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Advice from a 104-year-old PhD student [video] (bbc.com)
235 points by hmart 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 143 comments

I'm a mere youngster at 71. I had to wait until retirement before I could spend the time I wanted on things that interested me. Currently that is the Unix Toolkit. There should be enough there to keep me busy for a while...

Great for you!! I am considerably younger, but I am currently learning Forth, essentially based on the same principle. However, I don't have a lifetime of earnings to provide for my family yet, so I have to pretend to care about boring things for at least 25 years more.

Something like this is my dream goal. I'd love to become financially independent so that I can then pursue what I want (namely, endless study in a variety of subjects) without worrying about financial pressures from the outside. Sadly, I've got close to 30 years still to wait, then to hope my retirement pays enough that I can move to a nice college town with a good library and use it and maybe audit courses/do many masters.

Sounds like a nice goal. But be advised, time and circumstance may intervene. Adaptability is a virtue...

You may discover that some of the most interesting stuff comes from the seemingly boring stuff...

Are you at all disappointed in the lack of discipline in younger programmers. I know when JavaScript first started to become a server-side language, I worked with a slightly older programmer, he was maybe 40 in 2014, and he hated it.

I tend to stick with higher level easier languages for the most part ( JS, Python, C#)

Isn't that generalizing a bit too much? There's a plethora of younger programmers, some with good discipline and some with bad discipline. I know C++ programmers with no discipline and JS/Ruby programmers with amazing discipline.

I think the fact that there's so many more of us -- and that it's easier to get away with not having discipline -- that we probably have a fair bit less on average.

My dad would often have to wait days for a few hours of machine time in the middle of the night on one of his customer's machines in the 60's. That motivates one to be careful and methodical.

I make no pretense of being a programmer, outside of the occasional bash, awk or sed script. I usually beg off by saying I'm a tool user, not a tool maker...

I'm 45 and I'm generally impressed by the discipline in (good) younger programmers.

For the most part they follow much better processes and get better outcomes and my generation at that age.

(I don't think the JS ecosystem is great, and have mixed opinions about JS as a language, but they don't detract from the discipline of young programmers)

What lack of discipline are you talking about? What has JavaScript to do with discipline?

unrelated: I love your website design!

Oh, thank you. But most of the credit must go to tree v1.8.0 and markdown. I was simply lazy enough not to want to code html...

If this guy is lucky, maybe he’ll get tenure by the time he’s 120. Then he’ll be set for life!

> If this guy is lucky, maybe he’ll get tenure by the time he’s 120.

Nah - I'd wager he'll be an eternal postdoc.

For anyone else who looks at these people who just are seemingly unencumbered by self-doubt and can't relate to them because self-doubt practically has you in a chokehold every day, I have a book suggestion.

After feeling stuck for a long time and trying to read my way out of it (swerving between Tim Ferris-esque books about "life hacks" and unhelpful emotion-laden books with banal platitudes), the one book that has really helped me lately is How We Change [0].

I am not wont to recommend books, as I get really annoyed by the sort of folks who recommend personal growth / self-help books (again, mostly banal platitudes and unactionable faux-insights). I hope my post history shows I am not one of these types of people. However, this book has really helped me turn a corner like no other has.

The gist is that when you _don't_ pursue something you want to do (e.g. learn Haskell, Unix, or the other wonderful suggestions in this thread and many others on HN) and feel flummoxed at how you continually stymie your own best intentions, you _are_ actually making a choice (i.e., to stay put); it's not some bad-faith abdication of agency. When one chooses to stay stuck (or "petrified", an apt term used by the author), one is actually choosing to preserve a sense of hope for the future; one preserves it from the painful feelings of failure that one anticipates will come due to a lack of faith in oneself to make meaningful progress towards things one deems to be important.

The best way out of this trap (besides being aware that you are making a choice, instead of giving up) is to do something extremely simple on a regular basis (daily if possible) that helps you realize you have agency. As goofy as it sounds, I have started a lot of habits because of the "habit tracking" feature in Emacs' org mode (just to make all of the little marks in the agenda go green).

Whether it is meditating for one minute, writing "hello world" is Haskell for the umpteenth time just to write _some_ Haskell each day (even on bad days), or anything else, that will slowly help you feel unstuck.

