166. Human Behavioral Biology: Species Evolution On A Molecular Level

09 takeaways from this lecture:

00:03:05 Recall from the previous lecture Intersexual Competition & Male/Female Hierarchies that heritability is the notion that, until proven otherwise, behaviors are genetically influenced.

On a molecular level, proteins are made up of roughly 20 amino acids coded for a different DNA sequence, and there are roughly 60 different ways of coding for amino acids. These roughly 20 amino acids are structurally responsible for holding your cell shapes together, forming messengers, hormones, neuro-transmitters, enzymes… Proteins are what get your cells to do what they are supposed to do.

One of the most interesting things that proteins do is act as enzymes which speed up the process of putting together and pulling apart molecules.

If you know the sequence of DNA, then you’ll know the sequence of RNA, the amino acid sequence, the resulting protein that is made as well as the shape and function of the protein. This tenet has since been disproved.

The central tenet in molecular biology of how life and information flows, as proposed by British molecular biologist Francis Crick was DNA>RNA>Protein; that DNA determines everything. This tenet has also since been disproved:

  • Viruses are foreign DNA which hijack another DNA and force it to do what the virus wants it to, thus changes the RNA and the proteins.
  • There is also a class of enzymes which can attack RNA and turn it back into DNA and then hijack it for it’s own objectives.

00:17:10 Micro-mutations are when one letter in a DNA sequence is accidentally miscopied or changed by radiation or some other chemical compound. Broadly, one of three mutations occurs:

  1. A point mutation is when one letter in the DNA sequence is changed into another letter.
  2. A deletion is when one of the letters in the DNA sequence gets lost.
  3. An insertion is when one of the letters in the DNA sequence gets doubled.

00:27:03 In modern times, 12 years old is the Westernized average time little girls start puberty and begin menstrating. Testicular Feminization Syndrome is a condition where genetically the human is a male complete with testes which make testosterone, but the testes never descended, and so is mistaken for a female.

All of these protein and receptor mututations effect humans evolutionarily in slow, predictable and incremental changes; changes we can identify and predict.

00:40:51 FOXP2 is an example of a genetic protein mutation that happened to humans, and is what gave humans the ability to develop speech and language. Versions of FOXP2 occur all throughout the animal kingdom.


You share 98% of your DNA with chimpanzees, yet on average only 50% of your DNA with your full siblings. To simplify, genes specify traits: kidneys, bones, antlers, etc. So right from the start you share genetic similarities with other species which also have kidneys, bones, pelvises designed to walk upright, etc. Why you have less genetic similarity with your full sibling versus with a chimpanzee comes down to coding not for the different genes, but for the different ‘types’ of genes. This is a different world of variance.

00:52:31 In the 1980s Steven Jay Guld and Niles Eldredge came up with the theory of punctuated equalibrium: that evolution isn’t being driven by small gradual changes, but rather long periods of stasis where nothing changes followed by short periods of rapid change, and then back to stasis.

The logic behind punctuated equalibrium was due mainly because Guld, a Marxist, wasn’t a biologist, but rather a paleontologist who studied fossils and traced the evolutionary lineage of change in a species through time. In the world of paleontology, you don’t have clear logical steps showing the evolution of a species as viewed from their fossils, but rather gaps in time which can neither be explained nor tracked. And as more and more data are discovered about the species, you see great similarities over time, and then gaps in the evolution where things had changed drastically over a short period.


This theory flies in the face of the idea that genetics are passed down through competition and that the strongest survive. Not surprisingly, those scientists supporting survival of the fittest weren’t happy with Guld and his punctuated equalibrium, and they attacked his theory in several sound ways:

  1. Paleontology and a evolutionary biology come from completely different universes and measure time through different orders of magnitude.
  2. Paleongology is only concerned with the fossils and morphology of organisms, not the smaller genetic modifications such as brain activity and development, behavior, and the number of chambers in the animal’s heart, etc.

01:07:10 Nobel Prize winning biologist David Baltimore found that one gene can have its protons and exons combine in many different ways. This finding was also ill-received by the scientific community which held that one gene only specifies one single protein with no variation.

A shocking 95% of your DNA is junk DNA, or noncoding DNA. This noncoding DNA acts as the instruction manual for the coding DNA

01:25:14 If then clauses in the molecular genetic world: IF you get a signal that there is low glucose in the cell, THEN you begin to make proteins related to glucose uptake. IF you smell your child, THEN you’ll experience a particular reaction.

