singularity is Near
Free Book offer: The Singularity is Nearer link

  • We have exponential progress everywhere
    • LLMs a major advance, and super-quick, like ~1yr research -> product
    • contrary to the name, the tech is not limited to language, it’s actually an event model
    • readily applies to the question: given set of conditions + health metrics, what medicine should be used?
  • on track for human-level AGI in 2029
  • prediction in Book: Age of Spiritual Machines
  • showed chart of “flops computation per dollar” (economic analog of Moore’s Law)
  • lphafold 2 and drug screen already under way Isomorphic Labs
  • should reach Longevity Escape Velocity in 2029
    • current gaining 3-4 months each year
    • escape threshold at 1 year gained per year lived

I had an idea as the audience was asking questions. Decentralized Clouds don’t have great user experience: search queries are slow, replication for hosting redundancy is costly both time and materials. The situation is obviously fixed by incentives: people contribute when they can receive rent. So if computation, storage, and latency are the key resources, existing edge networks have a first adopter advantage in the transition to a decentralized world.

Dr Mike Chan

  • has plenty of rich politician clients
  • rambling inspiration, designed to confuse audience into submission + agreement
  • clinic offers several therapies, and we need them all
    • organ replacement + reversal: Thymus, stem cells, etc
    • unipotent stem cell therapy: pre-specialized for the target tissue
    • peptides and exosomes: pro-youth and anti-aging signalling molecules
    • must repair our selves at the cellular level
    • we have 729 lineages (the number keeps increasing as researchers find more things to distinguish) and each needs a specific protein environment

Jason Williams, Early Detection and Prevention of Cancer

  • selenium improves cancer patients during + after treatment (in research articles)
    • But the common supplement form doesn’t work, you want Methaneseleninic Acid
  • Vitamin D also has strong positive effect
  • Healthy (diverse) gut microbiome
  • avoid stevia and sucralose, which kill off the microbiome
  • probiotics aren’t diverse, it’s like a mono-crop
  • Use Grail’s Galleri test for early stage cancer screening (based on trace amounts of DNA in bloodstream)
    • incidence of cancer among 40-50yr olds is increasing substantially
    • by the time you have a detectable lump (in whole body MRI) it’s ~1M cells
  • if we don’t cure cancer, we won’t reach longevity
    • need a localized, targeted treatment, not chemo

Jeffrey Gladden

  • reminded us of The Hero’s Journey
  • Aging: Fatigue, Pains, so many problems with Dr unable to really help
  • our body is a mosaic of many ages and metrics (each tissue has a clock, they can read substantially different)
  • we must follow the protein curves as the change with age (it’s a story)
  • Longevity is a medicine with a different focus
    • medicine 1.0: treat acute trauma and sickness => a sick-care system
    • medicine 2.0: functional + integrated => can manage chronic issues, with whole-body perspective
    • third step will be longevity => about prevention not mitigation

I’d previously heard the medicine 3.0 idea from Peter Attia. And plenty of people know our system is great at acute treatment (e.g. car accident) and terrible at chronic condition treatment. Doctors don’t have time to root cause and often patients don’t either and they have a high non-compliant rate, forgetting to even take their pills on time.

Bernadine + Strole

  • The coalition has (2016-2022)
    • avg yearly total income of $543,969
    • avg yearly expenses of $574,532
    • => deficit of $30,562
    • Bill Faloon covered 2020+2021 deficit of $83,232
  • talked up a drive with audience pledging money

2023 RAADFest Summary Day 1

RAADFest opens up like a rock concert. With Bryan Johnson as the keynote speaker. Followed by an infomercial for Brain Tap and whirlwind tour of recent news headlines over the last year collected by Bill Faloon peppered with anecdotes of his encounters with armed FDA agents. Doug Ethell tells us why we should circulate and drain our cerebrospinal fluid and Stephen Sideroff closes with a lecture on increasing psychological resilience.

We get one important call to action.
Sign the petition: and encourage the FDA to move quicker, delays cost lives.

