Surveillance Capitalism, Abstractive Forces

Reading Nicholas Carr’s blog, I was made aware of an interesting piece of commentary available on a German journalism site: The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism. It covers a topic on many minds today: the growing ability of faceless organizations to monitor and access data about the lives of private citizens, in both digital and physical realms.

I have been interested in good criticism of the Web for years now. As someone with a contrarian disposition, one thing that makes me uncomfortable is an echo chamber. Silicon Valley is a pre-eminent example of just such a phenomenon. There’s an abundance of breathless descriptions of the shining future that technology and the Web, in particular, will bring us, and I find that suspicious. Not every day is the sky blue; sometimes it rains. So I always enjoy a nuanced critique of the bright, boundless future we are all promised by the technorati.

I suggest reading the article itself, but in I’ve cut out important quotes and and interspersed them with my own commentary in order to highlight a narrative that isn’t fully appreciated by many. Then I attempted to give some historical context for the underlying force in Part 2.


Part 1

“I’ve come to a different conclusion: The assault we face is driven in large measure by the exceptional appetites of a wholly new genus of capitalism, a systemic coherent new logic of accumulation that I call surveillance capitalism. Capitalism has been hijacked by a lucrative surveillance project that subverts the “normal” evolutionary mechanisms associated with its historical success and corrupts the unity of supply and demand that has for centuries, however imperfectly, tethered capitalism to the genuine needs of its populations and societies, thus enabling the fruitful expansion of market democracy.

An analogy is the rapid spread of mass production and administration throughout the industrialized world in the early twentieth century, but with one major caveat. Mass production was interdependent with its populations who were its consumers and employees. In contrast, surveillance capitalism preys on dependent populations who are neither its consumers nor its employees and are largely ignorant of its procedures.”

This is the key insight of Zuboff’s analysis, in my opinion. Corporations and other abstractive forces (like government) are becoming increasingly disentangled with the humans they profess to serve. This is a trend one can identify in the previous centuries, but it has accelerated tremendously in the past century.

“The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale.”

People are scared about this trend intuitively, and you can see this any time someone complains about corporations, government, the elite — an out of touch power subjugating humans — it’s all a cry against the same process. A process that they can sense, but don’t have a vocabulary for — because we are transitioning to a higher, not yet experienced rung on this ladder of progress. Historians and academics in the future will devise terms for this.

“This is a different kind of challenge now, one that threatens the existential and political canon of the modern liberal order defined by principles of self-determination that have been centuries, even millennia, in the making. I am thinking of matters that include, but are not limited to, the sanctity of the individual and the ideals of social equality; the development of identity, autonomy, and moral reasoning; the integrity of contract, the freedom that accrues to the making and fulfilling of promises; norms and rules of collective agreement; the functions of market democracy; the political integrity of societies; and the future of democratic sovereignty.”

Chilling. I would argue that many of those things are a result of the same underlying force that now threatens to disband them.

An example of how you can see surveillance capitalism manifested in real life:

“The very idea of a functional, effective, affordable product as a sufficient basis for economic exchange is dying. The sports apparel company Under Armour is reinventing its products as wearable technologies.”

Very few people are in the business of selling just products today. Instead, they sell brands and now services in an effort to capture customer loyalty or ‘engagement’. This loyalty sustains the corporation and is what separates it from it previous eras of commerce. In a product-driven environment, the needs of the consumer are ultimate: products don’t sell if they’re poor at meeting the needs of consumers. That cause-and-effect relationship is being degraded by a focus on customer loyalty.


Part 2
Of course, none of this is actually special to modern history. As my friend pointed out to me, “those watchers have been around for a long time developing sophisticated skills… There’s a reason Pharaoh was god. He was able to oversee.”

Indeed, this process is described lucidly in Part 1 of Seeing Like A State. The powers that be have sought to standardize and simplify many natural phenomena in order to manipulate and understand that which is under their rule. Examples of this include the invention of surnames, standard weights and measures, street grids, scientific forestry, and freehold property. In its ambition, the state creates a model, an abstract representation of chaotic (to the outside eye) objects. Eventually, through the power of the state, the chaotic reality starts to resemble the model.

