Success is Hard: 7 Evolutionary Mismatches You Must Overcome

evolutionary mismatch - blakeThe other day I was at an alumni event from my university. It was really good, and I met some interesting, accomplished people.

–All of them twice my age or more.

There were maybe 80 people at the event, and I was the youngest one in attendance. I benefited greatly from this contrast.

Two other guys under 30 stood by themselves at a table all night, pounding back beers. What a waste of time.

What the hell are these (young) people thinking?

Where they see discomfort, I see opportunity.

Why is that?

I’ll tell you why: it’s because they’re being run by primitive fears and whimsical urges–and it leads them astray. Indefinitely.

Their instincts are mismatched for the modern world. . .


Biologists have a term for this: Evolutionary mismatches.

What is an evolutionary mismatch?

–It is when some (biological) trait or adaptation acquired by the human body has become problematic given the culture or environment of modern society.

How do you know if something is an evolutionary mismatch?

The easiest way to identify an evolutionary mismatch is by looking at how the ‘natural’ environment (that the trait corresponds to) has changed.

Evolutionary mismatches are generally caused by three things:

  1. Too much stimuli.
  2. Not enough stimuli.
  3. Or too new stimuli (which the brain/body hasn’t yet adapted to).

Note before reading on:

This is a 5500-word article that contains a lot of condensed information.

If there is just one thing you take away from this article, it should be this: Modern society is EXTREMELY different from the environment we are genetically adapted for, and ‘success’ is a highly UNNATURAL thing. . .

Advertising, popular culture, and mainstream media make it seem like success is easy–and that most people lead meaningful lives where they’re always smiling and are in great shape. Nothing could be further from reality.

The tragic truth is that most people’s lives suck–and that they’re doomed to be mediocre, unhealthy, and die prematurely.

If you want to be healthy, happy, and successful, you’re going to have to lead a very counter-intuitive and unconventional lifestyle, characterized by overcoming evolutionary mismatches. . .

–Not everyone can do it (but hopefully you can).


Nobel Prize winner and paleoanthropologist Daniel Lieberman writes in The Story of the Human Body that:

No organism is primarily adapted to be healthy, long-lived, happy, or to achieve many other goals for which people strive. . .

(Your body is just a vehicle for your ‘selfish’ 1 genes .)

Lieberman continues:

Many human adaptations did not necessarily evolve to promote physical or mental well-being.

(They just came to be because they boosted survival at that particular time in the evolution of the species.)

The Importance of Evolutionary Mismatches in Understanding the Modern World

Evolutionary theory is a good guide for understanding human behavior up until around 10,000 years ago. To fill in the remaining time gap you want to study history and psychology. Do you know why?

–It’s because history and psychology together explain how technology has influenced culture.

Where evolution ‘stopped’ moving, humans created culture and technology–which mimic the evolutionary process, only much faster, because they influence each other in a feedback loop-type fashion:

Culture influences technology, and technology drives culture. Culture and technology, in turn, have a massive impact on human biology (the brain and body).

Culture influences technology, and technology drives culture. Culture and technology, in turn, have a huge impact on human biology (the brain and body)
This creates evolutionary mismatches.


So, while human beings have not changed much—genetically—over the last 10,000 years, our culture has changed tremendously over the last 200 years, since the industrial revolution and the advent of information society.

Modern (information) society is one MASSIVE evolutionary mismatch:

. . .That is one reason why we have been seeing a “jobless recovery.” It’s also why unemployment is so concentrated among the relatively unskilled. If you want to get a job in the new and growing sectors of the economy, or the parts of the old economy that are re-gearing, it really helps to be skilled with information technology, but still those jobs aren’t that plentiful. At the same time that a lot of people are out of work, some of the cutting-edge companies can’t find and hire the people they need. We’re facing a fundamental skills mismatch, and the U.S. labor market is increasingly divided into a group that can keep up with technical work and a group that can’t.

–Tyler Cowen, The Great Stagnation.

Another mismatch problem is information overload . . .

With so many choices, how do you pick the best one?

–Maybe you shouldn’t try to pick at all. Maybe, as Charlie Munger likes to say, you should just play the loser’s game and avoid big mistakes:

Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail . . . . Avoid these qualities and you will succeed. Tell me where I’m going to die, that is, so I don’t go there.


So, Let me tell you where you’re most likely to fail and die.


Who will strike the killing blow and finish you off?

—A villain? An alligator? A plane crash?

Guess again.

How about diabetes, obesity, inactivity, boredom, and prescription drugs?

Yes, unfortunately, that’s probably going to be the case for you—statistically speaking. The average person is likely to fall victim to. . .

Mismatch Diseases

Of these, Daniel Lieberman writes:

. . . . numerous cultural changes have altered interactions between our genes and our environments in ways that contribute to a wide range of health problems. These illnesses are mismatch diseases, defined as diseases that result from our Paleolithic bodies being poorly or inadequately adapted to certain modern behaviors and conditions.

He continues:

I don’t think it is possible to overemphasize just how important mismatch diseases are. You are most likely going to die from a mismatch disease. You are most likely to suffer from disabilities caused by mismatch diseases. Mismatch diseases contribute to the bulk of health-care spending throughout the world.

You don’t need to be a genius to understand the severity of the situation, but you need to have the foresight to identify different evolutionary mismatches and then structure your lifestyle to overcome them!

Prevention is always the best course of action.

Let’s take a look at seven of the worst evolutionary mismatches in modern society by contrasting how things:

  1. Used to be in the past.
  2. What the situation is like now.
  3. And what you can do to counteract this mismatch.

I think you’ll learn a lot from this.