Bryan Johnson

  • looks like a normal tech bro ceo in person (vs weird android on social media pictures)
  • has given himself over to an algorithm, and enjoys the ride, relief from tyranny of the mind
  • criticized society for being an addiction fueled mess dying from failing cope tactics
  • wants to distinguish from other religious gurus with emphasis on open data
  • project blueprint community also develops techniques
  • discusses having the most measured penis (erections, urine flow, etc are health metrics)
  • diet is not restrictive, every calorie is a joy when you have so few
    • brownies are now a repulsive poison
  • sleep was the most difficult metric to improve, due to any failures earlier in the day causing a cascade
  • let’s do the important things that the 25th century will talk about: namely Don’t Die movement
  • AI will get us the technology, have to give up the intellectual certainty attitude of books and embrace the unpredictable

Brain Tap, Patrick Porter
Book: Saving Your Brain – has techniques to increase plasticity

  • light is underprescribed nutrient, electric lighting disrupts diurnal cycles, we aren’t outside
  • The device uses blinking light to force brain waves: frequency following response
  • measured a bunch of meditation experts and replicated EEG results in normies within 20mins

I tried the Brain Tap on the last day of the conference, there was a long waitlist. It had a guided meditation, with bright pulsing light, emphasizing a “frequence following response”. I got plenty of vibration feelings. That part felt like normal meditation. But it was quicker, more forced, less fluid compared to just observing my breath in silence. The booth did not have an EEG, but did a heart rate variability measurement with an electrode clipped to each wrist. From this the computer drew 5 different metrics: stress and some others with brain waves. I believe the stress metric (mine improved, from unbalanced to perfect) but don’t believe any of the others, because they didn’t have the equipment. My score started at 100% and ended at 100% for all those. I was breath following for the 4 minutes it takes to read the HRV on both before and after measurements. Hard to improve from perfect — a lesson that generalizes to anyone in good health looking for further gains. I forgot to ask if they saw such on other folks that day., but I’m guessing so, because most others have plenty of room for improvement. However, because the device puts you into a relaxed and uncritical state, I bet showing these bogus results boosts sales.

Bernadine and Strole encourage us all to adopt interventions now. Don’t wait for the general population.

Bill Faloon, Life Extension
Book: Pharmocracy
Book: Death by Regulation
Enroll in Perpetual Project and share data for longevity interventions

  • 2023 intervention winner: Taurine!
  • gave a whirlwind tour of media articles, press is paying attention!!
  • strong criticism of the FDA for delaying drugs: ~17 yrs to get to clinical office
  • personal anecdotes with FDA raids + jail time, while FDA later approved
  • FDA capitulated to protests, on their HQ steps, during HIV panic

Doug Ethell, Leucadia Therapeutics

  • gave history of discovery + diagnosis of Alzheimers
  • need to clear interstitial fluid, prevent accumulations + amyloidosis
  • cerebrospinal fluid drains through the cribriform (olfactory) plate
  • has device to insert valves that increase drainage, alleviate natural clogging with age
  • sedentary lifestyle => no fluid movement
  • do head exercises: incline sit up + look left/right, downward dog

Stephen Sideroff, 9 Keys to Reboot Resilience
Booklet: Path of Resilience, at

  • we have too much stress: shortens telomeres, accelerates epigenetic aging clock, impairs proteostasis, damages mitochondria
  • we have mismatches in our life
    • fight or flight response is overexpressed for modern dangers
    • acquire primitive gestalts during childhood development that don’t match our adult lives
    • mistakenly correlate stress (working harder) with success
  • need to reboot: redesign the stress response + free dynamic adaptability from learned constraints
  • arrange the 9 keys as a pyramid, I didn’t catch them all, should have photo’d the slide
    • ability to get things done (performance)
    • presence + flexibility
    • balance: physical, mental, ?
    • relationships: ?, ?, ?
  • we have learned to be stress-seeking, always on edge, looking out for the next threat

Some Travel Tips

  1. Use the Ranger Roll
    This is the first step in compacting the clothes so they’ll fit in the luggage. When rolling them up, you can also plan for each day (socks, underwear, shirt) as its own roll! At the end of the day, be sure to roll them back up again so they’ll fit on the way home.
  2. Rubber Bands!
    For items that can’t keep their shape (such as a towel), you can hold the roll with a silicone rubber band.
  3. Vacuum Bags!
    Now place the rolls into a vacuum bag!
  4. Use a portable air pump!
    To reduce the size of the clothes and really cram more into your carry-on, take the air out of the bag with a travel size vacuum.
  5. The vacuum bags can double as a body pillow when inflated.
    I discovered that a medium sized vacuum bag fits nicely into a zippered queen sized pillow case. Now you have a place to rest your arm when laying on your side. Be careful with the pressure, as the vacuum bags are not designed to hold air and the ziploc seal may pop. A big air sac also does not work as a head pillow!