[0] https://www.harpercollins.com/products/how-we-change-ross-el...

Truly inspiring. I am in my late forties, and I was wondering if I have enough time to learn Haskell, now I have no reason not to.

Late forties too... Got burn out and now I'm studying again to get a engineering degree in data sciences (yeah, the full hype thing). It feels so good to study (with 20 y.o. kids :-)), and it sure dwarfs the lack of money coming in (I'm not working because studying is a full time job).

So it's a totally risk career move but that's either that either being sad at my workplace. Hopefully I'll feel empowered by the degree and be able to move on professionnaly.

This should just be normal. The idea that you study until a certain age then that's it is outdated. We are not mechanical cogs coming out of an educational factory.

Societal norms are not always right. Do what makes sense.

My dad is a 55 year old mechanical engineer. He have called me 3 times today with various questions regarding C++. He’s learning it by writing a program to draw Bezier curves.

Maybe at 55 I’ll pick up mechanical engineering as a hobby.

Hey! I'm 58 and just starting a new contracting position writing software for Software Defined Radios, which I never did before. Started working with Matlib. Need to learn/relearn some math, too. 55 is certainly not too old to learn C++.

Do it. You never know where it will lead. For example I started screwing around with C a few months ago and now I playing with microcontrollers and cameras because of that.

I started playing with Linux and C in 96. I was just an ignorant teenager. I didn’t know C was “hard”. I didn’t really care that Linux was different from Win95, I just knew Linux had fvwm2, gedit, and C compilers I needed for hacking on MUDs. I didn’t know chasing down obscure memory leaks was hard, I just linked libefence and did it. I was just playing and learning. Then I got offered a job doing web development with ColdFusion while still in high school. I was amazed at how easy the language was compared to C. Every “wow they must have a lot of time” project is often some other hacker playing and learning. Play and finding a way to make programming and computers not seem like work is how you develop a life long love of hacking and learning :) (this is not follow your passion advice, I think that is terrible advice, but if you can make your work feel like play and your play very intentional you will struggle to burn out or find it hard to sit down and write code any given day) :)

Edit: also, in 96 the Internet was very different. Many problems were solved by reading man pages, reviewing library source code, and thinking hard about what was happening. Modern Internet and stackoverflow /can/ make you more efficient in the short term but in the long term, it’s worth not rushing to google every error or weird problem. Give it a few minutes. If you’re writing a web app for example, in say Django or Rails go peek at the source code (they are beautiful projects). It’s almost a crime to not review the Go standard library source code, it is one of the cleanest out there. Etc, etc.

This is beautiful.

I had a similar experience growing up as well. At age 8, I learned QBasic (on an MS-DOS / Win 3.1 system). At age 13, I learned C, and wrote a lot of code in it as well. (I used to write tons of C code up until around the middle of age 17. I had grand plans for all sorts of glorious software projects.)

But then, at the middle of age 17, a certain mild depression ("dysthymia") set in, and I lost a lot of hope, inspiration, and motivation. And now, I'm 31, and I've accomplished very little of my teenage dreams (even though I still hold/aspire towards those software dreams). I might be "successful" in society's eyes, with software engineering jobs paying in the ~200k range (which is not really that impressive, as I have many friends making in the 300k to 400k (USD) range); but in my own eyes, I still feel very much like a failure.

The depression or dysthymia had a crippling effect, that made a lot of dreams hard to accomplish. My 2021 New Year's resolution has been to overcome it my mental issues, and live life to the fullest.

Not many people anywhere make 300-400k. It’s a lot of money. 200k is a lot of money. You are doing great. As long as you can do what you enjoy the money isn’t a big deal anyway. 200k is waaay above what the average programmer makes. Im guessing you know this and your insecurity doesn’t stem from compensation directly, but an indirect prestige and “am I doing enough” type thoughts.

> an indirect prestige and “am I doing enough” type thoughts

It's more like "I am not accomplishing my goals and dreams" type thoughts.

I am just living an existence of working for tech companies (doing stuff valuable to people indeed), and making good money; but however, with the talents, and gifts, and skills that I've been gifted with, I could be doing so much more.

