post Weekly Thought Snippet

Silicon Valley is Gearing Up to Put a Massive Dent in Global Deaths

If we take a fundamental component of wellbeing, physical health, a recent study concluded that only 2.7 percent of the U.S. adult population has all four of some basic behavioral characteristics that would constitute a “healthy lifestyle”. A good diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage and being a non-smoker [1][2]. These characteristics are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease as well as many other health problems, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

In the State of California alone, 55% of all adults have prediabetes or diabetes [3]. Globally, the WHO recently reported that diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980, affecting 422 million adults (8.5% of adults worldwide) [4]. In 2012, 1.5 million died as a result of diabetes; its complications can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. A further 2.2 million deaths occurred due to higher-than-optimal blood glucose.

In fact non-communicable diseases (the four main NCD are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases) are the leading cause of death globally and accounted for 38 million, or 68% of the global deaths in 2012 [5]. This is up from 36 million, or 63% in 2008, which itself was up from 60% in 2000 (31 million).

Personal choices are the leading cause of death [6]. Analysis in the year 2000 indicated that one million of the 2.4 million deaths in the United States “can be attributed to personal decisions and could have been avoided if readily available alternative choices were made” [6].

In terms of happiness and life potential, only 18.1% of Americans are actually flourishing. The majority of Americans can be classified as mentally unhealthy (depressed) or not mentally unhealthy or flourishing (moderately mentally healthy/languishing). [7]

Yet against this pervasive backdrop of sickness, suffering and needless premature deaths, there has been a growing chorus that Silicon Valley has been mostly focused on manufacturing technological distractions rather than solutions.

By “meaningful innovations,” I mean those that improve our lives and improve society much more dramatically than the “digital affordances” that have proliferated in society today.

Sure, today we can shop for anything, connect with anyone and find just about any information, any time and anywhere, on our mobile devices. But for all these conveniences and connections, people feel less in control of their lives than ever before. I believe we need much more radical innovations that empower people with “digital agency,” enabling them to take control of their health, wealth and happiness in ways previously thought impossible. [8]


Almost none of the stuff on the radar of the Silicon Valley echo-chamber is innovative or solves any real human needs…
Pinterest? Quora? Other social apps. It’s all a big distraction, it’s entertainment…
It’s all well and fine to pursue these avenues for making money. But don’t pretend there’s anything really innovative going on…We in the tech world like to look down our noses at Wall Street and Hollywood. After all, we invent the future! But if money and popularity are our only criteria for success, then are we really any different? Shouldn’t we care more about game-changing, world-changing, and real innovation? And shouldn’t we care less about sites and services that don’t have any real prospect of any of the above?..Of course, there are still people out there trying to do more than lure a huge audience and make a lot of money. Elon Musk leaps to mind. [9]

However a new ecosystem is starting to unfold. An ecosystem that ultimately seeks to optimize our ~28,000 days of life. It’ll initially tackle the lowest hanging fruit by helping us to create “healthy lifestyles”; very precise and personalized. It’s gestating in Silicon Valley and even if it only tackled the lowest hanging fruit, it stands to have a significant impact upon the global leading cause of death. Now that’s not a distraction. That’s positively world-changing.