LA Metro

Unusually, I’m actually giving feedback to a local government office. All due to some videos I watched about proposed expansion of the system.

I’ve chosen _not_ to get a car, even though I could afford one, because investments in the Metro system have enabled me to traverse the city for the past 5 years.

As a former student of UCLA and as an Engineer, I would like to see the Heavy Rail plans for the Sepulveda Line (specifically proposal 4 or 5) adopted. The Monorail proposals strike me as insufficient for several reasons:

* The proposed stops reduce ridership because they are extra-ordinarily cumbersome and inconvenient for passengers, requiring long walks to transfer lines, and grotesque placement (no pedestrian wants to walk 300yards, sometimes with luggage or goods from shopping, to the middle of a freeway so they can wait in a noisy, polluted, and unfriendly liminal space). If you want to see _ridership adoption_ the heavy rail proposals do better.
* The monorail doesn’t match existing Metro infrastructure and will reduce systemic flexibility (train + car re-use, maintenance knowledge, parts + repair storage) in a way that increases yearly costs of operations. If you think want to keep costs per rider low, the heavy rail proposals do better.
* The monorail constrains system growth because it lacks max capacity and suffers extended headway times. Alleviating the increasing amounts of congestion on the Sepulveda pass means getting as many people out of their cars and onto Metro, doing that means high frequency service (reduce headway times) and high volume cars, which _strongly favors_ the heavy rail proposals. Only the heavy rail options offer Metro room to scale as ridership increases.

I believe in the Metro’s ability to increase ridership by offering a better alternative vs sitting in congested traffic. That means frequent, high-volume service (3rd bullet above) that riders find convenient and enjoyable (1st bullet above) and which operates at a low cost (2nd bullet above). For all these reasons, the heavy rail options look vastly better than the monorail.

Speaking as a regular Metro rider, I find the monorail options strictly inferior to the heavy rail proposals and encourage the committee to remove them from consideration.

Additionally, We should predict that _all_ proposals will have delays and overruns, but I think these “budgetary inconveniences” will be far worse with the monorail proposals than for the heavy rail.

High School Outcomes

The push for standards and metrics encourage High Schools to focus on delivery of content, to fulfill tests and other assessments. I propose an incremental change to the assessment of school so that it shall focus on development of the meta-cognitive processes that lead to personal and financial success in students, rather than deliver content.

First, I do have two pieces of content that I think schools should add to the curriculum, again for the benefit of the students, with the aim that the majority of students will soon find themselves in a marriage, supporting kids, and carrying a mortgage after graduation.

  1. Knowledge of personal finance that includes budgeting, responsible use of credit, the dramatic power of compound interest, and the value of early investment in retirement accounts (401K, IRA).
  2. Knowledge of child psychology, parenting, and interpersonal behavior that makes one a supportive partner.

Given that last item as a Key Result for the school itself, I propose the school adopt an entirely different structure that models the behavior it wishes the students to adopt.

We begin with the simple observation that curiosity motivates learning. So we arrange the school to foster curiosity by removing the neat rows of desks and boring hours of lecture that don’t interest students, for the traditional approach wastes precious hours of youth. Instead, students shall learn by doing.

A student starts by picking 3 solid skills that they wish to build, with the aim that development of these skills enhance employability. A triad of skills builds resilience, provides an interesting interplay between interests, and encourages topical breadth.

Next the school provides an environment, with instructors offering advice, guidance, and curated experience that grows competency in the chosen skills by addressing 3 pillars of meta-cognition.

Students graduate by executing a self-directed project in each of the three areas. Prior to the capstone exercise, they work under the guidance of instructors who assist them through each of meta-congnitive pillars.

1. Knowledge Acquisition

Using the chosen skills as content generators, the school has the student practice various techniques of acquiring knowledge, so that the student can figure out which work for them as a learner. These techniques work across subject areas and remain generally applicable for cognitive employment. By questioning the material, they learn to deconstruct, analyze, and recombine the material within a skill’s domain.

