🔥 The Fireside #23

Vegetable oils, Optimists&Pessimists, Class-domination Theory and the Largest Nuke Ever Tested

Welcome to Issue 23 of 🔥TheFireside, a curated newsletter about the big questions of society, business, science and technology.

If you’re reading this for the first time, thank you for signing up! Twice a quarter I will send you an email with 5-7 links to articles that will make you think. No news, no trivia, only in-depth, timeless articles. If you’re a regular reader, thank you for your time and attention!

If you missed past issues, you can catch up here (Issue 22, 21, 20).
Otherwise, on to the Fireside…


The older I get, the more I get interested in nutrition and health. In the last couple of years I’ve read almost 10 books about nutrition, human biology and physiology, the history of food, mental health, etc.

When you take everything in, a few of things become immediately obvious:

  1. We are liteally killing ourselves. Rates of chronic conditions like heart disease, asthma, cancer, and diabetes have grown 700% since 1935.

  2. Although a more sedentary lifestyle, pollution and high-levels of stress all play a role, the most likely culprit (as believed by the majority of scientists and where most of the evidence points to) is our diet; the rates of chronic diseases matches perfectly the increase in consumption of vegetable oils, sugar and processed food. Jeff Nobbs has written an extensive article about why vegetable oils are so bad for you. If you want to learn more about sugar and the diabetes pandemic, read the excellent “The case against sugar“.

  3. The way we produce food is broken, both in the sense that it destroys the environment and that the food produced is low quality.

  4. The massive increase of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture has started to show its nefarious consequences. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp (unsuprinsingly produced by Monsanto), has proven links with hormone disruption, increased cancer rates, infertility, gut issues and more.

  5. Our unbalanced diets wreak havoc on our bodies and are also linked to all sorts of neurological problems, like dementia, violent behaviour, addiction, etc. Justin Mares has recently written about several studies conducted in the UK and US about the role of Omega-3 in violent behaviour. The short version? A diet poor in omega-3 fatty acids increases aggression, depression and compulsive behaviour.

What’s the solution?

I’m afraid finding a solution is way above my paygrade but to me the best thing we can do, individually, to change things is to be more aware of what we put inside our bodies.

Eat real food. Buy whole ingredients and cook at home. The more natural, whole, close to nature the food, the better. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and buy “Food Rules“ by Michael Pollan.

Too many people waste time debating the type of diet one should follow (vegetarian, vegan, etc) but miss the most important point: unless your food is of the highest quality, your principles don’t matter.

Eat local. Know your farmers and the land where your food is grown. The reason so much of our food is unhealthy is the perverse incentives of modern agriculture and mass-production. By supporting local farmers you put money into their pockets and incentivise local production.

End of rant.
Hope you enjoy this issue of The Fireside and I wish you a good day :)


➤ The links

📺 Age of Abundance: How the Content Explosion will Invert the Media Industry

Over the past century, technological advancements have massively reduced the cost and time needed to create and circulate content. Though this has liberated artists, consumers are now drowning in a virtually infinite supply of things to watch, listen to and read. The answer to a world where attention is the key constraint it’s the Influencer Curator. If you read only one article this week, make it this one.

🐒 The biology of our best and worst selves | Robert Sapolsky

How do you explain, from a biological perspective, that we are a miserably violent species, capable of genocides and mass rape as a weapon, yet also an extraordinarily altruistic, compassionate one?

☯️ Save Like A Pessimist, Invest Like An Optimist

You can only be an optimist in the long run if you’re pessimistic enough to survive the short run. The best way for most people to apply that is: save like a pessimist, invest like an optimist.

📐 A Few Rule

Here’s a great list of some rules of thumb about the world. Some of my favourites: “The person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not the best idea.“, “Almost everything has been done before. The characters and scenes change, but the behaviors and outcomes rarely do.“ and “Don’t expect balance from very talented people. People who are exceptionally good at one thing tend to be exceptionally bad at another.

💰 The Class-Domination Theory of Power

That the a small elite of ultra-rich controls the power in the US is overused cliché. But why money and not other interests, like a religious group or the military? To answer this question you need to study the history of the US and how different groups of power came to be.

🌐 The Network Effects Bible

Network effects account for 70% of all the value created in technology since 1994, since many winner-take-all-companies in tech were powered by them. This post summarises everything you need to know about network effects.


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★ Other things from the interweb

(That may or may not make you look smart at dinner parties)

☢️ Russia Just Declassified Footage of the Largest Nuke Ever Tested

The ‘Tsar Bomba’ exploded with the force of an estimated 50 million tons of TNT.

🙊 Industry secrets

Someone on Reddit asked “What’s an industry secret in the field you work in?“. There are more than 38K (!) comments and some of them are absolute gems, like “the bottle costs more to make than the vodka“, “there is a reason no one who works in the RV industry owns an RV“, “75% of the customers in the weight-loss industry are returning customers“.

🤨 The weirdest people in the world?

The majority of experiments in the branches of psychology, cognitive science, and economics is conducted with of a truly unusual group: people from WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) societies. How representative of an entire species can they be?


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