No Agency Framework to Solve the World's Problems
Palmer Luckey (billionaire founder of Oculus) thought about tackling obesity.
Because whatever we're currently doing isn't working.
Assuming that the majority of people will become a healthy weight after a few pep talks from their doctor, or a couple of motivational posters is clearly, ridiculous.
So he put this forward, however we 'cure' obesity — it needs to fulfil the following criteria:
1) People can eat whatever they want, whenever they want.
2) It requires no conscious change in behaviour.
Wouldn't you agree that the above is the best solution? It's not far away.
No Agency Solutions
Tirzepatide and Semaglutide show a ~15–20% reduction in weight after 6 months.
Instead of relying on a lifestyle U turn — or undoing 50 years of bad habits, they just make you feel less hungry.
Or Beyond Burgers. Instead of relying on people to stop eating meat — they make a meat substitute that tastes just as good. Well nearly.
Or electrodes on your tongue, which can make plain tap water taste like sugary goodness.
In Medicine, we put moralistic judgements on our therapies.
We've boomeranged from paternalistic, 'doctor prescribes a pill for everything' healthcare — towards 'patient holds the reigns and is in charge of their own health'.
Perhaps because the 'pill for everything' approach contributed to the US opioid crisis.
Or maybe because there's virtue in someone actively turning their health around with grit and determination (related: What your workout says about your social class). A diabetic reversing their disease with caloric restriction is better than with a smarties tube full of big pharma.
And to be clear, overall, this is a good change.
But we've lazily slapped it onto just about everything problem we have. And in some cases, like weight loss — it just doesn't work.
Objective To determine the relative effectiveness of dietary macronutrient patterns and popular named diet programmes for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor improvement among adults who are overweight or obese
Constraints Drive Creativity
Constraints piss me off. But often, they're good for me.
Go on holiday and take a DSLR camera with a zoom lens and 256gb memory card. You can take 50,000–100,000 pictures with that. Even if you take a few thousand, you might end up with a load of junk.
But set a constraint, and you might surprise yourself. Whether that means taking a prime (no zoom) lens. Or a film camera. Or better yet, 9 polaroid shots.
GE asked its engineers to create an ECG device which could fit in a backpack, cost <$1/ECG and was battery operated — all with $500,000 and 18 months. The result was the MAC 400 Electrocardiograph which revolutionised rural care.
Blank cheques often lead to complacency and path-of-least-resistance thinking. Constraints breed creativity. Perhaps why the 4 most valuable US unicorn companies have immigrant CEOs.
Solving all the Big Problems
My hypothesis, then, is all of the world's big problems will be fixed within the constraint of no agency solutions.
Obesity will not be fixed with education and therapy, but with pills and healthy food that tastes as good as junk food. Maybe even machine-body interfaces which dump excess calories out of our bodies.
We will not reduce our global meat intake with hard-hitting Netflix documentaries and social movements — but with meat substitutes which taste better and are cheaper than actual meat.
We will only guzzle less gas with safe walkable city design and excellent public transport.
I tried a new podcast format.
After 100 interviews, and seemingly every podcast doing the 'dude asks successful person for their story' format — I've been thinking about the evolution of content.
I think the above can be categorised as retrospective case studies of successful people — which is really cool and interesting.
But I think the tide is shifting, and prospective idea generation with successful people is the next step.
It's a little harder. Requires a lot more prep. Requires me speaking a lot more than I'm used to. But I think it's hopefully more valuable and entertaining to listen to.
I don't like the term imposter syndrome (because I think it's largely bullshit) but there's definitely some hubris in two non-billionaires discussing billion-dollar health ideas. Maybe I'll find a billionaire for one of them 🤷🏽♂️
Creatively, it also let me play around with using Tekken/Mortal Kombat sound effects (shoutout Charlie Sloth), go harder on in media res editing (i.e. diving straight into it) and practice pitching ideas/work on my own storytelling.
Idea 1: Generative AI in health
Idea 2: DTC weight loss/psychiatry clinics
Idea 3: Cross border care
I'd be super interested in any no-bullshit feedback on this. Specifically on:
1) Pacing. Was it too fast/too slow? Too much monologuing? More back-and-forth needed?
2) Ideas. Were they interesting? Too obvious? Big enough or too small?
3) Future direction of the series
With warmest wishes,