Key Results

  • Spaced Repetition
  • The Feynman Learning Technique
  • Cornell Method of Taking Notes
  • Building a Knowledge Graph, such as Zettelkasten
  • Organization, such as Getting Things Done
  • Generation of Questions for a Field of Study
  • Discovering the Unsolved Problems of a Field
  • Bullshit Detection
  • How to Problem Solve

2. Psychology of Self

Through exercises of reflection, the school encourages students to reflect on their feelings and desires as they learn the material. They learn habits of personal psychology by which they can keep themselves motivated. As students acquire knowledge of themselves they engage in self-directed learning.

Key Results

  • Reflection, such as Journalling
  • Measurement of Learning Progress/Effectiveness
  • Formation of Habits
  • Practice with Deep Work
  • Value of Persistence and Flexibility
  • Big 5 Model of Personality
  • Growth Mindset
  • Cognitive Behavioral Techniques for Emotional Regulation
  • Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment

3. Psychology of Team

No field of study or business occurs in isolation. So students practice working on a team, building the skills for inter-personal relations, support, and leadership.

Key Results

  • What Makes Feedback Useful
  • Giving & Taking Constructive Feedback
  • Dealing with Disagreement, Reaching Consensus
  • Team Dynamics, such as Forming, Norming, Performing, Storming
  • Asking Questions

4. Bonus: Civics

The ambition curriculum produces business tycoons. The school supports entrepreneurial students with some additional content.

Key Knowledge

  • The Dictator’s Handbook, Keys to Power
  • The Federal Reserve, Economics
  • How to Be a Power Connector
  • Less Wrong sequences in Cognitive Bias and Bayesian Reasoning

Book Review: Lifespan

David Sinclair’s work Lifespan gives a nice overview of the state of longevity research for a lay audience. He describes his theory of aging: As cells cycle between “growth” and “repair” modes, they shuffle proteins in the epigenome to in/activate corresponding growth and repair genes. Over time the proteins get lost, failing to move where they need to be. Consequently, the cells lose their identity and/or become senescent.

He also addresses some ethical and social concerns around the fruits of his research: living longer. We must adjust some of our social systems, but none of these problems constitute a reason to prevent the research. I think he should argue even more forcefully than he did. He personalizes his experience with the inadequacy of our current institutions by relating from his own experience, a trip to the dentist who didn’t want to give him the treatment normal for a 20yr old and doctors willing to risk his daughter’s life while they waited on test results.

Many people pepper him with personal questions, most commonly: “What supplements do you take?”. So he has brief section on that as well. In several spots he highlights modern miracles: His own father seeing a renewed vigor from taking NMN, performing his own DNA sequencing to prove to doctors that his daughter had contracted Lyme, and some products and services (beyond his own research) that help him customize some lifestyle optimizations (diet, exercise, sauna, etc).

As long as you take steps to extend your healthspan, you can expect a good life. This means staying in the workforce longer, a chance for a second or third career, and increased earnings that derive from valuable experience. These improvements compound over your life, so trim your calorie intake and start exercising.

Some things you could look into and other brief notes.

  • Get your DNA analyzed and check for aging factors, Longevity and Genetics: FOXO3, CETP, IGF1, and more
  • Luigi Cornaro, a fifteenth-century Venetian nobleman who could, and probably should, be considered the father of the self-help book. The son of an innkeeper, Cornaro made a fortune as an entrepreneur and lavishly spent his money on wine and women. By his mid-30s, he was exhausted by food, drink, and sex—the poor guy—and resolved to limit himself in each regard
  • Roy Walford, a researcher from California whose studies on extending life in mice are still required reading for scientists entering the aging field
  • Xenohormesis: the idea that stressed plants have phytochemicals that our bodies detect, via our diet, and which trigger us to respond in kind, e.g. with an expectation of drought. If you’re looking for new drugs from the natural world, expect this area to bear fruit. Organic foods might be better for you due to the more stressful conditions of their growth.
  • NAD has an advantage over other STACs because it boosts the activity of all seven sirtuins.
  • The dream of personalized medicine has arrived: Patients with an RPE65 mutation that causes blindness, for example, can now be cured with a simple injection of a safe virus that infects the retina and delivers, forever, the functional RPE65 gene. The eye was targeted first for this therapy because it is immunologically isolated.
  • E. Topol, The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care, 2011

Choice quotes

The trick to revolutionary change is finding ways to make self-interest align with the common good.

Pessimism, it turns out, is often indicative of exceptional privilege.

