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Scared Straight

Mustafa Sultan
Mustafa Sultan
Remember that show — Scared Straight? Basically a group of prisoners would go shout at a misbehaving kid. Try and communicate how bad being in prison was. Hopefully convincing them not to reoffend — maybe even become model citizens.
At its heart it sounds like a good idea (?). Tough love.
Except when studied it didn’t work. It actually made things worse.
It reminds me of my friend who got caught smoking as a young teenager. As punishment, his grandad made him eat the whole pack of cigarettes. Hopefully putting him off smoking for ever.
Last time I saw him he was smoking a pack a day 🤷🏽‍♂️

Scared Straight
Scared Straight
I spend a lot of time trying to persuade people to do things. ‘People’ is usually me. Pick up a good habit, drop a bad one.
Behavioural science is super interesting. The government even has its own Nudge Unit — dedicated to using behaviour science in public policy.
There are at least 93 ways to convince yourself/others to do something.
Taxonomy of Behaviour Change Methods
Taxonomy of Behaviour Change Methods
Out of these 93, I know only three work for me:
1) Having an incredibly tight feedback loop between action and consequence.
2) A bit of a cop out, but genuinely just enjoying the habit.
3) Having some link between the desired activity and my identity.
What Doesn't Work
I think more interesting than what works is what doesn’t work.
Knowledge, doesn’t seem to correlate with my adherence to good habits. I read a lot about living longer but don’t particularly follow the recommendations.
Related, I was surprised by how many vascular surgeons smoke. For context, they amputate ischaemic limbs for a living — the single biggest risk factor for which is smoking.
Regular prompts don’t seem to work either (RIP ‘drink water’ daily reminder).
Doesn't work
Doesn't work
What I Think Might Work
I think Justified is a really great album. I queued for it on release day.
Justin Timberlake also starred in a surprisingly irrelevant film called IN TIME. It’s rated 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is so unpopular that someone’s uploaded the whole thing to YouTube and the studio don’t seem to care (?).
I actually really like films other people think are trash. Not in a French Novocore High Art Cult Classic kind of way — but more like Fast and Furious 7.
I think there’s something really tragic about popular films which were designed by a committee (related: Why do all Marvel films have the same plot?). Any creative project that involved 1) focus groups and 2) committee approval is probably pretty bad (?). Group consensus is the enemy of creativity.
Much better for the world, in my opinion — if people with random ideas are allowed to create whatever they want. Even if it flops.
In Time
It’s a dystopian film. Everyone has a timer on their wrist with the duration of their life left. If it runs out they die. They can extend their life by buying more time.
I think a device like this would solve a critical problem in healthcare: My (bad) life decisions today won’t have consequences for decades. A cigarette/Mars bar today won’t have (m)any consequences today.
Estimated Lifespan Display — Mock Up
Estimated Lifespan Display — Mock Up
As a very basic MVP, I imagine an Apple Watch app which displays an ‘estimated lifespan’ based on how you’ve lived today.
In other words, if you exercised/ate/slept like this everyday — you would live to XX.
Sat in a whole matrix of wearables, this estimate could actually have some pretty robust inputs:
1) Exercise (steps, HR)
2) Sleep
3) Diet
4) Weight
5) Blood glucose
6) Smoking/alcohol
I think this would short-circuit the whole bad behaviour leads to consequences decades later disconnect.
Cool Stuff I Found
🥱 Why I live a boring life (video). Reminded me that it’s OK (and probably beneficial) not to do super exciting stuff all the time.
📅 ‘Calendly’ Etiquette is The Most Raw Display of Social Capital Dynamics in Business (tweet/discussion).
👨🏽 In defence of Apu (video/podcast).
#075 I'd Won, But I Was Miserable — Dr Keith Grimes (Babylon)
All the best,
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Mustafa Sultan
Mustafa Sultan @mustafasultan

Thoughts on healthcare, human optimisation and productivity. A little taste of what I'm thinking and reading about.

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