For instance, commoners adopted surnames as a way to avoid being taxed twice and to ensure ease of land inheritance. The states power in these matters made the chaotic reality of John, the son of Thomas, the son of Robert become the abstract model of John Carpenter*. In other words, the territory became the map.  This is perfectly displayed in the quote above:

“The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale.”

Their models will change your reality.

It goes beyond that, though. As I wrote earlier, the key insight of Zuboff’s analysis was that

“Corporations and other abstractive forces (like government) are becoming increasingly disentangled with the humans they profess to serve.”

When an abstractive force engages in abstraction (also meaning standardization, simplification) it inevitable discards elements of that which it seeks to model. There is no way around this. For a model to work, something must be determined cruft and that cruft must be thrown out to simplify the picture. For instance, a city map (a two dimensional model of a city) does not denote cracks in the sidewalk or even lamp posts. To include those would require a map the size of the city itself, therefore negating the maps purpose of simplification.

As you can see, the process of modeling removes the abstraction force from the full reality of that which it seeks to model. Hopefully Zuboff will be able to elaborate on the disconnect between abstractive forces and humans.

For now, I think it is most visible in the sometimes onerous ways in which progress compels us to comply. In order to get information about my heart rate, I need an Apple Watch, then I need an iPhone for it to communicate with, then I also need a PC or Mac to tether the iPhone, I also need Internet connectivity so all the software can work, and I need electricity for the hardware to function. All of that infrastructure has to be in place, paid for, and functioning in order for you to see a graph of your heart rate. Is progress our aide? Or are we serving the algorithm?

This is not a new process and has been going on for centuries. Despite my wary perception of abstraction, it is the engine behind all scientific discovery and invention. It also is behind humanity’s ability to achieve things like nation-states (via the science of administration and bureaucracy). Paradoxically, by simplifying, we are able to achieve more complex systems. What becomes simplified becomes a component of a larger, more complex entity.

*Notice also how the external identify of John Carpenter is less connected than the external identity of John, the son of Thomas, son of Robert; he stands alone.

 

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Surveillance Capitalism, Abstractive Forces

I’ve been neglecting this blog

I’ve been neglecting this blog.

Even though I’ve always told myself and others that this is an informal blog, it has secretly been a promise to myself. I call it an informal blog because I don’t want to feel obligated to post regularly or pigeonhole myself into any style or topic. The process of writing is exhausting for me. I generally don’t do the breezy “quote and comment” style of blogging that the most prolific bloggers do. I write when I feel that I have something original to say, some kind of wisdom to impart. I’m not here to build an “audience”. I don’t want an audience because that suggests there are a number of people out there awaiting my guidance on certain matters. To have an audience broadens the scope of your expected commentary. If I had an audience, I would feel that I wasn’t fulfilling my duties if I weren’t commenting on every piece of knowledge of some importance that slid underneath my eyes. If I had an audience, it would be my job to make sure that they knew about those things. I am responsible for their education in certain matters. I don’t want that responsibility. That’s why this is an informal blog with a meaningless name and no stated objectives.

However, this blog is also a promise to myself. I knew that I needed a pile of hard-wrought prose and an accumulation of unremembered knowledge behind me. The time and effort I put into my writing here is something I will draw upon in the future. One of my favorite ditties regarding this truth is relayed by Stephen Pressfield in “The War of Art”.

Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

Most if not all successful writers will have a similar answer when asked a similar question. It’s akin to great athletes attributing their success to their limitless resolve to practice. Successful people in all industries will say similar things about hard work. Getting somewhere amounts to putting in the work. Why that work is important will vary from pursuit to pursuit, but it is important in all of them. I suppose you could say that anything worth doing is worth doing again and again.

I have been neglecting this blog because I had a new job from October 2015 to the middle of February 2016. In that time period, I posted four times even though I have a lot of material to draw from. I wrote 48 journals and read hundreds of pages of other people’s writing. I also had a number of blog-worthy entries written before I had a place to post them, as well as a number of post ideas. It would’ve been easy to touch up or reformat anything I’ve written previously. Why didn’t I write something?