Indeed, our medical system is built on ageism. When we are young, we don’t get treatments that could keep us healthy as we grow old. When we are old, we don’t get the treatments that are routinely used on the young.

Skillbaticals, which might take the shape of a government-supported paid year off for every ten worked, might ultimately become cultural and even legal requisites, just as many of the labor innovations of the twentieth century have. In this way, those who are tired of “working harder” would be afforded every opportunity to “work smarter” by returning to school or a vocational training program paid for by employers or the government.

“Might we be cheating ourselves,” the council asked, “by departing from the contour and constraint of natural life (our frailty and finitude), which serve as a lens for a larger vision that might give all of life coherence and sustaining significance?”[President’s Council on Bioethics, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness, 2003]
Oh, for goodness’ sake, if we truly believed that frailty was a requisite for meaningful life, we’d never mend a broken bone, vaccinate against polio, or encourage women to stave off osteoporosis by maintaining adequate calcium levels and exercising.
… The chair of the committee that wrote it, Leon Kass, is one of the most influential bioethicists of our time and came to be known, during the tenure of George W. the report was issued, aging research was framed not as a fight against a disease but as a fight against our humanity. That’s hogwash, and, in my mind, it’s rather deadly hogwash.

But because of a lack of funding, people over sixty today may not live long enough to be helped. If you and your family members end up the last of humanity to live a life that ends all too early with decay and decrepitude, or our children never see the benefits of this research, you can thank those bioethicists.

Book Review: How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

Overall, very much enjoyed this book. Loved the imagery that enables visualization of Marcus and the narrative that buttresses the cognitive behavioral techniques found within Stoic literature.

If you have read Meditations, then the quotes Marcus wrote down may seem out of context from his life or the things going on in it at the time. Unlike a teenage girl’s diary, his journal doesn’t contain details of each day. Rather it encapsulates a litany of pithy statements that serve as context-free reminders of how to behave, how to strive for virtue. We can apply these in our daily life, when the context arises for us, but they shed little light on why he wrote them down, when he would have turned to each, or what in his life at the time motivated him to make the recording.

Robertson, helpfully provides that context. He embellishes details, long lost to history, that paint a realistic and believable description of the emperor as an ordinary person. Through the narrative, we can vividly imagine Marcus as he grows up, his grooming for the position of emperor, the hardships he faced, the wars he fought. We see how his stoicism leads to generosity, such as proactive forgiveness of a usurper that prevents a civil war. Each chapter opens with vivid detail that lets us visualize the emperor as someone dealing with strife and difficulty. Then each proceeds to show us what parts of stoicism Marcus turned to for support, which turns into a meaty catalog of techniques that we can use in our own lives.

Choice Quotes


Nevertheless, once I started working as a psychotherapist, it became evident to me that most of my clients who suffered from anxiety or depression benefited from the realization that their distress was due to their underlying values. Everyone knows that when we believe very strongly that something very bad has happened, we typically become upset as a result. Likewise, if we believe that something is very good and desirable, we become anxious when it’s threatened or sad if it has already been lost. For example, in order to feel social anxiety, you have to believe that other people’s negative opinions of you are worth getting upset about, that it’s really bad if they dislike you and really important to win their approval. Even people who suffer from severe social anxiety disorder (social phobia) tend to feel “normal” when speaking to children or to their close friends about trivial matters, with a few exceptions. Nevertheless, they feelhighly anxious when talking to people they think are very important about subjects they think are very important. If your fundamental worldview, by contrast, assumes that your status in the eyes of others is of negligible importance, then it follows that you should be beyond the reach of social anxiety.

A voice inquired from the darkness, “Do you know where someone should go if he wants to buy goods?” Xenophon replied that they were right beside the agora, the finest marketplace in the world. There you could buy any goods your heart desired: jewelry, food, clothing, and so on. The stranger paused for a moment before asking another question: “Where, then, should one go in order to learn how to become a good person?”