The Top 7 Worst Evolutionary Mismatches (and their impact on modern society)

Probably every vice was once a virtue—i.e a quality making for the survival of the individual, family, and group.

Will Durant, Lessons of History

The 7 top evolutionary mismatches:

1: Overindulgence of Processed Foods and Sugar

2: Overstimulation from: Smart Phones, Social Media, Dating Apps, etc..

3: Conformity and Misinformation from Mainstream Media:

4: Passive and Sedentary Lifestyle from Automation and Technology

5: Chronic Stress and Broken Recovery Cycles

6: Lack of Loyalty and Strong, Intimate, Relationships

7: Homeostasis, Fewer External Motivators, and Self-deception


1: Overindulgence of Sugar and Processed Foods

a) Sugar


Hunter-gatherers supposedly consumed somewhere between 30 teaspoons to 6 pounds of sugar per year, depending on the environment.


Today people eat on average 22-32 teaspoons of sugar per day, adding up to 80,3-116,8 pounds a year. Much of this sugar comes from soft drinks.

b) Processed Foods


Pre-made or processed foods did not exist for hunter-gatherers. To make the food easier to eat, they had to bash it with clubs and cut it with stone knives.


Today, most food is processed in one way or another. This makes it easier to digest for the stomach, and we’re able to make room for more food. This makes overeating a lot easier than in the past.

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

Since most processed foods contain a bunch of additives—especially chemicals used for mimicking the taste of salt, sugar, and fat—we are prone to eat more of it than we need.


More people than ever are getting diabetes and cavities, becoming obese, and contracting nasty “21st century diseases” related to poor digestion and horrible ratios of essential fatty acids.

Some of these 21st century diseases include:

  • Brain fog.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Candida.
  • And hemorrhoids.

How to Counteract This Mismatch

First, make it a habit to look at labels before you buy food products.

Second, ditch all soft drinks.

Third, eat less processed foods and cook your own food more often.

To avoid processed foods, here’s an easy-to-remember rule of thumb: anything edible that has bright colors or comes in a plastic box is processed.

Avoid, minimize, or eliminate the following things from your diet:

  • Sugars, artificial sweeteners, and high fructose corn syrup.
  • Trans-fats and MSG (monosodium glutamate).
  • Artificial coloring agents and preservatives.

It is nearly impossible not to consume any of these—unless you’ve got some money to spend and can afford to be extra picky—but it shouldn’t stop you from trying.

To fix your (probably) horrible Omega-6:3 ratio you want to do these 3 things:

And here are some of the healthiest foods you want to eat:

  • Eggs.
  • Broccoli.
  • Spinach.
  • Oregano (contains 4x more antioxidants than blueberries).
  • Coconut oil (non-hydrogenated).

2: Overstimulation from: Smart Phones, Social Media, Dating Apps, and more…


The technology which enables overstimulation did not exist. Hunter-gatherers didn’t have instant gratification. Pleasure and play time had to be earned through hard work, cooperation, risk-taking, and exploration.


Do I really need to give you a rant on the present situation? I think not.

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

First, here are some of the negative first-order consequences for how this mismatch impacts the average person:

  • Concentration span decreases with age.
  • Stimulatory threshold increases–and boredom is always near. 
  • Ability to delay gratification is also going down.

—You probably already knew that.

But here’s something you might not know. . .

This mismatch is messing up the male-female gender dynamics.


Technology-induced overstimulation tilts the evolutionary scale, and women are—on average—gaining more power in the ”sexual game”.]

Technology-induced overstimulation tilts the gender scale of supply and demand by making men less masculine and making it easier for women to find suitors.  As a result, women are—on average—gaining more power in the ”sexual game”.


This is based on the following assumptions:

  1. Men typically derive social status based on their position in some hierarchy (as an indicator of power and money-making).
  2. Women typically derive social status based on how many guys that court them (as an indicator of their perceived attractiveness).
  3. “Mating” then happens based on the dynamics of supply and demand, and typically men must have equal or higher social status as women, in order to “win their heart”.

Historically, these dynamics have been somewhat at equilibrium. But in the last 30-some years, these underlying dynamics have become distorted in a number of ways. For example:

  • Modern society has few rites of passage, and therefore fails–systematically–in raising boys into adult, mature men.
  • Overstimulation from computers, phones, TV, video games, etc…drain men of their motivation to work hard and climb to the top.
  • Then there are a bunch of other factors to take into account. . .
  • Courtesy of dating apps, any woman who looks attractive 3 gets courted by at least 10x more guys than only 10 years ago.

In summary:

On average, the social status of women is going UP while the social status of men is going down.

There are more passive, demotivated, overweight, low-testosterone men around than probably ever before in history.

At the same time there are more ‘entitled’ women than ever before (who will not settle for these guys, because their social status is too low).

This does not bode well for the future of “mating”.


For the average guy, this is a double negative; for the top 1% of men, it’s irrelevant. Historically, the top men have always gotten 80 % or more of women, but now it’s getting even more skewed.

How to Counteract This Mismatch

While you can’t stop technology—or change that most people are addicted to the instant gratification brought on by Internet and social media—you can exercise discipline and regulate your own use.

3: Conformity and Misinformation from Mainstream Media

In the past the “world,” whether in its physical or intellectual terms, was much smaller, simpler, and more orderly. It inspired credibility. Today everything is so complex as to be incomprehensible.

―Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals.


Hunter-gatherers used to live in smaller groups of 10+ people, with an upper limit to the tribe’s cohesiveness of about 75-225 people 4.

