Fitness leads to quantified self leads to transhumanism.

We can use fitness as the backdoor to medicine, to drive a cultural change similar to crypto that begins with improving ourselves and ends with transforming society for the better. This means first taking care of ourselves, tracking our health, and being as fit as we can be given our age and pre-existing conditions. Then it means embracing the full panoply of technologies to get to healthy and beyond, from reviewing fitness trackers and blood-glucose monitors to destigmatizing discussion of enhancing technologies like Korea-style cosmetic surgery or myostatin inhibitors.

This might seem crazy or it might seem obvious, but let’s break it down.

Problem: Societal Defaults are Fat-Encouraging

First, we know that exercise isn’t just medicine, it’s cognition. The best thing you can do for “vanity” purposes turns out to be the best thing for your health and your mind. But right now the societal defaults aren’t set to fitness. That is, in the same way the defaults in any app dramatically influence behavior (how many people still have the default Windows background?), the default culture of the West has caused a literal obesity epidemic:

What’s causing this? There are many possible culprits, from the USDA food pyramid and the sugar lobby to restaurant culture and how mobile made us sessile. The obesity epidemic might even be partially due to actual microbes!

But the results are indisputable. Weight is a ratio-scale variable that can be compared across space and time, and people are getting fatter and getting diabetes. Society thus isn’t actually “fat-shaming”, it’s fat-encouraging. Instead, we should be fit-encouraging.

Solution: Fitness Cults, Fitness Culture?

The obvious solution to fatness is fitness. That’s just eating right, lifting weights, running, and sleeping properly. It’s certainly possible to do this in a Rocky-style low-tech way (not a smartphone in this montage!) but given how many societal forces are pushing towards making you fat and unhealthy today, some people use new tools.

Enter quantified self and health tracking. Track your weight with a smart scale, your food with MyFitnessPal, your physique with private Instagrams or r/progresspics, and your steps and sleep with a Fitbit, Apple Watch, Oura Ring, Whoop, or similar device. Part of doing this is to give yourself some accountability, but part of it is to teleport yourself from your carb-eating clique into a new social circle where people are consciously prioritizing their health each day. That’s why things like Peloton, Soulcycle, and Crossfit are popular: they are basically fitness cults.

As per above, this kind of regular social exercise is a form of medicine. Omada Health has commercialized something called the Diabetes Prevention Program which is a formal version of exactly this: progress tracking, groups communication, and knowledge sharing to drop weight and prevent diabetes.

You can almost think of what these programs do as the Twice-Daily Call to Fitness, by analogy to similar daily social prescriptions from religion. In the first call to fitness you work out. In the second you log all your activities, post them to your friend group, and gain positive social reinforcement. In its own way this appeals to the entrepreneurial personality — more effort, more reward:

In the gym, I found a world where I would be rewarded for doing 3x the amount of work. And it was liberating. I’d found, in the gym, a meritocracy. Where labor had visible, tangible results.

Sam Fussell, author of Muscle

Collective Solution: Fitness Culture → Fix the Culture

But there’s one more step. Once you get in the loop of thinking about health daily, both working out and tracking it, you start asking questions.

  • If you exercise to stave off osteoporosis, why not reverse it?
  • If you exercise to look better, why not Korea-style cosmetic surgery?
  • If you exercise to gain muscle, why not gain more?

The conventional wisdom is that side effects must exist, that there is no free lunch. But somehow we mastered electricity without electrocuting ourselves all the time. Somehow we routinely put planes in the air without constant crash landings. The mythical Icarus flew too close to the sun, but the real Apollo made it to the moon.

Yes, Lance Armstrong should not have won the Tour De France, but his chemists were candidates for the Nobel Prize. Whatever they pumped into that man took him from a seemingly fatal cancer to winning a grueling physical competition – six times! Can we bottle that, study that, remove the side effects, and scale it?

Again, as with the discourse around energy production, people have been taught by movies to think there must be side effects. That there is no such thing as a "healthy steroid", that it all comes with a cost. But we can tell a different story. If you’ve watched Limitless, that gives an excellent vision of how better science can engineer away the side effects too (spoiler!). We know from every other field of engineering that the v1 always has bugs that get fixed in the v2; why shouldn't that extend to biomedicine as well? And why can't we fix the culture, to change societal defaults to favor human health rather than to oppose it?

✅ Task: Earn $10 in BTC

Submit an inspiring healthie with a proof-of-workout

We want to build a community that’s into not just exercise, but body transformation; not just into fitness tracking but transhumanism.

Towards that end, we're trying an experiment where we pay you a small amount of money to upload inspiring "healthies", which are analogous to selfies but include a proof-of-workout of some kind. They can be the obvious gym photos on Instagram, or they can be more privacy-preserving shots of a treadmill screen or Fitbit dashboard. And you don't need to be in good shape right now; you can be 50 pounds overweight or in the best shape of your life, or somewhere in the middle. We just want to see if small incentives can help build the right community.

You can participate in proof-of-workout publicly or privately. Publicly, just post on social media and paste in the link below. Privately, just DM your proof-of-workout to @oneseventwonine. We’ll give $10 prizes to the best 100, and public submissions may be featured in a collage.

🏆 Winners: Best Proof-of-Workout

One hundred submissions received $10 in Bitcoin for their Proof-of-Workout. Check out some of the public submissions below!