Ahh, well, everyone has to eat. I know it is an increasingly popular option for folks to essentially work at FAANG companies, save up a bunch of cash and then semi-retire from big tech living modestly, RV life style, tiny homes, living remote, etc. A lot of folks, especially those that start families young, don't have those type of options, but it is worth considering if it is still an option for you :)

That's awesome. I am currently an ignorant teenager and I started messing around with C around this time last year. If I had to describe this current age I'd say it's driven by endless curiosity; I can't wait to start studying later this year. I don't think there has been one day in 2020 on which I haven't tinkered/hacked around. The latest thing I did was looking at the AArch64 reference manual and studying the structure of ELF binaries and then disassembling them manually.

This is good. Computers are very simple at their core. One of the first questions I used to ask people in interviews, for highly technical programming and information security roles, was “How do computers work?”. The number of people, even those with years of programming experience, who could convincingly answer that question was low. It was often hand-wavy answers about processors and memory and stuff. When someone could walk me down to logic gates, that was great. The odd electrical engineer or computer engineer who started taking about silicon doping was great, but I would stop them there lol. Never let the computer or it’s components be a mystery to you! Those fundamental skills and understanding will pay off over a long technology career. It’s not like everyone needs to be a systems programmer, but it’s a competitive and enjoyment advantage in my book :)

I’m also in my late forties. I did learn myself some Haskell, and it was literally mind-blowing. The last time I had so much fun learning a language was in my late teens when I was learning class hierarchies in OOP.

The Berlin FP group on Meetup just finished the haskellbook.com , you're just in time to join in with the next reading group!

Sounds good. Will check that out. Thanks.

It’s never too late to learn anything. The problem is, are you ever going to be able to put it to good use before forgetting much of it?

I’ve wasted so much time in the past decade learning random shit that I never used, it’s been a poor ROI compared to just continuing to hone the skills and languages I use daily. Really demotivating.

It sounds like your problem is a certain outcome dependency. A better mindset is to learn things out of curiosity. You could level your criticism at learning anything that doesn’t help you in the cubicle tomorrow.

People should really learn to separate work and play. As soon as you utter “ROI” your play has become work.

If you’re a working programmer using a mainstream language, then I feel that spending some time with an ML-derived language such as Haskell and a Lisp will pay dividends in your day to day practice.

There are some keen insights about computing that are revealed by these languages - and those insights are transferable to your daily work in JS, C#, Python, Java, etc to some degree.

> and those insights are transferable to your daily work

Some people say this, others say that it makes your daily work worse because going back to a language that isn't on the cult-approved list is so difficult.

Can you give any examples?

Looking backwards, I dug pretty deeply into Clojure for a while.

When Streams came to Java, I felt like I was already an expert in that paradigm, and was able to adopt it immediately in ways that made my Java code clearer and more concise, and maybe even more performant in some cases. (Streams can allow you to transform a very long sequence of data, without needing to realize the whole sequence in memory first, as one example.)

I also use immutable data structures by default wherever possible, unless I know I really need to mutate the data.

I try to make the output of a method dependent only on the inputs, wherever possible.

You shouldn't take it to extremes, but incorporating paradigms from one language into another can pay big dividends.

I just submitted my own doctoral thesis in fluids to Manchester! This is absolutely stunning, and my day (and life) is better for it.

Heh, you should drop him an email and compare notes! :)

Congratulations, doctor!

not yet

Yet :) It was last year actually. My futzed up brain is still failing to understand that it's 2021

This submission is about you.

Aw, come on.

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."


Here's an observation: people who've survived longer than most are quick to smile. I like checking out stories about them, because I know I'll see an energizing photo of an upbeat person.

Good observation. I knew personally a centuran woman and although she had a terrible life experiences (she lost both her husband and son very early) she was always smiling and had positive look at the world.

> Here's an observation: people who've survived longer than most are quick to smile. I like checking out stories about them, because I know I'll see an energizing photo of an upbeat person.

There is the other side.

"Russian Woman, Who Claims to Be World's Oldest at 129, Says She's Had One Happy Day in her Life"


Also, there was a documentary a while back on nursing homes. Pretty much all "people who've survived longer" were miserable. I remember an old woman who out-lived her husband, daughter, friends, etc. I still remember what she said: "Everynight I go to sleep hoping god would take me, but I always wake up." A modern day Sibyl of Cumae.