The narrative of the tribe–passed down for generations via stories–was dogma. Everyone adjusted their thoughts, opinions and beliefs to fit the tribe’s narrative. The tribe leader was the authority.

Evolutionary thinkers like Richard Dawkins believe that the human brain (the neocortex, to be specific) developed the ability to simulate future scenarios so that we could predict the consequence of what we were going to say before we said it, to avoid upsetting the leader (and be clobbered for it).

This helped us FIT IN with the tribe better.

Great for survival back in the day. What about today?


We live in an overpopulated information society, where the average person is mismatched for things like:

  • Processing large amounts of (complex) information.
  • Rational and critical thinking.
  • Questioning authorities, finding flaws in dogmatic belief systems, or dealing with cognitive biases.

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

Most people are being used by their brains, instead of them using their brains.

People spend most of their mental energy conjuring up rationalizations that allow them to fit in with the narrative of the politically correct public opinion.

They use their neocortex mainly to avoid conflicts with “fellow tribe members“, instead of using it to do independent thinking, craft their own unique philosophical framework, and come up with cool new ideas.


“In Silicon Valley, I’ve pointed out, many of the successful entrepreneurs seem to be suffering from a mild form of Asperger’s—where it’s like, you’re missing the imitation-socialization gene. . . . And it happens to be a plus for innovation and creating great companies, but I think we always should turn this around as an incredible critique of our society, and we need to ask: what is it about our society where those of us who do not suffer from Asperger’s are at some massive disadvantage? Because we will be talked out of our interesting, original, creative ideas—before they’re even fully formed. ”

—Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal

1) “The digital village”

Conformity breeds mediocrity.

Conformity breeds mediocrity; be contrarian.

Modern society is a like a digital village, where most people share a similar ideology based on TV, Internet, and mainstream media. As a result, most people think in terms of the same stereotypes, and the average person is becoming increasingly uniform.

The bad news:

To fit in with the mainstream, things must be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. It’s like a mental equivalent to the Greek myth about Procrustes, who smashed people’s limbs to fit them in his bed.

The good news:

When more and more people take in the same type of information, think in similar terms, and act in a herd-like manner—guess what this means for you?

It means that it pays more than ever to be a contrarian; someone who is different and goes against the status quo.

2) Outdated political system

Since most people are not well-adapted to dealing with complex information, thinking critically, and because of the media-induced digital village phenomenon. . .

. . .the ‘modern’ political system is brutally mismatched.

The democratic system we have in most of the (western) world was birthed during a time when social media, Internet, TV, and radio did NOT exist.

This is why politics has turned into a populist reality show.

How to Counteract This Mismatch

You need to train yourself into becoming a contrarian.

You want to become less reactive to ‘the tribe’— and less affected by the opinion of other people, especially those whose opinions don’t matter:

This is not a straightforward process. Nevertheless. . .

Here are some principles you can practice:

  1. Make initiative-taking a habit; always go first (when it makes sense).
  2. Make it a rule that when you enter a public environment or a meeting you will raise your hand or speak up within 15 minutes.
  3. Don’t ask for people’s opinions before doing stuff
  4. It is typically better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

4: Passive and Sedentary Lifestyle from Automation and Technology

“Sometimes death only comes from a lack of energy.”


evolutionary mismatch


The average hunter-gatherer walked 9-15 kilometers ( 5-9 miles) per day, and probably much longer than that when hunting or scavenging for food.


The typical person walks less than half a kilometer (1/3 miles) per day. Most people run or exercise from time to time, but not frequently enough.

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

We don’t have to walk anywhere—we can drive. Actually, we don’t even have to drive, if we’re really hungry, we can just order takeout. And if we want something, we can have it shipped straight to our door!

We don’t have to do anything—we can watch  TV, YouTube, or browse the Internet for enjoyment. And if that bores us, we can play some cool video game. Yay, life as a passive spectator rocks!

Then we go to school or work, where we sit still for hours by a desk in a classroom or inside an office.

From 1800 and forward—after the Industrial Revolution—we’ve become increasingly physically inactive. This isn’t exactly shocking news, but the progression of inactivity should shock you. Daniel Lieberman writes that:

Tasks such as typing, sewing, or doing general work at a desk are only slightly more costly than just sitting still. In a typical day, a receptionist or bank clerk who spends an eight-hour day seated in front of a computer expends about 775 calories while doing her job, a worker at an automobile factory spends about 1,400 calories, and a really hardworking coal miner could spend a whopping 3,400 calories.

—In 260 work days, given 8-hour work days, a blue-collar factory worker burns 175,000 more calories than a white-collar worker, sitting in an office. This energy is equivalent to running 62 full marathons.

. . . But only 11 % of the U.S working force consists of blue-collar workers employed in factories (and that statistic probably holds true for most of the western world). Most people barely move at all!


When we don’t move enough, we don’t function properly. Our thinking gets stifled, we become depressed, and we get fat and unhealthy!

How to Counteract This Mismatch

All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.


Man evolved to walk long distances, and scientists have linked physical movement to improved learning and increased neuroplasticity. By stimulating BDNF.

–Seems like Nietzsche had it right.

Do you work in an office, or from your computer?

You should do these 7 things:

  1. Get a chair which aids proper posture and sit with a straight back.
  2. If you have a laptop, you should buy an ergonomic laptop stand.
  3. Alternate between standing up and sitting down.
  4. You should get RIPPED ASAP!!!5
  5. You should flex your muscles intermittently while sitting.
  6. Get a step-counter to get feedback on how much you move each day (I use my phone for this).
  7. You should get in the habit of doing mobility stretches  ASAP. This will act as a preventive measure against poor posture and deformed hips. For more instructions. . .