2. The Most Truthful Child in Rome

Indeed, Seneca also points out that there is no virtue in enduring things we do not feel. This is important to note: for a Stoic to exhibit the virtue of temperance, he must have at least some trace of desire to renounce

What matters, in other words, isn’t what we feel but how we respond to those feelings.

the “transactional” model of stress, developed by Richard Lazarus.32 Imagine a seesaw, with your appraisal of the severity of a situation—how threatening or dangerous it is—on one side. On the other side is your appraisal of your own ability to cope, your self-confidence if you like. If you believe that the threat outweighs your ability to cope and the seesaw tips toward danger, then you’ll probably feel extremely stressed or anxious. On the other hand, if you reckon that the severity of the threat is low and your ability to cope is high, then the seesaw will tip toward you, and you should feel calm and self-confident. The Stoics, like modern therapists, tried to modify both sides of this equation

When faced with fever, slander, or exile, he would compose Stoic “eulogies” praising these events as occasions to exercise strength of character. Agrippinus was truly a master decatastrophizer. He would reframe every hardship as an opportunity to cope by exercising wisdom and strength of character.

3. Contemplating the Sage

That’s a rather clever mind trick that turns Stoic mentoring into a kind of mindfulness practice. Imagining that we’re being observed helps us to pay more attention to our own character and behavior

For example, they might be worrying about something and suddenly imagine the voice of their therapist challenging them with questions like “Where’s the evidence for those fears being true?” or “How’s worrying like this actually working out for you?”

He suggests that we call to mind each day the areas for improvement that our mentor has helped us identify. We should do this as frequently as possible but at the very least, he says, “at dawn, before we begin our daily tasks, and toward evening, before we are about to rest.”

The luxury of the landed gentry: they have time and intelligence for reflection and self-actualization.

We ought not to act and speak as if we were asleep.”

4. The Choice of Hercules

People still confuse pleasure with happiness

Hunger is the best relish, he said, whereas if we overeat we spoil our appetites

Nobody has ever had the words “I wish I’d watched more television” or “I wish I’d spent more time on Facebook”

me: But they might say that about books!

The same principle, that self-awareness disrupts the automatic quality of the behavior, can be very helpful when you actually want to break a bad habit.

Many types of urges only last a minute or so at a time, although they may recur throughout the day. You only have to deal with the present moment, though, one instance of an urge or craving at a time.

consider the double standard between the things you desire for yourself and the things you find admirable in others

5. Grasping the Nettle

Struggling to suppress, control, or eliminate unpleasant feelings adds another layer to our misery and frequently backfires by making the original problem worse.

People who strongly believe that unpleasant feelings are bad and try to suppress them from their minds often become more tense and preoccupied with the very feelings they’re trying to avoid, trapping themselves in a vicious cycle

6. The Inner Citadel and War of Many Nations

By contrast, if you accept that the outcome couldn’t have been other than it was and wasn’t under your direct control, then you should suffer no harm or frustration. In this way, the mind is saved from anxiety and preserved in its natural equanimity

One of the most robustly established findings in the entire field of modern psychotherapy research is the fact that anxiety tends to abate naturally during prolonged exposure to feared situations, under normal conditions.

me: Note that JB Peterson observes that exposure therapy doesn’t seem to reduce fear. Instead it trains bravery, a trait that generalizes to surmount other anxieties in life.

if exposure is terminated too soon, the technique may actually backfire and increase anxiety and sensitization to the feared situation.

However, anxiety also habituates almost as reliably, in most cases, when the threat is merely imagined, something known as in vitro, or “imaginal,” exposure.

escape is not something we should demand from life or feel we really need as a coping tool—that sort of dependence on being able to escape from stressful situations just creates its own problems. Marcus tells himself that he doesn’t literally need to get away from it all because true inner peace comes from the nature of our thoughts rather than pleasant natural surroundings. He tells himself that resilience comes from his ability to regain his composure wherever he finds himself. This is the “inner citadel” to which he can retreat, even on the frigid battlefields of the northern campaign.

The universe is change: life is opinion.

Gaining cognitive distance is, in a sense, the most important aspect of Stoic anxiety management. This is what Marcus meant by “life is opinion”: that the quality of our life is determined by our value judgments, because those shape our emotions

7. Temporary Madness

No matter how perverse that conclusion may seem, it’s justified in their own mind. If we constantly think of others as being mistaken rather than simply malicious, as deprived of wisdom against their wishes, we will inevitably deal more gently with them

Often all that holds us back from committing one vice is another vice, he says (another idea that goes back at least to Socrates). Many people refrain from crime, for instance, because they’re afraid of being caught, not because they’re virtuous.

often requires more effort to deal with the consequences of losing our temper than it does just to tolerate the very acts with which we’re angry.

your own anger is a bigger threat to you than the thing you’re angry about

The actions of others are external to us and cannot touch our character, but our own anger transforms us into a different sort of person, almost like an animal, and for Stoics that’s the greater harm

to accept their wrongdoing toward others while expecting them never to wrong you is both inconsiderate and foolish

8. Death and the View from Above

seems more obvious to me now than ever before that the lives of most men are tragedies of their own making

Though men desire wealth and other such things, these no more improve a man’s soul than a golden bridle improves a horse. We contaminate ourselves with these externals, blending and merging into things when we confuse them with our soul’s natural good.