I don't think "quick to smile" has anything to do with longevity. Misers and misanthropes also can outlive many.

Inspiring story, I'd love to hear more.

I was really hoping he would mention having a social life as a secret to longevity, referencing the Harvard study on happiness and living long. [1] He briefly mentions his friend from Canada, I wonder if they still go on walks together or if he passed away and made new friends in the mean time. Getting old is hard because your friends pass away.

[1] https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-8...

wow, an exceptional character

what caught my attention is that when asked about his secret to longevity, he said that he eats lots of fruit and takes cold showers

not the first time I'm hearing about cold showers being beneficial; been doing that myself regularly for a few months and I definitely find benefits

this is definitely encouraging to continue

does anybody have a longer experience with cold showers and can share any findings?

I did thirty days only cold showers, minimum 5 minutes, in December 2014. I found the experience rewarding so decided to continue, but not every day. I did them every fourth day for a few years and dropped down to every fifth in 2018. My spreadsheet says I've taken 538.

I coordinate them with my cardio days, since I find they go well with being hot and sweaty finishing rowing or running.

You know how lifting (or any exercise) develops more than just what you work -- things like discipline, resilience, grit, self-awareness, etc? Cold showers gives all that benefit but at zero cost in time or money and no risk of injury.

Also look up Joel Runyon's TEDx talk, which inspired me to start.

David Sinclair, one of the researchers in the longevity field, takes cold baths and goes to hot sauna. His theory is that this kind of stress on tissues kicks the self-repair mechanisms into action.


I've seen some clips of his interview on the Joe Rogan podcast. I didn't catch the cold bath part.

I imagine a cold bath means immersing most of your body in water. So another variant.

Theory sounds plausible. Curious if you happen to know any actual research that backs it up?

There is some research on effect of sauna on health. It seems that going to sauna is associated with lower mortality.


cold showers are some of my earliest memories as a child. "zakalka", or "tempering", is well known in slavic culture. i can vouch for them being one of the keys to including mood and mental state, immune function, and overall wellness.

Huh, never associated that with Slavic culture. Cool word, "zakalka". In Polish there is "hartowanie" (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hartowa%C4%87), same meaning and also used in the context of exposing yourself to cold or difficulty. Related and a bit funny: people who swim in the winter are called "morsy" (walruses).

I keep hearing the secret to longevity is exercise.

Maybe cold showers would help you look younger though. But a lot of things will help you look younger.

If you're 104 and takes long walks everyday that's the more extreme element rather than cold showers. But sure a great morning routine with the adrenaline boost from cold water might give you the edge to actually take that morning walk.

yeah, definitely it works like this; it has a stimulating effect

in many ways better than a coffee, although not pleasant

like a slap in the face

helps you locate your socks, to quote a classic

but yeah, no reason why just taking cold showers alone and then sitting around should have any magical effect

so perhaps it should be seen as a catalyst to being active; that's already significant

there is no secret to longevity, at least not one "the secret" key to everything.

the real secret to longevity is recreating the conditions are bodies function best at and upholding those conditions. because our environment is so radically different from the past, this requires a lot of discipline, pondering, and paying attention most of all.

our bodies evolved for a certain environment, and recreating that environment would do us good. (i believe that careful people lived long lives pre-industry.)

some of these conditions are regular exercise, occasional starvation, following environmental queues, supporting a healthy biome, and avoiding stress.

our approaches to health today are comical in their attempt to simplify and reduce a billion-year-old continuously-evolving system down to one or two simple concepts while ignoring all the harm we do to it at the same time.

to use a car analogy, it's sort of like throwing away your automobile's maintenance manual and saying, "i heard the key to car longevity is changing the oil often", and filling up the engine with olive oil.

There's a premise here that deserves scrutiny -- that longevity (beyond reproductive age) has evolutionary benefits. Nature may well prefer that older individuals die off.

longevity has many evolutionary benefits, the biggest one being that older generation can pass on survival-essential knowledge and skill to the younger generations.

this process exists not only in humans, but in most animals, and the improvement is continuous, it never stops.

furthermore, the longest-surviving individuals (with the tightest bonds) are able to pass on the most survival knowledge to their descendants, creating an exponential effect.

