2020 February Update

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  • The Art of Manliness #585: Inflammation, Saunas, and the New Science of Depression. I got a lot from this one.

    • Inflammation is caused by our body release of cytokines. Fever or redness around infection is not caused by the bug, but your body fighting it. It just happens that high temperature harms bugs more than the organism. Unfortunately, it's not healthy for the body as well, but it's better to get some damage and live rather than die...
    • When an animal (think of some mammals) feels stress then it's an emergency. Predator attack or something likely to harm the skin (skin is our biggest defense against bugs). It makes sense to turn on the inflammation early to make it easier to fight the infection in case it happens. Even if it's not needed it only takes one real wound to die so it's better to fire cytokines every time an animal feels stress.
    • Now think how often do you feel stressed? How many times did you feel stressed today? Last week? At work?
    • I realized that I've been under a lot of stress for a long time. Much of it was driven by my ambition or passion but, now I think that's not something I want to keep doing.
    • The last interesting though was the observation that depression looks a lot like a sickness. It turns out that part of depressed people is permanently inflamed. It's not the majority so the link isn't strong. What was shocking for me was an example of a depressed woman that family tried to help for weeks. She didn't want to do anything and only stayed in bed. Only after someone did a medical check it turned out she was dying from cancer. Maybe it makes sense to do a medical check-up before going to the psychologist.
    • More can be found in the book: The New Mind-Body Science of Depression by Vladimir Maletic, Charles Raison
  • How We’ll Forget John Lennon. What I found most interesting was the impact of the mediums we use on our culture and what we care about.

In your forthcoming paper, “How the medium shapes the message,” you refer to the late cultural critic Neil Postman who argued that the popular rise of TV led to a new reign of entertainment, which dumbed us down because entertainment was best suited for TV. Is that what you found?

We found evidence in that favor, yes. Because the fraction of people who belong to the sciences, as a fraction of all of the people that become famous, diminishes enormously during the 20th century. It would completely agree with that observation.

To put it more simply: The people who said they excel at self-control were hardly using it at all.

It confirms what I've learned from Atomic Habits—environment is more important than your willpower.

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Until next time,
Krzysztof Kula 

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