. . . Watch this 2-minute demonstration of mobility stretching by my friend Mikael Syding.

Notice the straight posture of his back.

My posture needs improvement. Good thing I didn’t start 10 years from now.


5: Chronic Stress and Broken Recovery Cycles

“We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity.”

—Bill Bryson


Man lived under open skies or in tiny huts, with the rest of the tribe. People’s circadian rhythms (sleep cycles) followed the sunlight. With the exception of possible threats, there were few interruptions to impede proper relaxation.


We live in cities that are lit up during night-time and we work in offices illuminated by light bulbs and artificial lighting. Most of us are available 24/7 via email, our phones, and social media.

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

Hunter-gatherers didn’t ‘work’; they searched for food and then they relaxed.

‘Work’ and play were clearly segregated and distinguished between.

Today most people bring their work with them home, mentally. And most of us don’t have an “off-switch”. Stress builds up, creativity decreases, and burnouts occur.


Many people have trouble sleeping, de-stressing, and recovering properly.

They walk around with constantly elevated cortisol levels (the stress hormone). This gives them a weaker immune system and counteracts the process of allostasis (the state where the body adapts optimally to stress)

How to Counteract This Mismatch

John D. Rockefeller said that it’s remarkable how much we all could do if we simply avoid hustling, and we go along at an even pace and keep from attempting too much (at the same time). He was right, because. . .

Longevity and sustained motivation require that you cycle between periods of focused work and deep relaxation.

How can you do this?

Well, since no body (pun intended) is the same, there is no magic formula for how you should manage your energy levels.

But you can start practicing breathing techniques and meditation.

This will help you relax better and avoid stress from building up.

How to do meditation is beyond the scope of this article. Breathing techniques, on the other hand, is something you can learn immediately. Here are some quick pointers to get you started:

  • Most people breathe incorrectly/inefficiently.
  • ‘Correct’ breathing does not elevate your chest; instead, it expands your abdomen.
  • Start doing box breathing.

Navy SEAL Mark Divine recommends this breathing exercise in his book Way of the Seal. Here’s how it works.

  1. You inhale for 4 seconds.
  2. You hold your breath for 4 seconds.
  3. You exhale for 4 seconds.
  4. You wait for 4 seconds, before repeating step 1—inhalation.

–It’s super easy and it works. Do it in the morning and at night, before bed.

6: Lack of Loyalty and Strong, Intimate, Relationships

“The rebellious youth was no longer constrained by the surveillance of the village; he could hide his sins in the protective anonymity of the city crowd.”

—Will Durant, The Lessons of History


Hunter-gatherers cooperated in tight unison, often spending their entire lives with the same people, living in the same geographic location. Relationships with fellow tribe members were by far the most important thing in your life.


In 1800, only 25 million people lived in cities (approximately 3% of the world population at the time). The corresponding number in 2010 was 3,3 billion people. About half of the world population are now city dwellers!

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

Man evolved to form strong, intimate, relationships with a few people. A typical city dweller sees more strangers every day than the average hunter-gatherer did in a lifetime!

–Naturally, this results in dissociation and alienation from other people.

Much of the “Internet hate” and “trolling” we see today can be traced to this evolutionary mismatch. The average person can’t handle anonymity, and will bully or insult others for temporary enjoyment and self-aggrandizement.

Sometimes this is fun to observe:

evolutionary mismatch internet trolling

But, for the most part, it is just tedious and obnoxious.

evolutionary mismatch tyrone trolls


Collective responsibility has decreased.

This is because it’s impossible to maintain close relationship ties after a group grows somewhere beyond 150 people. Unfortunately, most politicians and managers are not intelligent enough to understand this.

As the human population grows in number, and the ‘system’—the societal foundation—expands to facilitate the people, its structural integrity erodes, and it becomes less efficient at taking care of its people.

The tribal loyalty–which is the glue that holds societies together–is long gone. . .

. . .and has been replaced with community, religion, and the state; none of which are presently powerful enough to give meaning or dictate proper conduct for the unthinking masses.

This makes it easy for bad behavior to spread into depraved culture.

How to Counteract This Mismatch

–You can’t.

But here are four aspects of this mismatch to keep in mind:

  1. Happiness—for most people comes from having strong, tribe-like relationships with a few people and working together towards a shared purpose. This may be less true for highly introverted people.
  2. Anonymity—brings out the worst behavior in people. If you are writing something under anonymity, first ask yourself: “Is this something I would say to [Person’s] face?”
  3. Trolling—is something only primitive losers engage in.
  4. Responsibility—is something you should NOT shirk from (even if most other people do). Instead, ask for more of it. Build a reputation around being a reliable person.

7: Homeostasis, Fewer External Motivators, and Self-deception


As I wrote in a recent article:

It was easy for primitive man to be ‘motivated’, because he had lots of external forces pushing him to take action and decide. His biological instincts—his homeostasis–was, at that time, a reliable guide for survival.


We are seldom forced into situations that challenge us; where we have to be resourceful. . .

. . .or die.

Evolutionary Mismatch Implications:

Homeostasis is no longer a reliable guide for survival, success, or right action. If we listen to it, it’ll just tell us to relax, masturbate, or eat something tasty.

The human brain evolved to seek out and maintain the fundamental needs, but once they’re covered—as they are in modern society—we drift into complacency and dwell in homeostasis. . .