Fair point. But it has evolutionary disadvantages, too. If food scarcity has been a challenge across evolutionary scales (which seems reasonable), then the utility function might prioritize scarce resources for the reproductively fit.

My point is that it's challenging to make a watertight argument that "we should do X, because evolution suggests that we should."

> Fair point. But it has evolutionary disadvantages, too. If food scarcity has been a challenge across evolutionary scales (which seems reasonable), then the utility function might prioritize scarce resources for the reproductively fit.

That's typically how it has been prioritized, if food scarcity was an issue.

> My point is that it's challenging to make a watertight argument that "we should do X, because evolution suggests that we should."

Sure, but most of the time I would bet dollars to donuts that environmental variables we evolved in will be better for us than new ones, just like in well-aged software time-tested inputs are more likely to work than new stuff you've never tried before.

A great example that's relevant today is that people in the West over 60 yo remember society pre-Social Marxism.

There's a lot of their Youtube videos on how successful families are constructed for the benefit of individuals and society, which is a "lost art" today.

Suzanne Venker (Traditional Family Counselling)


What benefits are you noticing at a few months in?

Stimulation, increased energy, elevated mood and self-confidence, a nice toasty feeling afterwards, quicker cooling after exercise, optimum alertness achieved faster in the day if done early.

Definitely lots of psychological benefits.

I do combine it with meditation and exercise. All three seem to have mutually-reinforcing effects.

I've found the best habits reinforce each other. Diet, exercise, better sleep.. they all interact and make each other stronger.

I have also found that a brisk morning walk in the cold (deliberately wear just a hoodie and shorts in near freezing temps) has helped as well. Maybe it's the sunlight, maybe it's the exercise, maybe it's the cold but I feel like it gets my hormones into better shape and I have more energy (specifically referring to T, and for example I have had very mild acne, which I hadn't seen in about 15 years).

I took cold showers for 2 months in the UK recently but it got too cold... and then, I got a cold! I had to stop (or wanted to)

Wonderful - and even better, thanks to him, I am not middle aged yet and might have time to work on that phd myself :-)

good luck to him

I’m on mobile at the moment so will have to watch later, but it looks like this is a video. It maybe should be marked as such

Very inspiring. And here I am at the age of 28, wondering if I'm too old to get a PhD.

Looks like he had a hell of a good side project during grad school.

This article is so inspiring. I will keep learning new knowledge.

Eat fruit and take cold showers. The last time this was posted, someone said cold showers were the secret to looking young forever.

I can't find much convincing official research (just blogs) to support that cold showers are beneficial to skincare, but I've been taking them nonetheless, and honestly, my pores have looked better :)

There very likely is zero correlation. But potentially, people who take cold showers represent a biased subset of the population, which is statistically more inclined to look young.

This applies to pretty much EVERYTHING that is not done via high quality double-blind studies published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals.

Point being: Repeating single actions of successful people statistically does not make you successful.

Why is this being downvoted?

As an example, there was a study that eating a handful of almonds every day is correlated with a bunch of positive health outcomes. Then a follow-up paper determined that this is simply because nuts are a relatively expensive snack, so they're eaten regularly mostly by wealthier people. It's well established that being poor is bad for your health, and conversely being rich tends to allow healthy lifestyles in general.

The kind of people that take cold showers are the "health-nut" types that prioritise healthy living over comfort. They're a rare, self-selecting subset of the general population.

It's extremely difficult to do good science based on statistics of self-selecting groups, or groups highly correlated with wealth.

That absolutely makes sense. Correlation is not causation.

I would probably be characterized as one of the "health-nuts," so between the cold showers, moisturizing twice a day, trying to perfect my indoor air pollution, and literally eating raw spinach and a bowl of fruit for lunch... Who knows what contributes to what?

I probably have health anxiety. I wouldn't characterize it as extreme, but it does force me to do anything I hear is healthy for me.