I don’t have an answer to that question. I don’t really want one. My personal experiment to see how well I could withstand the destruction of my personal regimen was a disaster. My work schedule could have me start work anywhere from 11pm to 5am, any day of the week. It changed every week. Many of my work days were 12-14 hours (not including the 45-75 minute commute). Scheduling appointments, running errands, and seeing friends was logistically futile. The consequent apathy and hopelessness I felt resulted in the sloughing off of several good habits I had developed, and shirking some big picture responsibilities (like my coaching course). Even though I quit in the middle of February, it’s taken me until now to get back to a point where I feel confident in my life again. I’ve aligned with my purpose once more and I’ve gotten back to my old activities. If I learned anything from this, it’s that a good amount of regularity in your life provides an astonishingly important sense of stability.

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

I’m baaack.

I’ve been neglecting this blog

Getting some sun without getting burnt

I live in Colorado. I also have type two skin (barely, it’s very close to type one). That elevation really compounds the problem of having pale skin in such a sunny state. Sunlight is radiation, and so its intensity is squared as you get closer to the sun.
However, last summer, I was able to tan my torso. This is quite an accomplishment for me, since the story usually goes: shirtless, sunburn, peel, no tan, try again if you dare. There was no goldilocks sun exposure that would give me a little color without burning me.
At the end of summer 2015, I was walking outside shirtless for an hour and I wouldn’t get burned. If I went a bit over an hour, I’d be red for a couple days, but I didn’t burn. In fact, I don’t think I had a sunburn all year.
I’ll tell you what I think was key to my success.
1. A strong diet, low in n-6 but with seafood. For the purposes of creating and supporting skin that can interact with the sun in a healthy manner, I think your main focus should  be removing as much PUFA from your diet as possible. However, this comes with a caveat, since seafood has some amazing properties when it comes to the sun. You might be interested in supplementing with astaxanthin, as well. You want a strong, varied diet, because getting enough nutrients is important for the function of your skin. Remember that a strong diet will include gelatin/collagen/broth and organ meats. There are many accounts of people getting burnt less when they go on a paleo diet.
2. Introducing sun gradually. Most people recommend building up sun exposure in 15 minute increments. I completely agree with this, but I go one farther. The intensity of the sun grows throughout the season, so it’s important to start as early in the year as you can. I’ve been sunbathing on warm days since the middle of February. I do this when I go on walks in the morning (sun isn’t as harsh in the morning). This is an even more gentle way of building up sun exposure. If your body’s first big introduction to sun is at noon during May at Waterpalooza, you’ll be feeling the after effects of that decision for a week.
But wait, it’s really cold in February and even some of March. That’s true, and especially so since we’re talking about exposure before 11AM. That’s why I like to do it with a walk. In February, I left my house with sweatpants and hoody. By the time I got to my spot, I was warm from walking around. Then I took off my shirt and hoody and warmed myself with the sun’s radiation. Thanks to Colorado’s general lack of clouds, I can get quite warm laying in the sun in February. Sometimes walking home I wouldn’t even bother putting my hoody back on; my shirt kept me warm enough.
This year I got an earlier start, and I won’t have a long trip to Europe breaking up my summer like last year, so I’m curious to see how far I can push my tolerance this season. Plus, judging from the fact that my exposed forearms remain darker than my torso even in winter, it seems reasonable to assume that a certain level of the tan acquired in summer is cumulative over one’s life. The anecdotal experiences of people who work outside (myself included) support this. I’ve never heard of anyone getting burnt more or needing more sunblock as they add more seasons of work under their belt; it’s always less sunblock and less burns.
Getting some sun without getting burnt

My thoughts on quantifying blood biomarkers

What follows is a long, roundabout attempt at qualifying the quantification of biomarkers. This post is designed to help bring some of the unarticulated, unexamined reasoning out of the woods of my mind. (SPOILER: I do eventually get there in the last section — briefly)

The testing odyssey
I started out with WellnessFX. Dave promoted them fairly heavily in 2013 and it looked like a nice way to visually scope out your progress over time. I stopped using WFX for a year when I realized that the test packages I was buying didn’t quite satisfy what I wanted from testing. (Also, they switched completely to Quest, who had impractical hours for me.)

My stated impetus for blood testing was to quantify my baselines, in order to gain insight and a direction to take my health in. With the Baseline package, I scored well on pretty much everything tested. (There were a few things I ignored since I couldn’t find any clear ideas about them.) I was a bit crestfallen at the lack of direction it provided me.