With fewer external motivators to force us into action, internal motivation and goal-oriented behavior becomes increasingly important.

You have to muster up the momentum to break out of homeostasis!


Despite all our modern-day comforts, we’re not getting any happier. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote:

Consuming culture is never as rewarding as producing it.”

–Especially for men:

Traditionally, men’s identity and self-respect have been based on the ability to obtain energy from the environment for their own and their families’ use. Whether the satisfaction a man gets from doing a necessary job is partly genetically programmed, or is entirely learned from the culture, the fact is that more or less everywhere a man who is not a provider is to some extent a misfit.

How to Counteract This Mismatch

Here are two ways to stop dwelling in homeostasis:

1: Practice introspection and discipline to avoid self-deceit.

A significant portion of your thoughts, decisions, and actions are aimed at avoiding pain, minimizing effort, and sustaining your current neurobiochemical state. You then post-rationalize your actions and masquerade your low-level motives as being more sophisticated than they are.

This process of self-deceit is automatically created via homeostasis–and you will be tricked by it over and over, unless you develop the metacognitive ability to catch yourself in the act of this unconscious behavior.

2: Don’t mistake homeostasis for intuition

There is a popular notion that ‘intuition’ is the solution to all your problems, and that it will always guide you to success if you just have the courage to ‘follow your heart’. This might sell books and magazines, but it’s not true—because most people confuse intuition for homeostasis. 6

For example, if you eat a potato chip, and you feel like eating another one, should you ‘trust in your intuition’ to do so?

—No, you should not. Because it’s not your ‘intuition’; it’s homeostasis—and it’s manipulating your hormones to make you want to eat more, so that your body can maintain its current neurobiochemical state.

This begs the question, “what is intuition and what is not homeostasis?”.


5 Ways to practice breaking out of homeostasis:

  1. Do a 2-Day Fast.
  2. Go 5 more minutes. Make it a rule that when you feel like quitting, you will do one more rep (in the gym) or continue working for 5 more minutes.
  3. Pull an all-nighter. It’s not the healthiest thing to do, but it forces you out of your normal rhythm.
  4. Run without contacts. This feels extremely uncomfortable at first, but it makes you more confident and improves situational awareness.
  5. Take cold showers. Once you start doing it you will not want to go back.

evolutionary mismatch homeostasis

Kudos for making it to the bottom. Now we’re gonna do some repetition.

Evolutionary Mismatches 101: Quick Recap

Why do evolutionary mismatches exist?

Because our genes can’t keep up with culture and technology.

As the historian Will Durant said, every vice was once a virtue; the appendix was probably useful to cavemen, but it’s a pain in the ass for us.

Why are evolutionary mismatches important to know about?

Because. . .

Evolutionary mismatches are like handicaps; they are the obstacles you have to overcome if you want to be in control of yourself, do big things, and live the good life.

Everyone starts out with these genetic handicaps, but the best people work at themselves–however long it takes–to transcend these primitive whims (to the extent it is possible).

How do you identify an evolutionary mismatch?

You contrast past to present. You look at the environment to see if it has changed in any of these ways:

  • Too much stimuli.
  • Chronic Stress and Broken Recovery Cycles
  • Lack of Loyalty and Strong, Intimate, Relationships
  • Homeostasis, Fewer External Motivators, and Self-deception

What should you do against evolutionary mismatches?

Sometimes, nothing: many evolutionary mismatches—like office work, city life, and computer use—on average do us more good than bad. Just beware of excess!

–A sedentary lifestyle mixed with cheeseburgers and chronic stress will land you a mismatch disease.

What are some immediate & actionable takeaways?

  • You should break out of homeostasis–MOVE MORE; THINK MORE, and DO MORE–and be very skeptic towards your instinctive, genetic responses (unless they’re helping you).
  • You should fix your digestion, your omega-3 levels, your testosterone levels, and other health-related problems you may have incurred from the unhealthy, overly processed, modern diet. (Start by doing a blood test to diagnose your problems
  • You should watch less television and stop following the mainstream media. Take control over your inputs for information and stimulation. Become a contrarian—and benefit from going against the status quo set by the masses of unthinking conformists.
Read More:

All about Homeostasis

Read the book.


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  1. whose only motive is that you procreate, so that they do not get wiped out of the gene pool.  Happiness, longevity, or what we today call ‘success’ is not part of that agenda.

  2. Notable examples include: vegetable oils and meat from animals in CAFOs.

  3. or who can skillfully take selfies from deceptive angles–or use Photoshop–to appear attractive.

  4.   150 is used as a benchmark. (Dunbar’s number)

  5. When you have lots of muscle and low body-fat, you burn more energy while having less hormonal hunger. This makes it easy to stay in shape, even when you’re older and have less time for exercise.

  6. Most people really cannot tell their gut feeling from homeostasis. They are out of touch with their intuition from eating too much shitty food, not exercising their metacognition, sitting still all day long, and not acting on ideas and inspiration often enough to have it reinforced as an instinctive (intuitive) response.


  1. Crap your commentator section is always huge *(although interesting so not that I’m complaining))

    I wonder about two books mentioned. Story of human body and Way of the SEAL. What are they about and do you think I should read them??
    Thankful for reply

    • SOHB:
      –Highly in-depth information on paleo (history + life style + food). Not really in similar vein to this article though.

      –Very actionable. Lots of good advice for self-development, business/entrepreneurship, and management. Mark advocates doing a bunch of things I’ve put in my own upcoming book (Breaking out of Homeostasis), as far as exercising the brain and body go.