Correlation can arise without necessarily having a cause and effect relationship. In this case it is quite plausible to have a correlation between longevity and cold showers, but that could be because people prone to cold showers are also more likely to face discomfort and lead more active lives, which in turn has direct correlation with a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Then the point changed entirely, where once the focus was on the showers, now it is on something far deeper, like the hability to be comfortable with discomfort.

It is easier in tropical countries like Colombia, where “cold” is basically “warm”. In colder (northern) countries, I tried this but it is very hard because “cold water” (i.e., non heated) is way too cold (like minus temperatures).

I'm in south-eastern Canada. Just now I checked the temperature of the water from my city water company I measured it at 8C. The current outside temperature is -1C. The water couldn't be lower than freezing or pipes in homes would freeze.

I agree cold, hot, warm are all relative. Somewhat related I've seen people from hot countries worry about "cold weather". To them ~20C is cold compared to 35C hot day and was blamed to be the cause of colds and flu. Often perpetuated in movies and TV too a tired old trope. So yes to someone in a hot country a "cold" shower may be considered warm to someone from a cold climate.

You're right about geography.

My record for cold shower temperature was 39.9F (4.4C), here in New York City. Five minutes at that temperature bordered on pain. My fingertips turned purple.

The warmest cold shower I took was in Brazil. Sadly, I didn't get to enjoy it because I was sunburned.

> minus temperatures

Nitpick: it is difficult to take a shower with water in solid form (ice).

> > minus temperatures

> Nitpick: it is difficult to take a shower with water in solid form (ice).

Nitpick: having a temperature below zero does not necessarily mean that it is in a solid form; for example, it could be at a high pressure or not have a nucleus to freeze around (supercooling).

I’d like to see a video of this hypothetical subzero shower stream turning to a block of ice around an unsuspecting nucleus.

Bonus points if you can scale it up to a mannequin.

Supercooled water isn't quite the same thing you're asking for - I doubt it could be done with a shower without special equipment - but here's a video of spontaneous freezing in two ways: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fot3m7kyLn4

The first, pounding it inside the sealed bottle, is creating some sort of disturbance to crystalize around (an "unsuspecting nucleus"), and the second is pouring it semi-shower-like.

A shock would likely cause a nucleus site anyway. When people do this with water in the freezer a good knock sets it off. So when the water starts to flow I think it'd freeze in the pipes.

High pressure would probably be a more likely explanation for a shower. As for the feasibility... we're talking about technicalities here.

I do think it would be interesting to see it, though.

Not if the water has enough salt mixed in it.

It's certainly easier in tropical countries because you can just use the cold knob, but it's doable in colder places as well. Even using both hot and cold sources to get a comparable temperature, it isn't as easy to get into the shower when the weather is colder. I've noticed that the coldness of the water only bothers me for the first 20 seconds of the shower, so I'll use a bit more heat then turn it colder.

I'm in a cold area and experienced this recently. My hair started to harden and freeze. I started just putting the heat knob just the tiniest bit.

But I guess it depends on your knobs shower knobs.

By his accent he is from Bogota, it may not be Canada, but the temperature can reach 6C, I wouldnt call that "warm"

Colombia has a huge range of climates. His city, Medellin, is a bit chillier than what you would expect.

Medellin has highs of 28C and lows of 17C every month, pretty much.

Seems really warm!

Yeah, they might have mentally flipped Bogota and Medellin. Bogota is a lot like SF's climate, but even steadier throughout the year.

Just googling for RCT, I found one convincing example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/

Ah, I never thought to force RCT in the search to find evidence. Thanks for that.

Ah, this doesn't provide details on its effects on the skin.

I bet Russians and their scientists do know a lot about it. You usually wont find their thing on Internet tho.

I watch these types of videos and I can't help but wonder if we transcended the need for elderly advice or we just grown as a youth centric society.

It could also be a matter of language, and words can't convey the elders experiences as effectively as it could in simples times, where symbols did not need to account for vastly different experiences. So when someone says "I don't regret working hard" in the context of a village, where hard work is essencial, It could mean something else completely to someone who grew up with absent parents, who devoted their lives to work and didn't pay attention their children. And theses discrepancies permeates the entirety of the discourse.

To rescue the value of elderly advice I suggest more context is needed, at least more than a 4 minutes video could possibly convey.

