Avoiding Autocracy and Chronic Disease

Your weekly 5 things from the mind of Miles Lasater

Happy Saturday! Here are your 5 things from the mind of Miles for this week.

  1. Technology Locking in Autocracy? Do young people value democracy? And do they see that as linked to freedom? According to polls I’ve seen, there is a decline in the public’s love of democracy. (See article “The Signs of Deconsolidation” [PDF] and Dalia Research.) With the rise of information tech how high are the risks of autocratic lock in? While the risks in the US seem lower for the moment, a friend suggested recently that we need a new big push by liberal democracy to confront tyranny abroad. Maybe by creating trade barriers with non-democratic regimes. I don’t know. I do keep thinking about the Human Rights Foundation’s quote that: “Tyranny is the root of poverty, war, and torture.”

  2. Extra Life Again. I featured Steven Johnson’s Extra Life in a previous newsletter. I’m fascinated by his list of the largest impact innovations to save lives. The biggies are artificial fertilizer (and related improvements to growing crops), toilets/sewers and vaccines. Or more simple, the biggies are more food and less infectious disease. I’m haunted by the question, how do we find the next life savers? Yes and yes, let’s all quit smoking and please take care of our newborns. Beyond that is the next big life saver something to do with improving diet and increasing exercise? Or treating aging more directly? Is it a breakthrough on energy generation? Or climate change?

  3. Why We Get Sick. The last 150 years or so we doubled life expectancy mainly by reducing infectious disease and producing more calories efficiently. But solutions always create new problems, and now we’re eating the food. Perhaps all that efficiently produced food is making us sick. To learn more, I listened to the book Why We Get Sick. It links the western diet to almost all the prevalent chronic diseases. My first impression is that it seems overly broad but generally right. (I have to admit, I did not follow all the causal pathways via insulin and other hormones to each chronic disease listening at 2.5x speed.) He advocates for eating low glycemic-load foods but seems skeptical you can do that mostly plant-based. Why? He also seems overly skeptical of people’s ability to get regular exercise. Maybe that is based on data although it struck me as pessimistic.

  4. Refugees and Micro-Volunteering. Did you know the UN projects that we will soon have 100 million displaced people? How can you help? One idea is to volunteer or spread the word about Tarjimly the translation app. The founder, Atif, was on my podcast recently. You can learn more by listening to the episode.

  5. Kids Chores.  I’m great at getting 4 year olds to sweep the floor or wash dishes (but I don’t claim that is a special talent). I can get a 7 year old to want to do any chore that involves a box cutter and I’m fine convincing a 10 year old to complete an arbitrary list of tasks with the promise of screentime. But still it feels like there should be a better way to engage children in sharing the work around the house. Any suggestions?

Until next week,

Miles