Since the Baseline package didn’t cover any hormones, I decided to ‘level up’ and test my hormone levels. I got a membership to LEF and got some relatively inexpensive tests on things like testosterone, DHEA, thyroid panel, SHBG, etc (they usually have a big sale in the Spring; WFX has a sale in January). Well, I had low testosterone and DHEA. Not surprising given the nasty habit I developed in high school of staying up way too fucking late on the computer. I got an ASI, too. Not surprisingly, I had depressed cortisol, suggesting end stage ‘adrenal dysfunction’.

So now I had a problem to fix. That’s good. Unlike in my previous testing packages, I was no longer perfect on paper. Progress. However, there are dozens of reasons for each of those things to be out of whack. Likewise, dozens of ways to fix them with no real winning protocol in sight. Direction to take my health focus? Check. Insight? Hardly.

Testing hormones is a good diagnostic method. Actually, pretty much any blood test is great for diagnostics. That’s obvious enough when you consider that’s what blood tests are used for — ferreting out problems. It did not satisfy my full aspiration for quantifying my biomarkers, though.

With scant guidance granted by blood tests of lipids, hormones, electrolytes, and proteins, I became drawn to hair tissue mineral analysis. HTMA is a little unusual when compared to other methods of testing. It has its own unique culture built right into the testing and diagnostics. I liked the idea of HTMA because it’s cheap yet has broad implications and it focuses on minerals (I have a micronutrient fetish). The affordability of HTMA makes it easy to pay for regular updates on your health status (a test once a year is too low of sampling frequency). Micronutrients are the essential elements that make all the myriad enzymes in our bodies work. Therefore, learning about the micronutrient status in your body can provide a lot of explanatory power.

I wanted to do an HTMA quarterly, but the turnaround times for the tests are too long to make that feasible. It took over a month to get my test back. So one out of three months is spent waiting for feedback to act on. I think this is common place with boutique testing; my ASI also took a good month to process. In both instances, I began to wonder if something was lost in the mail, or something happened to my enclosed check after 3 weeks of silence. With blood tests, you can sometimes see results in a week.

Rumination
After I started reading Jack Kruse’s Leptin series, I became enamored with the idea of innocuous blood tests being used to discern hidden realities about one’s body. For instance, Jack claims that Reverse T3 can be used to gauge leptin sensitivity. Around the same time, I happened to catch an article from WFX. I also chanced upon Russell Jaffe’s talk about his top 8 biomarkers. Jack Kruse also has a list of labs that he likes. This created a perfect storm for me to muse on the idea of a cadre of blood tests that would probe multiple aspects of one’s health and spit out a scorecard. A stalwart six or so.

When it comes to testing, it’s easy to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. I like minimalism — for the sake of wallet and mind. What I envisioned was not a dense diagnostic panel, but a chart of biomarker progression that I could proudly watch. It should include some unusual biomarkers and some mundane biomarkers. It should allow an informed person a broad view of one’s health.

An ideal testing suite?
I’m still not positive how to describe the exact characteristics of my ideal testing suite, but maybe that’s because each test shouldn’t be the same. I like hs-CRP and LDH because they’re nonspecific and provide a good way to gamify your health. With those two, lower is better. I also think that 25-hydroxy D and Mag RBC should constantly be tested. There are hundreds of studies showing the positive effects of Vitamin D on dozens of conditions. Likewise, magnesium is a mineral that is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body. Whatever ailment you have, it’s likely that magnesium plays a role in it. While Vitamin D and magnesium may not be center stage for whatever specific illness you’re targeting, insufficient levels of either ruin the integrity of your health structure.

Those are my top four. What are some other things to watch? Total cholesterol and TSH. While ideally, you would get a full cholesterol breakdown (VAP or NMR) and diagnose thyroid function with a full and precise panel, these two markers will give you an idea of your potential of steroid (hormone) production. You need cholesterol and a functioning thyroid to produce pregnenolone, the mother hormone. (You also need preformed Vitamin A.) Having good levels of these does not mean you won’t have hormone problems, though. There are a lot of other things impacting your hormone status. This is just a way to to get an idea about your potential for steroid production in a cheap, crude fashion.

Other panels to check out are a full anemia panel as well as a profile of your omegas.