01:29:16 Are genetics fixed or malleable based on the environment? Mothering style, such as how often a mother wakes her baby, can cause permanent changes to genes related to stress hormones, dictating how readily some genes will be turned on or off for the rest of your life.

Epigenetics is the study of “variations that are caused by external or environmental factors that switch genes on and off and affect how cellsread genes instead of being caused by changes in the DNA sequence.” The researcher Steve Sumi who studies primate social behavior found that by simply changing the style of mothering that a baby monkey receives, and you change the confirmational access state of +4,000 different genes.

Fertilization is all about genetics; development is all about ways in which the environment shapes behavior.

128. Sex & Love: Interpreting Body Language & Non-Verbal Flirting Cues

10 important lessons from this video:

00:00:23 Everybody has that 6th sense, but some humans are masters of it while others have no idea it exists. You’d be amazed at what you can understand about other people by simply observing their actions. Poker players call these subtle non-verbal cues tells – unintentional changes in a poker player’s behavior which provides clues as to the true value of the player’s poker hand, contrary to what the player is attempting to communicate.

Without these ‘tells,’ flirting – as well as sex as we know it – would cease to exist.

Hone your 6th sense, and then go to any bar, any club, or any party and you’ll be able to see the following non-verbal flirtatious behavior in action.

During four hours 30 singles (50% men & 50% women, all apparently heterosexual and British) were invited to a make-shift bar and cameras were set up to record every person’s movement.

The following observations were gleaned from this social experiment:

00:02:47 Upon the entering of a male into a woman’s vicinity, women begin flicking their hair, a sort of preening which allows the woman to:

  • Flaunt her soft, bouncy, youthful cranial features
  • Communicate to the man she has noticed his presence
  • Capture the man’s attention among all the other shiny objects in the room

Once one woman has begun flicking her hair, other women will also begin competitively flicking their respective hair, ensuring that they are looking their best.

00:04:25 Men typically believe that it is them who initiate conversations, however it is in fact the woman who has – using a barrage of non-verbal cues such as smiling, staring, subtle glances and the above hair-flicking

– shown interest in the man and given the man permission to approach her.

It is these ‘less-than-a-second’ behaviors given by the woman that decide the fate of men, thus making courtship almost always a female choice.

The typical man, however, is ridiculously poor at reading women’s behavior and usually doesn’t register a woman’s subtle non-verbal cues, and so approach a woman convinced that it is in fact him taking the lead.

Awkward and socally-inept men either lacking the ability to correctly identify and then react to an ‘approach tell,’ or completely misunderstanding a woman’s behavior as an ‘approach tell’ are destined to find themselves akwardly rejected to no avail.

00:06:44 In situations where multiple female friends may be competing for the attentions of the same man, they will flirtatiously use their repective hair, mouths, eyes, neck, shoulders, increased body animation and physical contact in an attempt to attract and keep his attention.

Respectfully, while one woman employs her cues, her friends may politely look away, withdrawing to give her the temporary spotlight.

Men, once aroused by a particular woman, will keep an eye out for her, keeping her has the center of his attention and exchanging glances with her often to demonstrate that he is still interested in her and that she is still interested in him.

If a woman feels she has begun losing the attention of a man she is flirting with, often times she will revert once again to preening herself in an attempt to recapture his attention.

00:08:23 People who are interested in a person specifically will orient themselves toward that person with their legs crossed and their faces, torso and feet directly facing each other. They may even lean themselves against a nearby object, visibly demonstrating that everything and everyone else is less important.

As the mood changes and one or more of the people involved in a conversation wish the encounter to end, their body language will shift, facial expressions will become more controlled and their feet will begin pointing away from the person they were originally oriented towards.

00:09:31 Performed prominently by women, ‘eye popping’ is the act of closing one’s eyes and then suddenly opening them and gazing directly at their target with a loving stare.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In their book The Definitive Book of Body Language, Allan & Barbara Pease explain that the ‘eye pop’ is effective because closing the eyes dilates the pupils. Dilated pupils are synomomous with attraction and protection. Babies’ pupils are typically dilated in an evolutionary attempt to demonstrate to its caregivers that it should be protected and cared for.

In advertising, female and baby model’s eyes are almost always photoshopped so that they are dilated. Doing this naturally draws the potential consumer’s attention to the model, and then to the product being sold. For more on advertising tricks, browse through my interviews with advertising professionals.

