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Silicon Valley's Latest Invention: The Supplement Stack

Greetings, and welcome to your Weekend!

Today’s newsletter really ought to come with a surgeon general’s warning: “Consuming dozens of unregulated health supplements may not actually be awesome for your health.” 

It’s hard not to shake your head at the sheer number of nascent and untested substances that some of our tech-industry peers are swallowing. But as Annie and Margaux reveal in this week’s cover story, some in Silicon Valley see it as their duty and obligation to explore the frontiers of medicine. If that means tossing back 100 different  vitamins, yeasts, oils and extracts per day, so be it.  

Mainstream medical experts are predictably circumspect about many  substances’ claims, warning about health complications and side effects that may come from mixing them. But that’s apparently not stopping people in the Valley from doing their own research and experimenting on themselves. 

Brian Shilhavy, the CEO and founder of the online grocer Healthy Traditions, offered a reasonable note of caution in the comments section of our story: “Supplements are just that: 'supplementations’ to one’s diet...Health does not come from a pill. What you eat, your emotional and mental health and how much you exercise are all much more important than taking pills or vitamin IV drips.”

Hard to argue with that. Now onto the weekend’s stories...

the big read

‘I’m Like a Guinea Pig—I’ll Take Anything’: An Explosion of Supplements Hits Tech’s Kitchen Counters

Everywhere you turn these days, people are optimizing through chemistry. To understand the current supplement craze, Margaux and Annie asked 11 tech leaders to walk them through the regimens of pills, powders and intravenous potions they’re using to level up their bodies. In true Valley fashion, the results veered toward the experimental and the extreme, with some subjects admitting they have no idea if the substances actually work.

market research

Know Thy Selfie: A Journey Into the Uncanny Valley of AI-Generated Avatars

Seemingly overnight, the internet has been blanketed with AI-created selfies. So we asked reporter Zara Stone to try out eight of these competing apps, uploading 10 to 30 photos of herself to be ingested and spit back out in dozens of different directions. The results were flattering, mystifying and, when it came to all the NSFW images she received, alarming.

the 1:1

‘We Just Have to Keep Winning’: A Sonos Executive With a Colorful History Goes to War Against Google

Eddie Lazarus is not your typical chief financial officer. He’s written a controversial tell-all about his time as a Supreme Court clerk, served as a chief of staff at the FCC and successfully sued a tech giant. Now the CFO and chief legal officer at Sonos is trying to take on Google and Amazon in the $96 billion audio hardware market.

Listening: The story behind To Leslie
In one of those real-life Hollywood moments that are stranger than scripted fiction, British actress Andrea Riseborough secured a shocking Oscar nomination for her starring role in “To Leslie,” an obscure film that netted all of $27,000 at the box office. If the Riseborough saga really was a movie, the dramatic voiceover would come from Matt Belloni, who hosts Puck News’ “The Town” podcast. He was the first person I heard breaking down the controversial tactics used to secure her nom: A concerted effort by Mary McCormack, wife of the film’s director, to lobby A-list friends like Charlize Theron, Edward Norton and Jennifer Aniston to spread the word about Riseborough. Belloni spotlights the shameless nepotism that still defines Tinsel Town, calling the Vote for Riseborough campaign “a pretty cynical tactic that...exposes how much of a political old boys—and girls—club Hollywood really is.” –Abe

Reading: The TikTok creator to watch 
Last year, all of TikTok learned that Julia Fox was Josh Saftie’s muse in “Uncah Jams” (i.e. “Uncut Gems”... “do you know what I mean?”). Now, a new kind of Diamond District dynamo is going viral on the app. Old-school, haggling New York watch dealers have found unlikely fame on the social media platform, according to Jasper Craven in The New York Times Magazine. It’s basically “Pawn Stars” for a new generation, with the focus not on the watches themselves but on the wheeling, dealing and hustling associated with the profession. John Buckley—the trend’s middle-aged breakout star with thick glasses and an undiluted New Yawk accent—exemplifies the old saying: If you can make it there (on TikTok), you can make it anywhere. —Annie

Noticing: Unusual signs that the recession is upon us 
Economists may still be split over whether we’re in a recession, but TikTokers have made up their minds: For Business Insider, Juliana Kaplan reports on “recession brunette,” in which young people give up their blonde hairdos to save a few hundred dollars on salon appointments. That’s just one of the weird signs that the R-word is upon us. Venture capitalists have given up on flying first-class (gasp!). Tips at strip clubs are reportedly down. And in the UK, the new slang is “cozzie livs”—a begrudging nod to the sky-high cost of living. This is all in spite of the fact that unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been since 1969. Regardless, there’s no denying that the vibes are off, so let us concur with Substack writer Kyla Scanlon who declared that, recession or not, we’re in a dismal “vibecession.” —Margaux 

Makes You Think

Life in 2023.

Until next Weekend, thanks for reading.


Weekend Editor, The Information

Jon Steinberg is the Weekend Editor at The Information. He is a former editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine and senior editor at New York magazine, where his work won many National Magazine Awards.
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