If you’re paying for this out of pocket, I would suggest cycling through the four aforementioned panels (thyroid, VAP/NMR, anemia, omegas) with each regular round of testing. Baseline+thyroid, Baseline+anemia, Baseline+omegas, Baseline+VAP/NMR.

What I plan to do
In December 2015, my plan for 2016 was to grab two of WFX’s “Performance Package”, tack on an omega profile, maybe VAP/NMR, and try out some more exotic biomarkers like TNF-alpha. However, when I sat down to write this section, and looked over the WFX packages again, I realized this might not be the most cost effective option given my current philosophy.

Broadly speaking, the advantages that “Performance” has over “Baseline” is magnesium RBC, full anemia panel, and a good handful of hormones. Performance costs over twice as much as Baseline. A Mag RBC test costs $50 and an anemia panel costs $79 (member price). The rest of the cost is going into all the hormones. It’s a great deal if you value all those hormones. However, I’ve had many of them tested before and I feel like they’re not worth the extra cost. I will try to articulate why.

Are you shimmering with energy and joy? If not, your hormones are out of whack. If you shell out the cash, that’s what a hormone panel will tell you. If you’re going to adjust your hormone levels with exogenous hormones, then a test would be helpful (or rather, required). However, if you intend to apply lifestyle and diet fixes… I point out again that you can preclude any money spent on blood tests with an assessment of your energy and mental state. Hormones will take care of themselves.

Having said that, I may tack on DHEA-S and Testosterone to a testing round in order to chart progress and aging. That brings me to the ultimate reason why I’ve opted for Baseline: flexibility. Instead of paying for DHEA-S, Testosterone, and an anemia panel twice — like if I got the Performance package — I can pay for them once.

Amusingly, this means I’ve come full circle. I went bearish on Baseline in 2014, and now I think it’s the best overall option for myself.

Conclusion
I find writing to be an effective form of self-education. It’s rare that I set out to discuss a topic without learning something as I go. It forces me to carefully delineate my line of thinking, and in the process I uncover new trains of thought and unexamined loopholes. It is a form of exploration for me. The act of writing, the implied permanence, enhances verbal reasoning and awareness. It makes one laboriously hone their logic and word choice. For this reason, I find writing to be extremely exhausting (but rewarding).

I’ve started and stopped this post multiple times and I still haven’t answered myself. At this point, I should probably rewrite the whole thing. There’s a lot to cut out, and a re-write would be more cohesive after all of the thinking I’ve done to get here. To be frank, there are at least three separate posts in here. This should’ve never left my personal journal.

However, I’m very particular (religious, even) about the precious, non-repeatable nature of human thought. This is why I take my time reading books. Each paragraph is pregnant with potential directions for my mind to take. Sometimes a single minute of reading will result in five minutes of exploratory note-taking. Why do I savor books this way? The next time I read a given book I will have different thoughts, I will have a different experience. (Aside: this is why several of my favorite films I have only seen once.) I must capture my current thoughts now or else I may never see them again. Thoughts are delicate and precious. They are effervescent. Countless times I have been too lazy to scribble a note immediately, and when I go back an hour later, the idea has evaporated. There was a chain of thoughts that led up to that lost idea (the meta-thinking that occurs while reading), and I forgot the key thought necessary to regenerate the lost idea. Sometimes there are clues in the preceding sentences or paragraphs; sometimes not. Then you must look to the environment of your mind or your external environment for clues.

That is why you are getting all of this mess. A rewrite would have an entirely different composition. I strongly tend towards concise phrasing, and it’s very likely that some of the logic that I’ve enumerated here would not be recorded in a rewrite. In fact, I’ve already excised some of the logic due to verbosity. (Yes, I know.)

Also, I’m lazy, a rewrite wouldn’t be finished in time for you to take advantage of WellnessFX’s Loyalty program, and it’s an informal blog. So suck on my verbose ponderings. Even though this section was supposed to be the conclusion, I went on a monstrous tangent, so now I will have to write the real conclusion.

The real conclusion
Let’s go back to the beginning, where I talked about pulling the unexamined reasons out of my mind. I inadvertently dropped myself hints about the unexamined reasons throughout this entry, the biggest of which was the word “gamify” after my mind had been primed by the phrase “biomarker progression”.