Conversely, Allan & Barbara Pease explain, the opposite of dilated eyes are ‘beady, snake-like eyes’ which give the impression that you are shady, untrustworthy, and dangerous.]

00:11:49 When third parties approach a group, the physical arrangement of the group members demonstrates alliances, and sides are drawn as the people in the group subconsciously gravitate towards the person/people they feel most comfortable with.

00:12:25 Men who view the presence of another man in the vicinity as a threat tend to react by giving off distress signals such as a more controlled and expression-less face, attempting to appear relaxed and in control, cleaning his teeth (his primitive animalistic weapons) with his tongue, and tucking his chin in in an attempt to protect himself.

00:13:41 Women flirt with men even when they are not sexually interested in him, partly because women consider flirting as good manners.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Personally, I consider the above argument moot, as my experience and critical thinking skills research has taught me that men are typically prone to associate ANY attention given to them by a woman as flirting.]

00:13:46 Often times, the parties involved in the flirting process will not be aware that they were involved in a flirting process. Men, being naturally poor female behavior decoders and convinced they are making the first move, approach women and are rejected, confused as to why the woman rejected him.

123. Human Behavioral Biology: Where Game Theory & Evolution Collide

10 takeaways from this lecture: Continue reading “123. Human Behavioral Biology: Where Game Theory & Evolution Collide”

85. How To Start A Startup: A Checklist Of Counter-Intuitive Rules

15 Important takeaways from this video:

00:01:25 Startups are very counter-intuitive; it is an area where you simply cannot rely on your intuition to be successful. Founders consistently ignore their mentor’s or partner’s advice because their advice usually runs counter to the founder’s intuition; it just ‘feels’ wrong, therefore your first impulse is to ignore it.

00:04:00 You can, however, trust your instincts about people. Just because the person you meet seems impressive doesn’t mean their advice should be taken or that you should get into bed with them. Choose your investors, partners, mentors… the way you would pick your friends. Work with people you generally like and respect, and that you have known long enough to be sure.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: William Channer, Designer & Entrepreneur and Cédric Quissola, Art Director offer similar advice on taking the time to choose who you will trust and work with, however once you have decided, trust them fully.]

00:05:30 Expertise in startups isn’t a requirement when starting up. At the end of a French course, you’ll be better able to speak French, which is what you need to know to communicate with a French-speaker. Classes on startups will teach you about startups, but knowledge about startups isn’t what you need to know; what you need is an expertise in your own users.

00:07:00 ‘Learning too much’ about the mechanics of starting a business may actually prove to be dangerous because the idea of ‘going through the motions’ of starting a startup: completing a ‘proven’ checklist of things to do makes the process easier to manage but in no way guarantees success.

Most of the time, entrepreneurs go though the motions of launching their startup because that is what they were trained to do their whole lives up to this point.The first thing young entrepreneurs usually do is to try to figure out what the tricks are: What are the tricks for convincing investors?

Certainly to some degree performing actions involves some degree of tricks, techniques and checklists, and other entrepreneurs charge a lot of money creating and selling their tricks and checklists to young entrepreneurs.Basically, the best ‘trick’ for attracting investors is to simply create a startup that is growing quickly, and then simply tell investors so.Okay, those young entrepreneurs will then ask “What are the tricks for growing quickly?” 

00:10:00 Growth hacks is bullshit because the way to make something grow is to make something that users really love and then tell them about it.So yes, there are tricks, but they are not nearly as important as solving the initial problem: creating a product or service that meets your consumer’s needs.

00:11:30 Starting a startup is where exploiting weaknesses in the system stops working.  Gaming the system MAY work if you go to work for a big company and spend your time sucking up to the right person, appearing to be productive, sending emails late at night, etc. This way of doing business, however, doesn’t work with startups because there is no boss to trick; you’re the boss and you’d only be cheating yourself.Instead, all there is is users, and all users care about is whether your product or service does what they want. You have to have something that people want, and you only prosper to the extent that you do.

00:12:56 Dangerously enough, faking does work to some extent with investors. If you really sound like you know what you’re talking about, you can fool investors over the short-term, but it’s not in your interest to do so.

00:14:36 Startups involve a large opportunity cost because they are ‘all-consuming.’ It will take over your life more than you can imagine; and if it succeeds it will take over your life for a long time.As the owner of a successful startup, you alone must carry the burden of making important decisions. Whether you want ot or not, you cannot show fear or doubt, and you cannot complain about having a difficult life. 