Yes, elders thoughts are valuable, but only if they come out in the interview. A more useful context than not being dead might come from questions with the potential to elevate, like these from David Brooks [1]:

What crossroads are you at? What commitments have you made that you no longer believe in? Who do you feel most grateful to have in your life? What problem did you use to have but now have licked? In what ways are you sliding backward? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/opinion/nine-nonobvious-w...

Before asking those questions I think we still need more context, because you can't assume mutual understanding of what the symbols in the answers might mean from the elders and the listeners perspectives.

My central hypothesis here is that globalization and the high longevity we can achieve nowadays takes a toll on the quality of the understating of what's being told by the elders. Where once not too long ago we mainly heard from elders directly available, in the village, city or country, now we have access to more people but we don't share similar cultural backgrounds as before. And to overcome this, a little immersion in the cultural context of that elder is necessary even before posing these questions.

>I watch these types of videos and I can't help but wonder if we transcended the need for elderly advice or we just grown as a youth centric society.

I think we've combined "youth-centric" with "faux-young" (aka immaturity), where 40-year olds are "excited" about the latest superhero movie and 50 year olds act like teenagers...

If you're unable to muster excitement for things you love purely because of your age, I'm genuinely sorry for you.

>If you're unable to muster excitement for things you love purely because of your age, I'm genuinely sorry for you.

That's putting the cart before the horse.

Rather you should love things that fit your age and cognitive and culture development. I'd loved ice cream for breakfast and sunday morning cartoons too at 8. I'd have an infantilism problem if I still loved them at 40.

If you still watch teletubbies at 40 and are excited desipite of your age, I'm genuinely sorry for you.

Slightly less so if you are genuinely excited about superheror movies, but still sorry.

You can trial the cold shower experience by just a washing your face with cold water after you wake up every morning. Growing up in Bulgaria that was a standard practice for my whole family. It does wonders for the skin and is very refreshing.

Or you can start by turning on the cold water for couple of seconds at the end of your regular shower. Holding your breath helps. Gradually you will be able to stay in the cold water for longer and longer and it won't hurt. A neat side effect to this is that you won't feel cold when you get out.

That’s known as the Scottish Shower, perhaps because Scotland is all too often wet and cold, or perhaps as a reminder not to relax in indulgent things as there’ll soon be something along to spoil the fun!

On a more serious note, I take cold or Scottish showers all year except for the coldest part (because Japanese houses have the worst insulation you’ll come across so you’ll go from cold to cold) and it does make me feel better. Even just enduring the pain of the cold seems to bring benefits.

You do lose some of the benefit tho - you need mild stress for it to be functional.

Also, hot water, especially with chlorine in it (as usual, unless you have a filter) will make it evaporate and thus you will inhale it (not good). Very damaging for the skin too as you wash up natural oils that protect it.

So its not the same.

This is Wim Hof’s advice.

If you do his breathing exercises you can step into a cold shower and legitimately not notice the cold.

That sounds awful. I think I'll give it a try.

Its not awful at all. Its the only way to do it.

The only way to do what?

Face washing. Doing it with hot water is totally different experience. To say it another way, I do it for the cold water effect, not for cleaning.

There seems to be a lot of benefits from it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diving_reflex

Guinness World Record holder Stig Severinsen just did an AMA on reddit - single breathe 22 minute swim (physical exertion).


Wow, nice find:

> Bradycardia is the response to facial contact with cold water: the human heart rate slows down ten to twenty-five percent.

I just had comments above on washing face with cold water.


>> ... washing your face with cold water after you wake up every morning

I've been doing this. It sure feels great and the best part is you don't even feel your face after a couple of splash and the cold doesn't bother you anyway (Yeah! It's a "Frozen" reference).

Can't really say if it has something to do with wrinkles lessness, but take it as a commitment, give you a feeling of accomplishment and a thing to brag about ;)

I have tried it a few times. Perhaps the worst physical feeling I have ever experienced. Almost made me afraid of showering altogether

Fruit and cold showers!

Every interview with a centenarian asks "what's the secret of your longevity?" They answer and we all nod and stroke our chins and think maybe there's something to that cold shower thing after all. Or whatever. If his secret had been that he drinks three Dr. Peppers a day, or that he does a headstand for five minutes every morning at sunrise, our response would be the same.

