Alberto's weekly email: No books this week, cryotherapy and more! 🚀

Hi All,

What I am reading 📚

Last week I decided to take some time off from books and instead clear my huge backlog of unread articles and posts from around the web.

(As a side note, I save everything I come across into Pocket. This is both a blessing and a curse: I am sure to save whatever catches my attention but most of it ends up in an archive that will never be read…)

There were three articles that made me think a lot:

  1. China. This post proposes a complete cut-off from China: no trade, no relationships with the Chinese. While this seems to me almost impossible—China is too powerful and there are too many economic interests at play— it is an interesting take on the matter.

  2. 5G: if you build it, we will fill it. There has been a lot of hype about the revolution that 5G will bring. This article by Benedict Evans tells a more realistic story:

The killer app for 5G is probably, well, ‘faster 4G’. Over time, that will mean new Snapchats and New YouTubes - new ways to fill the pipe that wouldn’t work today, and new entrepreneurs. It probably isn’t a revolution - or rather, it means that the revolution that’s been going on since 1995 or so keeps going for another decade or more, until we get to 6G.

  1. The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius. This is one of the most recent essays by Paul Graham. In it Graham defines what, according to him, really makes a genius:

If I had to put the recipe for genius into one sentence, that might be it: to have a disinterested obsession with something that matters.

This might seem obvious, but what really got me thinking was that he suggests that a genius’ obsession is an obsession without a particular purpose. The interest in a particular subject or problem is born out of sheer curiosity so one should relax a bit:

For example, for the very ambitious, the bus ticket theory suggests that the way to do great work is to relax a little. Instead of gritting your teeth and diligently pursuing what all your peers agree is the most promising line of research, maybe you should try doing something just for fun. And if you’re stuck, that may be the vector along which to break out.

If you haven’t read other Paul Graham’s essays, I can’t recommend them enough. There’s a lot of wisdom in his essays. Go read them.

Book Notes 📝

Some weeks ago I wrote about “Range” by David Epstein and the Einstellung effect. Over the weekend I put together my thoughts on the book. All in all, this is the best Psychology book I read this year. The ideas discussed in it will become increasingly relevant in the coming years.

Nerd Corner 🤓

Cold exposure is a practice that has potential health benefits like boosting your immune system (see here and here).

Because of this, over the years I’ve gotten into the habit of taking cold showers. (I normally do cold water only for the last minute of my shower and a 5 min cold shower around once a month). It hasn’t been easy, cold water is always cold no matter what, but I’ve noticed that I feel more energized after a morning cold shower and that my tolerance for discomfort has increased because of this self-torture.

So, when a friend suggested we try cryotherapy I didn’t hesitate. Cryotherapy is a more extreme version of cold exposure that has become popular in the last 20 years or so, mostly because the technology has become cheaper. The therapy consists of stepping into a chamber that has been cooled to at least -120F for around 3 minutes.

It sounds crazy, and the last 30 seconds are especially hard —that’s when the cold temperature really hit me— but there seem to be benefits to this practice as well:

Straight after the therapy, I felt a bit sleepy but then I felt more energized for the rest of the day. I probably won’t get into the habit of cryo (it is still quite expensive) but I’ll consider doing it again, or I might go full Viking-mode and try the Wim Hof method.

Also interesting 🤯

  • I love seeing the world from above. This article describes how Planet is mapping the world’s roads using its fleet of satellites. The images are mesmerizing.

  • Antifragile states and global cities discusses the changing role of modern cities.

  • In this post, James Wang suggests that we might be about to experience a second AI spring, this time in the realm of natural language understanding.

Before you go 😎

This was the longest weekly email I've sent so far. If you think these emails should be shorter (or longer) let me know!

Until next week!

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