Further, it never gets any easier. The nature of the problems change, such as construction delays at a new London office instead of a broken air conditioner in your small studio apartment, but the total volume of worry never decreases; all successful entrepreneurs have to continuously deal with this, however most of the time you, as the public audience, never get to witness this part of an entrepreneur’s life.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Derek Banas, Entrepreneur and Joshua Waldman, Entrepreneur and Author talk about the importance of loving what you do as a key ingredient to running a successful startup.]

00:17:16 A lot of people seem to think that you’re supposed to start startups while in college, which is insane because as just explained startups take up all your time – time you should be investing in learning. Once a student starts a startup, that student is no longer a formal university student, or at least will not be a formal university student for much longer.

Can universities teach you about startups? Yes and no. But as already explained, there are no checklists and tricks to memorize. Anyone can teach you about startups, but knowledge about startups isn’t what you need to know. Remember, what you need is an expertise in your own users.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In the video How To Start A Startup: The Importance Of Choosing Your Team & Your Execution, Sam Altman points out that young people have the advantage over older people in terms of startups and product-creation because young people have the future ahead of them, can see where technology is heading, and so can create a business that will be popular in the future while older entrepreneurs don’t have this same luxury or perspective.In the video Human Resources Management: Mega-Trends Which Lead To Competitive Advantage, Armin Trost explains that todays products will be obsolete in the  future, and that it is only through innovation and anticipation that companies can compete and survive.]

00:18:30 If you’re asking yourself ‘Should I be a student and not be a startup or should I not be a student and be a startup?,’ the best advice would be to not start a startup in university. Why? People start startups with the larger objective of having a good life, not simply to start a startup. 20 years old isn’t the optimal time to do it because there are things that you can do while you are in your 20s that you cannot do before or after. 

Mark Zuckerberg can rent private jets and rub shoulders with very influencial people, but he cannot simply hop on a plane and backpack around Europe on a whim with no deadlines or responsibilities in sight; he gave up the opportunity to do that. Facebook is running him as much as he is running Facebook.

In the astronomically unlikely case where you’re in your 20s and you have a side project that takes off like Facebook did, then you’re faced with the choice of passing on it or risking all and running with it. In this case it may be reasonable to run with it.Instead, the optimal thing to do while in your 20s (or at university) is to exploit the formal education process and learn powerful things, and then couple that with your own natural curiosity and inclinations. Domain expertise is what really matters with entrepreneurism; become an expert in something.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: One of the laws in the book 22 Irrefutable Laws of Advertising: And When to Violate Them by Michael Newman is the law of experience, whereby the more you experience, the more broad your knowledge-base and the more equipped you are at connecting dots in a unique and refreshing manner that others cannot see, be it for advertising or creating a new product that meets users needs.]

00:21:40 Starting a startup is REALLY hard and statistically speaking you have a greater chance of failure than you do of success. As an entrepreneur, you’re not estimating what you are now, you’re estimating what you could become; and nobody can confidently predict that. Not even investors who put their money on the line for your startup cannot accurately predict this. Every startup is at best a guess.

00:22:50 It’s easy to tell how smart a person is; the hard part is predicting how tough and ambitious that person will become.

00:24:25 There are only two things you need initially to start a startup: An idea and co-founders, and what you need to get them both is the same. The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. The way to come up with good startup ideas is to take a step back and turn your brain into the type that has startup ideas unconsciously by:Getting yourself to the forefront of a technology so that you are in a sense living in the future and solutions to problems thus become obviousBeginning as a side-projectLearning a lot about things that matter

Working on problems that interest youWorking with people you both like and respect (which is how you procure co-founders)

00:26:40 History is full of people who everyone believed was working on something worthwhile when in fact it proved to be completely worthless; history is also full of people who were working on things everyone believed was a waste of time when in fact it proved to be priceless. For you, you know you are the latter when you are passionate about the problems you are trying to solve. They will eventually turn out be useful later in some worldly way. This will create a sort of internal compass in your head which will guide you in your  future projects.

00:33:15 It’s not necessary to  go to business school to launch a startup. Business school was designed to teach people management, and management is only something you really need once your startup becomes successful. Ideally, what you really need to focus on early on is product development. For that, you’d be better off going to design school. But experience is the best teacher, and just doing it is one of the best ways to learn something.