  2. Good article.

    The reason the “recovery” is jobless is that it’s also fictional. The U.S., at least, is not experiencing any recovery.

    More evolutionary mismatches:

    8: Television. The human brain is easily fascinated by moving, glowing images. Fire has a similar effect, but television can be used to pour disinformation into the vulnerable brain.

    9. Salt and fat. Like sugar, we have no cut-off switch to tell us when to stop consuming these, because our paleolithic ancestors had no possible way of ever consuming too much of either.

    10. Pornography. Og the caveman had nothing to stimulate his appetite but actual women.

    11. Male survival. In paleolithic times, lots of men got killed (by each other) early in life. This meant there were always more women than men, and the women were all young because no one lived past thirty or forty. The Y chromosome is adapted to a time when hot* girls were abundant and surviving males had multiple mates competing for their attention. Both sexes still behave accordingly.

    * they didn’t shave their legs though.

    12. Violence. Men are adapted for sudden violence, mostly between each other. We try to sublimate this tendency into non-violent competition or inter-group violence. Even when it works there is often destructive tension.

    13. Female neoteny. Women have evolved to evoke the male protective response by being more childlike in facial features, voice pitch, and stature. Concomitantly, girls now mature sexually at a younger age thanks to a high fat diet, and there is nothing in the genetic makeup of either men or girls to discourage them from having sex as soon as the girl has the right shape.

    “…make it a habit to look at labels before you buy food products.”

    Even better: buy food that doesn’t need labels. No one puts a label on an egg or a carrot to tell you that it contains partially hydrogenated soy and/or cottonseed oil.

    On dating: I don’t see women getting ten times as much attention as they did ten years ago. I do see both men and women with unreasonable expectations for the caliber of mate they might get. I think this is a result of ubiquitous portrayals in entertainment and advertising of supermodels and superstuds as if that were then norm. It’s nothing new but it seems the bar is still being gradually pushed higher. I also see men and boys bombarded constantly with ever more tempting and pervasive visual sexuality. If women are getting more attention, I think that’s why.

    On politics: It may be a populist reality tv show, but it doesn’t matter because none of it affects policy in the end.

    Things you should do if you work in an office:
    8. Stay off the elevator. Climbing stairs is much more intense than walking and it’s an easy way to get a little exercise.
    9. Set your monitor so you’re looking straight ahead at it when sitting up straight. Most people have their monitors too low and it turns them into hunchbacks.

    Cold showers: For everyone who takes only cold showers, I ask the following: Do you also wash your dishes in cold water, and if not why not?

    • Freaking good stuff about what you say with higher expectation in mates. I have also noticed this and here is my opinion.
      Women = maybe more entitled as the article says.
      Men = more unrealistic expectstions from ads movies and porn.

      Sry about typos. Writing from my phone.

    • Extremely good comment, Abgrund. Gonna feature it.

      Re cold showers:
      –If I wore makeup and stuff like that, maybe I would take warm showers more often. But warm showers make my face fat/dry/red/irritated, and sometimes gives me dandruff too.

      Also, I typically sit in a hot sauna 2-3 times per week. I should think it fulfills the same purpose, IF it were needed (which I am not sure it is).

    • Anotheros says

      In regards to cold showers: Take your normal warm shower to clean yourself off and then turn it to cold in the last 5 minutes. I see Ludvig is advocating full-on cold showers, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

      Turning the water cold at the end of the shower will force you to actively decide to break out of your homeostasis while experiencing the comfort of your warm shower. That requires the mental fortitude discussed in this article and you get the physical benefits as well.

    • “the women were all young because no one lived past thirty or forty.”

      That’s not true at all, life expectancy is historically lower because of infant mortality, not people dropping dead

  3. This stuff should be MANDATORY for everyone to know!
    I have since long told some of my closest friends to read your stuff and they all thank me for it.

  4. another way to counteract passive and sedentary lifestyle is to use standing desk with a treadmill. i cant say from my own experience as I cant afford it yet (as standing desk costs around $1000 and and treadmill also around $1000), but it seems like a great way to add some kilometers into your daily routine, be more productive, and healthy.

    • Seems like it would be damn hard to type, though.

      • as far as I know from reviews, it is not a problem at all (at normal walking speed of course). i dont think there are really disadvantages to it. I think that if you can afford it, it is no-brainer.

        One similar way to fight against sedentary lifestyle could also be topo standing desk mat (you can google it). It surprised me that such a product actually exists. It is a standing mat that tries to simulate terrain variations. walking all day on a flat surface could also be considered evolutionary mismatch. so something like this could help to bring some health benefits back.

        or maybe you could just put some rocks of various sizes in a box, and save more then $100.

        any other ideas to make such a changes to a working environment to make it more healthy to spend time working ? maybe having a window open all the time could also be beneficial?

  5. Wow you are such an idea machine. Like how you say culture influences technology, it just blew my mind because it is so obvious but ai had never heard it before.This stuff is much cooler than my college studies. I wish you were my teacher instead

  6. Also I have observed the same thing you write about “intuition”. It is one of these modern bromides.

  7. Wow this stuff really works (not that i doubted it would, only I have been in a state of inertia lately and finally snapped out of it).

    I read this last night and today I went for a run before work without wearing my contacts and BOY was it scary. I could barely move at first because I was afraid of bumping into people or stepping wrong. But after maybe 15 minutes I adjusted and felt really confident, and everyone moved out of my way.

    Then I took a cold shower for the first time and it shocked me in a positive way. When I finally got to work I gave one of the best presentations ever.