Life is warfare and a sojourn in a foreign land

Commonplace Booking in the Digital Age

I’d like to first observe that, since we created an industrialized society, we have been trying to increase our productivity through planners, todo lists, task trackers, and various sundry mechanisms, each of which has its own style and tradeoffs. After highlighting some of these techniques, and recognizing the variability in workflow, I’ll naturally propose a plugin-based software solution.

The Commonplace Book

Let’s begin with a look at the commonplace book, used by many famously productive folks throughout the Rennaisance and into the late 1800’s.

In 1685 the English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke wrote a treatise in French on commonplace books, translated into English in 1706 as A New Method of Making Common-Place-Books, “in which techniques for entering proverbs, quotations, ideas, speeches were formulated. Locke gave specific advice on how to arrange material by subject and category, using such key topics as love, politics, or religion. Commonplace books, it must be stressed, are not journals, which are chronological and introspective.”[1]

By the early eighteenth century they had become an information management device in which a note-taker stored quotations, observations and definitions. They were used in private households to collate ethical or informative texts, sometimes alongside recipes or medical formulae.

Locke’s method involved creating an index of prefixes for the various subjects that interested him (Pa for “passion”, Ha for “Happiness” which might also collide with “Harmony”, and the like) followed by a growing list of page numbers. To record a note or quote, he’d open to the first available blank page in the book, write down the keyword as a title followed by the note and then append that page number to the prefix in the index. Obviously, if we kept our notes as digital records, we could simply use brute force search for free-associative recall.

Modern Daily (Paper) Planners

Because I’ve done a search for planners, I keep getting interesting ads about them. This experience has been somewhat informative as I’ve noticed a compelling sales pitch: A planner designed for your unique personality, that follows scientific principles learned by psychologists who study productivity. They encourage breaking down large tasks into achievable small ones, similarly divide and conquer time itself through daily, weekly, and monthly pages, and encourage reflection by tracking progress on goals. Really, their marketing says more than I can put into words.

Example: The Panda Planner

Example: Evo Daily Planner

Has (at this time) 4 variants, each based on a personality assessment. Also has a companion app. You can see more examples on their  kickstarter campaign.

Example: The Hero’s Journal

Realizing that more compelling motivation comes from narratives following the classic call to action, quest with allies, face adversity, and triumph, the Hero’s Journal focuses more on encouraging you through telling your story rather than dry task lists.

Modern (Digital) Note/Task Managers

As technology progressed so has our office work. We much more commonly use digital equivalents of file cabinets. That should have decreased the barrier to digital notetaking, as we often find ourselves at a computer when we want to make a note of something.

Example: Evernote

A quite popular piece of software for taking notes that come equipped with cloud storage that synchronizes across 3 different interfaces: mobile, desktop web, and a browser plugin (quite handy for bookmarking content). Their image -> text conversion even enables search across pictures of handwritten sticky notes.

Because Evernote offers some built-in hierarchy (Stacks and Notebooks) and free-form tagging, folks have developed tag conventions that encode Ferris-style Getting Things Done systems:

Examples: Project Management

We have Asana,, Jira, etc. All designed to track tasks and help a team of people coordinate. However, after using them at work, some people have brought them home to track their personal projects.


Example: reMarkable

Given that people still have a penchant for physically scribing their ideas and they can find themselves away from a computer when thinking (a reasonable methodology to remove distractions), reMarkable offers a digitized tablet that combines paper feel with digital organization.