He no more knows the secret of his longevity than a gambler knows the secret of a hot streak. Like every centenarian, he's on the mother of all hot streaks, that's all. Our impulse to find some causal agency that we can understand and adopt is no different than a gambler's. When he said "fruit and cold showers", it's no different than saying "if I stand on one foot and close my left eye when I throw the dice, I don't crap out."

I have to think that he knows this and he's just humoring us because he knows we want an answer other than ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. After all, we are all just children to him.

> I have to think that he knows this

He exclaims out loud "I don't know!" (in Spanish) before humoring with his own speculations about his longevity.

But attributing it entirely to hitting the genetic lottery would also be a mistake: the genetic potential can be easily squandered by allowing your mind, heart and body to decay at an accelerated rate. It is obvious this is a happy and lucid human being who still finds plenty of reasons to stick around.

Sure. I think there are lots of things that can incrementally increase your longevity. Don't smoke, don't drink too much, don't abuse drugs, eat food (not too much, mostly plants), watch your weight, exercise your body, exercise your mind, have sanguine outlook on life, love and be loved, etc. None are silver bullets, but taken together they probably significantly increase your chances to get to 90. But after 90, everyone is increasingly living on borrowed time.

In any case, when the reporter asks the secret of your longevity, they're not really asking "what did you do 50 years ago that contributed to your still being here today?"

The inventor of Twinkies lived to 88 and attributed his health to eating them regularly (I thought I’d read one every day ever since inventing them, but https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1985-07-03-me-10272-... says ≥ 2 packets per week).

My dad's doctor told him to stop eating so much butter. Dad said, "My uncle ate a stick of butter every day, and he lived to be 96!"

The doc replied, "See? It finally got him!"

One way or another it always gets you!

I love that. Lesson: Keep talking your book right to the end!

Indeed. Cold showers sure have potential to reduce wrinkle formation tho. And to make you temporarily much more alive, if not live longer (just go and try it, use as much cold as possible which probably means you will scream at start).

The centurian thing is probably ocam's razor: specific genes in combination with specific environment must be a good fit for longevity. Knowing that we are in no way closer in understanding anything about it, but at least we know we can't expect random centurian giving meaningful answer.

Cold showers make you feel better in general and they say it helps increase your immunity.

I've been experimenting with cold showers since the pandemic began, first it was through the summer, and I summoned up courage to continue it through the winter. There were some days when I thought I couldn't take the cold, so I used warm water instead. But I remember the stark difference I felt on those days compared to the rest when I showered in cold water.

If you can bear the cold, I would recommend it. Even if you can't, take it up as a challenge (that's what I did), to get your body to adapt to it. Totally worth it.

> Cold showers sure have potential to reduce wrinkle formation tho

Do you have scientific papers to prove this?

No, its more about experience (both personal and various books on topic) and understanding basic skin biology and how hot water with chlorine in it affects it.

The most striking thing to me is the presence of his family (good relationships). Seems like such a contrast with the case of David Goodall, the 104 year old Australian who traveled to Switzerland to kill himself. He lived alone and lost his ability to see others regularly when he lost his office space at the university he was associated with. Says he traveled to see his family before killing himself. I think in general the important thing is to have good relationships on one's own terms, which Mr. Goodall did not seem to have at the end.


This story got me feeling all sorts of feelings.

How good is the record keeping in Medellín?


Wow, I had not considered this at all, but it makes so much sense!

It reminds me of the Greek island of “blind” people: https://nationalpost.com/news/world/greece-zakyntos-island-o...

Yet we have unusually high faith in super old people, because it’s a sort of nostalgic dream we hope is true/replicable.

> Every interview with a centenarian asks "what's the secret of your longevity?"

Just like every interview with an Apollo astronaut starts with "what's it like walking on the moon?" I would imagine they get soooo tired of that one.

the best statement i've encountered about this (besides survivorship bias) is,

"ask a lottery winner how to get rich, and they'll tell you to play the lottery"

I don’t know if I would consider living a long human life a hot streak.


Added above. Thanks!

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