  8. There is another mismatch I would add
    Man’s visualisation skills of the future are limited to moments Similarly his memories are also limited to moments each lasting a few seconds.
    This means he cannot rely on his memories/imagination alone to work towards his fulfillment. This is why people evaluate watching movies or “hanging out” with buddies as a way of spending their long-term future as if they would be more fulfilling than working patiently towards who they really want to be.

    When making this decision, they evaluate the memories and imaginations which only seconds, whereas they need to be assessing their overall fulfillment/happiness over days, months and years!

    • Also, I have a point of disagreement. I don’t think dating apps have created a power imbalance due to the reasons you have stated. Women described as 9s and 10s always had all the guys to choose from. And highly accomplished men today also still have all the women to chose from.

      What dating apps have changed are not things. Dating apps have simply taken out the social barriers to a pair who are attracted to each other from “making it happen”. Men don’t have to risk getting rejected in public, women don’t have to risk being seen as a “slut”.

      THAT, is what has changed.

    • That’s interesting–regarding visualization & memory–I have not thought about it. But it makes sense.

      Re dating apps:
      –You may be right, but it’s not the same thing I was referring to.
      What I meant–to oversimplify–is that women 30+ years ago didn’t receive as much male attention as they do today. A man who puts up a profile on a dating site gets less attention than (an attractive) woman does.

  9. What this means?
    “democratic system is brutally mismatched”?

  10. Peregrine John says

    Excellent as always, Ludwig, and some other commenters asked the follow-on questions that I had, which are also really good. Odd how much more there is to even such a massive discussion as this!

    A lot of curiosity about the idea of being contrarian, for one thing, and the specifics of how to do so. As a partial answer: It grows fairly naturally from a bedrock-level change in mindset. If you change your point of view, things look quite different and thus one’s actions are different. Generally, if you don’t want to be part of the herd, don’t think like them. Metaphors from poems and movies are popular ways to shorthand both the process and the effects.

    As for practical applications, everyone’s situation is different, but the suggestions at the end of each section in the article, merely kept in mind in daily life, will get you moving the right direction. Once that happens, it unfolds like a strange, world-shaped origami.

  11. Another great post Ludwig, really enjoyed it.

    You talk about exercising discipline over social media use, which reminded me of one of the things I put in place to do the same thing. I set specific parameters to manage use of the internet & social media so that I get value out of any investment in it. Too many people seem to waste their lives on it. I don’t think that there’s any problem with using them for social/recreational purposes, its just important not to let it take over your life.

    Anyways, my list reproduced below in case anyone else finds it useful.

    “These are the permitted uses and specific research topics. Used to self-manage productivity:
    1. Permitted uses
    – Google docs collaboration on client work (anytime)
    – Cricinfo (outside work hours only, no more than 10 minutes)
    – Personal Finance : seekingalpha, scvr, shareprophets (outside working hours, no more than 30 minutes)
    – Development: SGM, Timothy Ferriss, Alan Weiss (anytime)
    – Facebook: (weekends only, post my week first, then read, no more than 30 minutes, scheduled)
    – Music practice: (outside work hours, unlimited time)

    2. Research topics (to be added over time)
    – Public Sector business news
    – Antifragility in Project Management
    – Whether mobile working delivers real gains in productivity
    – Marketing strategy and methods

    3. Review process (how do I know whether its yielding results)
    – at the end of one week. Check whether my actual habit aligns with the permitted uses list
    – at the end of one month. Review and update the permitted uses based on return on time invested.”

    • That is inspirational. I’m gonna copy your approach here thanks for sharing it.

      I’m curious what you mean by Antifrsgility in project management.

      • Hi Svante.

        Antifragility in project management is a big topic to cover in a discussion thread. I have a long standing interest in public sector technology, which has a pretty poor track record in the UK. I’m researching the idea that:

        – projects represent stressors acting on an organisation.
        – the organisation responds to this stressor in a number of ways
        – to reject the stressor and stay the same (robust)
        – to accept the stressor and grow (anti fragile)
        – to accept the stressor and fail (fragile)
        – it follows that success or failure in projects will be determined largely by the response of the organisation, rather than the individual qualities of
        – the people employed to conduct the project, OR
        – the methods employed by the people in delivering the project

        This is the reason why attempts to implement a specific methodology to deliver projects (for example, the adoption of agile software development methodologies) seem to work inconsistently. Where these methods are implemented into an organisation that has a high tolerance for stressors and change, the organisation is able to adapt and make full use of the method. Importantly, the organisation is also liable to identify quickly through tinkering and experimentation which types of project are more suited to this method than others, so that it is not harmed by excessive reliance on one approach.

        However, the same method can fail (either partially or completely) when applied to an organisation whose internal controls, processes and structures mean that it responds to the stressor by rejecting it. I propose that this is why so many public sector projects are doomed to failure. The same method can also fail in the other direction, by doing so much damage to the organisation that it is unable to adapt and recover.

        This is also what happens to a large number of startup companies, who embrace new methods and ideas without applying the test: “will this help me generate revenue in time to cover my costs?”. This hidden failure rate is the big lie of modern startup culture. Only the lucky few survivors get to tell their story about how they were transformed by pursuing the dream of developing product x. The majority die trying.

      • Well that seems like interesting business and without much personal knowledge it does make sense to me. You are absolutely right that people get biased to only see the survivors. I guess the tricky part is to turn that idea into some sort of procedure or practical implementation that can help organization’s.

    • Great stuff Kelvin.