You could say that ‘gamification’ is about compressing real world progress into a single dimension. (As far as I know, nobody has tried to create a game with progression in two dimensional space. There’s nothing like U-curve response, everything is entirely linear. What would a U-curve progression game even look like? Someone make that.)

Anyway, games have one dimensional progress (your character’s experience points, XP), so gamification is just simplifying something to a single, directional metric (it always proceeds in one direction, up or down). Another way to explain this is: it excludes homeostasis. This definition excludes markers that are interpreted with ranges. They’re relative, and the ranges are determined indirectly (population averages, clinical experience, etc) as opposed to being determined by a physical law. The reason testosterone has such a large reference range (aside from the very nature of sampling sick people) is because some men do just fine on lower amounts of testosterone than other men. Testosterone would make a poor candidate for gamification, and so would cholesterol (for other reasons).

The only biomarkers that could be used for gamification are ones that don’t obey ranges, like hs-CRP. There isn’t an optimal range for hs-CRP: zero is best. These are admittedly pretty rare in biology; biology doesn’t have bad guys. Let me explain. For instance, every health advocate would agree that inflammation is bad and we should minimize it, but what if your interference in the inflammation process with anti-inflammatory molecules actually prolonged, shrouded, or even advanced disease? Inflammation is important, even if it is connected with disease. Biology doesn’t have bad guys.

On second thought, since biology is all about ratios and homeostasis, it’s probably a foregone conclusion to say that you can’t really gamify blood markers. So I just wasted your time with this crazy idea about gamification.

I think that my inability to finish this post is indicative of how inconclusive my thoughts currently are. This whole entry was instigated by a question from a friend that I answered satisfactorily in 400 words. That was probably more helpful than the 2400 words I’m dumping in your lap right now.

I need to get the hell out of here.

Essentially
If you want to track your health progress over the years (not diagnose disease states), test biomarkers like LDH, TNF-alpha, ESR, hs-CRP, LPS.

If you want to gauge your ability to resist disease, test biomarkers like Vitamin D, Mag RBC, bicarbonate, among many others.

If you want to diagnose a health condition, please take out a loan at your nearest credit union.

In the future, I will write on this topic again. (Astute readers will have noticed I haven’t provided any reasoning for the markers I chose. It’s a hunch at this point.) For now, you can grab a couple of Baseline packages at WellnessFX, or opt to save your money for the smorgasboard of random indicators I listed above (only two are in Baseline).

Test something now so that you’ll have those results in the future. The value in quantification is the progress you can see. I get giddy just thinking about being able to look at all my results ten years in the future.

My thoughts on quantifying blood biomarkers

Coffee first thing in the morning?

Last week I realized that it might be more appropriate for me to have caffeine in the middle of my day, rather than at the beginning. Generally, when I wake up, I’m not struggling to stay awake. After several hours of wakefulness, my background level of sleep deprivation starts to take over and I start dozing off when my mind isn’t actively engaged. I tried this, and it did seem to work for me. I didn’t doze off driving back from work.

This weekend, I chanced upon a blog discussing the optimal time for caffeine intake:

Drug tolerance is an important subject, especially in the case of caffeine since most of us overuse this drug. Therefore, if we are drinking caffeine at a time when your cortisol concentration in the blood is at its peak, you probably should not be drinking it. This is because cortisol production is strongly related to your level of alertness and it just so happens that cortisol peaks for your 24 hour rhythm between 8 and 9 AM on average (Debono et al., 2009). Therefore, you are drinking caffeine at a time when you are already approaching your maximal level of alertness naturally. One of the key principles of pharmacology is to use a drug when it is needed… Otherwise, we can develop tolerance to a drug administered at the same dose. In other words, the same cup of morning coffee will become less effective and this is probably why I need a shot of espresso in mine now.

My meager understanding of coffee chemistry suggests that wakefulness promotion comes from caffeine blocking adenosine breakdown. I’m not really familiar with caffeine having an effect on cortisol production, but we’ll run with it. What I found most interesting about this is that it provides a more concrete explanation for progressive coffee tolerance. Your body sets a ceiling for cortisol production. You add more caffeine, but if it’s too much the body will down-regulate caffeine’s effect, thus making it weaker. So unless you’re doing a coffee fast, it’s probably best to have breakfast with high protein content after you wake up, and then have some coffee later.

