Daily Balajisms - Longevity as the $100T unlock
With crypto, every user is a root user. With longevity, we own our bodies and health.
The rise of modern China can be traced to Deng Xiaoping’s moral innovation of “profit is good” and social innovation of special economic zones. WeChat now inspires Twitter and BYD challenges Western automakers.
Before Deng’s bold move to reform China, and within a living memory, capitalism was punishable by death, and people “didn’t own teeth in their own head”, explains Balaji. Deng Xiaoping was inspired by external and internal examples.
By the success of Singapore, that went under Lee Kuan Yew from third world to first. And by the brave defiance of a few Chinese farmers, who “practiced capitalism” by signing a secret document between them to keep a part of their harvest.
Since then, one bit flip from “profit bad” to “profit good” created roughly $100T of wealth in China. Special innovation zones for longevity and extension of a healthspan could be a similar wealth unlock in the world today.
Balaji Srinivasan says that it is easier to start a new country, than to reform the FDA. Satoshi Nakamoto didn’t try to reform the Fed, they invented bitcoin. Exit is underappreciated, and people over-index on voice and loyalty.
He also thinks that longevity is similar to crypto, because they both flip fundamental premises. Bitcoin asserted that deflation is good (when it comes from productivity), self-custody is good, transparency of transactions is good, fixed money supply is good, and money backed by math is better than money backed by men with guns.
With crypto, every user becomes a root user. With longevity, we become owners of our bodies and health. We focus on fitness and prevention. Avoiding sickness is not enough, we aim for continual improvement and antifragility. Early death is not ok, but so is late death and health decay in old age.
Under Communism people were held behind the Iron Curtain, and their bodies were treated as a state property. People tried to escape from Slovakia to Austria, and more than 300 people were shot by the Slovak border patrol, when they tried to swim across the river Danube, near my hometown of Bratislava.
Today people in most places are free to leave their countries, travel, or move elsewhere, but they cannot exit the FDA and escape global harmonization of regulation. FDA actually thinks they have a right to control our bodies, explains Balaji.
Exit is one of the most fundamental rights, according to Balaji. And there might be many variants of functioning states, from Netherlands to Singapore, but they are ethical in so far, as people consent to live there and have a right to exit.
During Covid-19 we saw an acceleration of biotech innovation, but also cultural and moral innovations like remote work and telemedicine. We also saw how FDA held back testing at the onset of the pandemic. We could have had vaccines much sooner, if challenge trials were allowed. The European regulator, EMA, was even much slower than FDA and the UK regulator in approving and rolling out vaccines.
Balaji thinks, that global harmonization is one of the biggest evils of today, holding up progress in longevity. Cuba could produce two of its own Covid-19 vaccines, Slovakia didn’t have capacities to test one independently.
Special innovation zones for longevity could unlock similar wealth & health creation as China after Deng did.