  12. Epic post!

    Sprezzaturian’s stretches are great, so much so I started looking more into the topic and learning from Kelly Starrett’ MobilityWOD and Steve Maxwell’s Joint Mobility program (highly recommend).

  13. Really interesting article about why modern life is the way it is – made me think!

    How do you think things are going to end up 50 years down the line? I’m torn between whether more people will figure out what’s going on and do something about it, or if we’ll continue to decline and reach rock bottom.

    • 50 years is too much to guess at. There will probably be major–unanticipated–changes due to technology.

      But, in general, my future projections are not very positive. Great for the people who can work hard and get behind some major trend, but bleak for the masses around the world.

      • Why do you think it will be bad? Why not positive? I know you know about singularity and abundance and such trends…so don’t you think that might be something to consider?

  14. These are good observations!!!!!
    How would you recommend *acting* upon them?

    EG I have experience with enterprise. I can tell you right now that 99% of the people you talk to, who have clout, have absolutely no idea about what they’re doing. In the capitalistic / “free” market society, it’s generally the ones with market share who win (this will change), allowing for the rise of idioten.

    Thus, you mention being contrarian, imploring people toward a more Darwinian approach etc, does it mean you have you cut yourself off from the losers and work on your own things?

    If you’re just working at a chump job because you’re at the bottom of the career ladder (gotta do it in one of the “respected” corps, who, incidentally, have ego-driven idiots in “management”), how would you advocate growing? Buying a new suit, going “networking” (penis comparing)? Interjecting new ideas?

    You have to take advocations (wrong word but I can’t think of another) for what they are – opinions – (there’s always give and take):

    – If you are contrarian, don’t expect anyone to help you. (In fact, most people are downright abusive, especially if you’re in need of support).

    – If you know how to make a great X or Y, don’t expect people to give a shit. They’re too busy “keeping up with the Kardashians”. BTW Kim Kardashian’s “breakthrough” came from a sex tape. Talent much? Start as you wish to go on…

    – It’s easy to “hustle” (IE be busy for the sake of it), much harder to be creative. Creativity is a slow process. Creativity is ultimately what wins the show; obviously you have to work at applying it, but don’t get confused with productivity and being busy. They’re totally separate.

    – You recommend a somewhat bucolic lifestyle, although you don’t back this up with countenance on suggestions of how to achieve it. Are you meant to shut yourself off from society?

    • ” does it mean you have you cut yourself off from the losers and work on your own things?”


      Also, how dare you mock Kim Kardashian. She’s very talented. (cough, good example of what I mean with people being mismatched for the digital village, cough).

      “Are you meant to shut yourself off from society?”

      –Not in the sense of going and living in the countryside, but in the sense that you don’t expose yourself to B.S and take part of public opinion. Instead you could read about the best people in history and see what made them successful, and find inspiration you can apply to your life.

    • “If you’re just working at a chump job… how would you advocate growing?”

      I would recommend doing something different. What’s the object of working at a chump job? To be a better paid chump? Who wants to die as nothing more than an overpaid chump?

      Advocations = exhortations? Or did you mean something else?

      “If you are contrarian, don’t expect anyone to help you.”

      Very true. The average herd beast is horrified by any thoughts that contradict the herd, and I think this is especially true in the U.S. A couple of centuries ago, de Tocqueville commented that Americans, while having the greatest political and economic freedom on earth, had the least freedom of thought of any nation. The latter, at least, hasn’t changed.

      “You recommend a somewhat bucolic lifestyle…”

      I would certainly recommend living in the country if one can. But it’s possible to detach oneself from the herd even in a city, it just requires greater mental fortitude. And a bit of caution, or you will get your tires slashed and your windows broken.

      • Advocations = exhortations

        That’s what I meant, thank you!!!

        The latter, at least, hasn’t changed.

        Yes, one of the reasons I am glad to be UK-side of the pond!

        Thanks for the reply!

  15. This article makes me want to bounce out of my desk and run laps around a lake. Naked. With a spear in my hand. Of course, I noted the information as well, in a commonplace.
    Looking forward to your book! You also could release your commonplace, I’d buy that as well ;)

  16. Once again a subtle boost to the evolution of the willing man that is those willing to improve themselves and seek such information in an ever competing world.Men who are not cowed by competition and instead seek to thrive..On the increasing female empowerment I see it as a evoutionary tactic where now man has to improve further and reinvent himself so as to prove dominant once again to find a suitable high quality mate…

  17. You have mentioned “contrarian” in several articles, can you explain more about how to do this? Like how to think different / profit from contrast / be a contrarian (and what it means to you fundamentally, if anything other than the dictionary definition). Thanks.

    • I can’t really answer that in a comment, but I will write more on different aspects of this.

    • Three essential requirements to be a (successful) contrarian thinker:

      First, you have to be smarter than ordinary people. There’s no use in being contrarian if your ideas are stupid. Marshall Applewhite was a contrarian.

      Second, you have to able to ignore other peoples’ opinions. This means having a high level of confidence and being free from emotional dependency on anyone.

      Third, you have to be open minded. If you are not willing to give up your most dearly held beliefs and ideas, you will never be more than a clever parrot. Chances are, especially if you are young, that everything you think you know was put there by someone else – parents, teachers, peers, television, etc.

  18. I like your comparison between mainstream and Procrustes. We need a modern-day Theseus who can set things right.

  19. Very interesting article. It has got me thinking. Keep it up.


  20. Listen here Ludvig, I don’t need you telling me about these evolutionary mismatches. I’ve got enough stress in my life already. Cool it there, CHIEF!

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