Coffee first thing in the morning?

Putting biohacking into perspective

I just watched Ben Greenfield’s presentation at the Biohacker Summit in Finland and I think it might just be the most important talk or podcast of this year. The premise is that there’s a lot of great products coming out that allow us to maximize our biological potential… but there’s also a lot of low-tech alternatives to these expensive products. Moreover, using low-tech options decreases our exposure to nnEMF.

I personally plan to deprecate regular usage of Sleep as Android once I get a phone with Smart Bluetooth. After this talk, I realized that an HRV reading in the morning is more insightful than sleep data. Sleep data tells you how you slept — HRV tells you if your biohacks are effective. That’s what I’m really after.

Putting biohacking into perspective

You don’t need to remember passwords anymore

Now that I’ve been using Lastpass for over two years — and I can’t imagine my digital life without it — I repeatedly run into reminders that there are in fact individuals on this Internet who don’t use password vaults. In the same way that I have to remind myself that very few people know that humans don’t ‘burn food’ like a literal coal furnace or that very few people know protein bars are just candy bars for adults, I have to remind myself that not everyone understands how much easier life is with a service like Lastpass.

Normally, in an effort to convince you of how right I am, I’d start dumping an exhaustive list of hard-wrought and hard-thought reasons designed to create THE DEFINITIVE REFERENCE FOR WHY YOU SHOULD USE LASTPASS. That’s how I like to write about things. I’m a big picture guy. However, sometimes a good case study is just as convincing, if not more so, than an abstract but detailed argument. It’s also a lot less exhausting for me.

The Case Study
I recently pre-ordered the new Bulletproof Cookbook and I get pre-order bonuses for having done so. Nice. Unfortunately, to access these bonuses, I have to create a new account on a new website JUST TO WATCH THOSE VIDEOS. And nothing else. It’s kind of a waste. Why not, I don’t know, email me a dropbox link to download the videos?

The Problem
In the past, I would’ve created my account — entered my email and used some old beater password that I’ve had memorized forever and that I don’t use on my important accounts.  I’m guessing you do something similar. However, using the same password on multiple sites increases the likelihood that that same password is eventually going to end up in a database breach. Then your wonderful “unique” password becomes part of a huge list of passwords that hackers can use when trying to break into online accounts. Funny stuff can happen if a targeted account happens to be yours.

You can avoid this risk by never using the same password ever again. But coming up with new passwords is hard, and then you have to memorize them. This brings us back to our case study: creating a password for a dinky site just so I can watch 5 videos! Why would I want to waste my brain power on that? That’s not Bulletproof!

The Solution
If you’re like me, this is not the first time you’ve purchased digital goods that can only be accessed through some one-off membership site, and it won’t be the last. Since I have Lastpass, this doesn’t concern me. Lastpass creates a random, cracking resistant password and then remembers that for me. All I have to do is click on things.

The only password I have to remember now is my master password — the password that logs me in to Lastpass. It’s the last password I have to worry about, hence “last pass”. Everything else is taken care of. I don’t come up with new passwords and I don’t remember them. Thus, creating a one-off account for the Bulletproof Cookbook isn’t a concern for me. I just make the account, Lastpass remembers it,  and I go on my merry way.

If you try it, you’ll love it
Is this making sense to you? Some people think this sounds like more trouble than its worth. Maybe I’m overcomplicating things by explaining why Lastpass is awesome. Maybe it’d work better if you just try it. I mean, it is free. Here’s a harmless way to try it out:
  1. Add the Lastpass extension to your browser.
  2. Create an account with Lastpass.
  3. Set up three sites in Lastpass. Here’s how. Just three. You can add more later.
  4. Browse the Internet as you normally do.
  5. Trying making a new account and bask in the cryptographically random splendor that is now under your control. You don’t have remember new passwords and everything is automatically filled out for you!
It takes five minutes to set up. You spent almost as much time reading this blog post. Quite honestly, in light of that fact, you’d be an idiot not to try it. You just spent time reading about it — why read about it if you’re not going to try it? Sunken cost and all that.
You don’t need to remember passwords anymore