Example: Digitization of Paper Planners

The Slice planner uses recent advances in image processing to transcribe written text (such as a clock, or cross-through on pre-placed icons for email. The Rocketbook, similarly lets you write freeform on the page and scan it later (with wipe and reuse paper), it tracks the scan using a QR code and has a list of icons along the page bottom that you’d configure for sending images to a cloud service (Google drive, Evernote, Dropbox, etc). Moleskine has an Ellipse Smart Writing product that equips a pen with an IR camera and bluetooth so that it can capture what you write on the page and upload it to a phone or tablet.


The Digital Commonplace Book

All of the ideas above have strong merits, otherwise they would not have survived in the marketplace. Each of the approaches above has a specific problem that it addresses, but they also compete with each other across some trade-offs (pen vs digital, task tracking vs free-recall) in the productivity space. Could we organize these examples and unify our approach? I think so!

Let us recognize that digitizing the information brings many benefits not available on paper: hyperlinking, tagging, cloud backup and synchronization across devices, and search. But paper also has utility: the feel of the pen, freeform drawing, lack of batteries. Fortunately that gap seems bridgeable via recent advances in image recognition and processing. Our notes might record various goals: todo lists, toread lists, task lists, deadline reminders, timeslots, ideas for later, brainstorms, etc. Digitization can bring us flexible views across the same data: calendar, kanban, gantt chart, checkbox lists, etc. The psychologists in productivity say we benefit from inspirational quotes, especially those that keep us focused on a goal-at-hand and regular reflections on progress and aptitude (achievable through scheduled prompts).

I propose that we can achieve all of the above with a plugin-based software. We establish an API that records note entries (text, bullet lists, checklists, photos, drawings) together with organizational metadata (tags), and a scheduler. Then we allow plugins to stitch those together for productive functionality. For example: the scheduler could watch for due time tag and then trigger a reminder action for filling out a reflection or alert that a task needs to be marked complete. A scheduler following IFTTT could watch for specific events (creation of a note with a tag) and then take a specific organizational action (set a reminder, upload and extract text, attach to a project). The plugins power a configurable dashboard of views that show the same data in different ways: a tag browser, a note editor, a calendar, a time chart, etc. If we streamline the customization (and somehow avoid overwhelming the user with paralysis of choice) then each person can interact with their material in a way that works for them (or continually seek The One True Way forever).

Our smartphone apps and the examples highlighted above already make incremental steps in the direction I outlined. But they remain as data silos and haven’t agreed on a unifying API, as market competition and the costly organizational efforts of standardization present strong incentives against doing so. They’d each rather do their own thing well, than become a plugin to a larger framework. But I see the pieces scattered, waiting for unification and stronger collaboration.


The Capitalist Religion

I was listening to Yuval Harari’s lecture series about his book Sapiens. He classified Capitalism as a religion and convinced me that I had already fully bought in. I’ve been practicing its creed without recognizing it as a religion. I now believe we should formalize it as religion in order to inform and enlighten other practitioners.

Major religions often have a supreme good, the capitalists worship Economic Growth. A Capitalist sins when they spend their profits on superfluous luxury. Rather, they should always reinvest profits to further growth, of their own business first, with the side effect of growing the economy generally.

The religion has a lower class: the Consumer, who should buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like. They assist Capitalists by consuming the excesses of over-abundant production, increasing the velocity of money, and bolstering economic metrics of activity.

The religion needs an embodiment. I propose creating The First Capitalist Church of Wealth. It also has an associated fraternity: The Spontaneous Order of Free Marketeers. Various Profits spread the the economic lessons. I propose coining Adam Smith and Frédéric Bastiat each the title of Mint (akin to Saint), or perhaps a higher rank such as one of the 12 Accountants (akin to Apostles). I have not yet ordained the the hierarchy.

We have a Holy Book: The Ledger. It contains various other books such as The Book of Acquisitions.

But we don’t speak of The Ledger as just a holy book. Each individual also has a personal ledger that tracks their economic contributions (like the chain worn by Ebenezer Scrooge). When a person dies and goes to the Golden Vault, they receive an accounting of their personal ledger. If they pass the audit, they may enter the vault. Otherwise, if their economic contributions net negative, they shall experience an eternal torment of shoddy products and bad service. Various levels of hellish inconvenience await them, as per the magnitude of their debts.

We have a guiding spirit: The Invisible Hand (as coined by Adam Smith), that directs entrepreneurs to generate value for the consumers.

I haven’t worked out yet how one pays penance for their misdeeds and malinvestments. But I think the religion can generate good interest, with membership appreciating the economic growth mindset.