How You Can Make Uncharted Territories Better, Latest on Masks, and an Interview on the Future of Humanity
An additional article this week, on three relevant and timely topics
The latest on masks
How you can contribute to making Uncharted Territories better
An interview I gave on the future of humanity, focusing on space
1. The Latest Update on Masks
This week is the 3rd anniversary of Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, and next week it will be the turn of The Hammer and the Dance, which together gathered around 65M views and launched my writing trajectory, which now is channeled through Uncharted Territories.
It’s thanks to your support that I can continue diving deep into different topics relevant to where we’re going as a society, whether that’s what makes us rich or poor, the future of nation-states, plastics, or German nuclear plants.
The latest was my post on masks from two weeks ago, which got about 10M views across channels, and in which I broke down the Cochrane study on masks.
You can’t believe the amount of backlash I got on social media from it.
Now, none less than the Cochrane review published an apology about the study, written by its Editor-in-Chief. I will paste the relevant parts below, emphasis mine:
Many commentators have claimed that a recently-updated Cochrane Review shows that 'masks don't work', which is an inaccurate and misleading interpretation.
It would be accurate to say that the review examined whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses, and that the results were inconclusive. Given the limitations in the primary evidence, the review is not able to address the question of whether mask-wearing itself reduces people's risk of contracting or spreading respiratory viruses.
The review authors are clear on the limitations in the abstract: 'The high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions.' Adherence in this context refers to the number of people who actually wore the provided masks when encouraged to do so as part of the intervention. For example, in the most heavily-weighted trial of interventions to promote community mask wearing, 42.3% of people in the intervention arm wore masks compared to 13.3% of those in the control arm.
The original Plain Language Summary for this review stated that 'We are uncertain whether wearing masks or N95/P2 respirators helps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses based on the studies we assessed.' This wording was open to misinterpretation, for which we apologize. While scientific evidence is never immune to misinterpretation, we take responsibility for not making the wording clearer from the outset. We are engaging with the review authors with the aim of updating the Plain Language Summary and abstract to make clear that the review looked at whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses.
In plain English: We said that it’s not clear that masks work, but instead we should have said that we have no clue because most of the studies we considered didn’t take adherence into account. In other words, apparently when people don’t wear masks, they might not work.
When I set to analyze the Cochrane review, I was taken aback by the aggressiveness of the anti-maskers. I sincerely hoped to learn more about masks, and couldn’t find any other deep dive, so I did it myself. My takedown went viral, fostered a conversation, and now this happens. I want to believe we had a role to play here, like three years ago with COVID, two years ago with plastics, or last year with German nuclear reactors. Without you reading my articles and supporting me, I couldn’t have spent the time to study masks, or any other topic. So thank you!
This makes me think: Can we push this to the next level?
2. How You Can Make Uncharted Territories Better
Many of you have told me you wanted more Uncharted Territories: more community, more content, more formats… You imagine a world where the most important topics are covered faster, like climate change or the future of nation-states. You would love to see the content in gorgeous YouTube videos, listen to it in your car through Spotify, or read the Uncharted Territories book. You would like to participate in a community where we discuss and debate the articles, improve upon them, and organize ourselves to enact even more impactful change on the world.
I love the idea! I want to grow Uncharted Territories. So let’s make it happen!
My limitation is that I’m just one person, and this is not my full time job. So the only way we can grow it is together. I need your help. I’ve been thinking about the main ways you can contribute, and today I wanted to propose them to you. There are three:
Refer your friends to Uncharted Territories so it can grow. In exchange, I will be giving away premium subscriptions and a spot in my upcoming cohort-based course.
Join a team of UT volunteers by filling in this survey!
Tell me how you would improve UT by answering the polls below.
1. Share Uncharted Territories and Get Rewards
The best way to help UT is to make it grow, and word of mouth is the best way to do that. So for the next month, each person you get to sign up for free will give you a chance to win a three-month premium subscription. The more people you refer, the more bonus months you might get! And if your referral becomes a paid subscriber, you will get ten times more chances to win. The more referrals UT gets, the more subscriptions I will give away. The more referrals you make, the more chances of rewards.
This will also be a way to win a spot in my upcoming course on Business Storytelling, taking place in May, valued at $1,500. In it, I will teach the skills that I use in creating Uncharted Territories: How to quickly solve problems, and how to communicate about them in a way that wins hearts and minds.
So how do you do this? Use this button to refer or forward one of my newsletter articles to your referrals, so they follow the links inside to subscribe.
Here’s an example message in case you need some inspiration:
I might have told you about Uncharted Territories, one of my favorite newsletters. It’s raffling premium subscriptions based on referrals, so I thought this was a good excuse to get you to finally subscribe (half of the content is free).
This article summarizes some of its most relevant topics—from better understanding countries like UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Russia, China, Brazil, the EU, Egypt, Ethiopia, or Indonesia; to the future of tech with Generative AI; whether masks work or not; a series of articles on how transportation technologies have determined everything around us; how to become the best in the world at something; why the Internet will kill nation-states, and more.
If you’re interested, please follow this link to subscribe so I can get the credit.
Note: Your referrals must click on the Share button from this email. From the Substack Product Managers:
For any subscriber that shares Uncharted Territories via a "Share" button (like the one above), they will get credit for any new sign-ups. It's important to note the person sharing has to be logged-in to get credit for the sign-ups.
2. Team of Volunteers
There are many things I don’t know how to do, or don’t have time to do. But a team can make it happen! If you like UT and want to make it grow, this is the opportunity to contribute your own area of expertise.
What type of support does UT need? Here are a few examples:
Researchers, to help me research topics faster.
A Community Manager, to create and facilitate the UT community
People who can help me generate or enhance content, such as videographers, data visualizers (especially for geography), or somebody to convert articles into podcasts.
A team that might help me put together a website. For example, a designer and a developer—even if with no-code tools.
An editor, to have another pair of eyes, support our fantastic Shoni, and cover for her when she’s not available.
A growth manager, to help grow the newsletter.
A producer, to make everything happen.
Anything else that you think might contribute positively to UT.
Unfortunately, I can’t hire anybody for these positions right now, but for those who help, I can offer a free subscription and a spot in my upcoming business storytelling course.
If you’re interested, here’s what you need to do:
Follow this link to a questionnaire asking about you, your experience, and how you think you can help.
From these applications, I will select a small team of volunteers, and we will organize ourselves to coordinate all projects.
Your editor, Shoni, added this note:
Volunteering with Tomas is really rewarding, easy, and fun. He is extremely open to feedback and ideas, and you get the added bonus of feeling like you’re contributing to his vision of ‘nudging’ the world in the right direction. Highly recommended.—SB
3. Give Me Your Opinion
I’ll be periodically asking you questions about how to improve UT. Here are two:
1. Should I change the article length?
My articles are unusually long. I assume they’re about 3,000 words on average, which means that I write about three books’ worth of content a year.
This means they’re long to read, full of insights that go deep into every topic.
Conversely, it also means you can’t quickly read a UT article. You need to sit down and dedicate time.
Should I keep with the current length of articles?
Or should I shorten them dramatically?
Should I maybe have more per week?
2. What's the right emoji for Uncharted Territories?
I’d like to adopt an emoji that represents UT. Images are always easier to internalize than words.
Which one of the following emojis do you feel represents UT the best? I will pick the three winners and ask for a second round in an upcoming article.
Thank you for your support! I’ll let you know in an upcoming article what the results of these three initiatives are.
I look forward to growing with you!
3. An Interview on the Future of Humanity
Elle Griffin is the mind behind a new Substack, The Post, focused on understanding how business will shape the future.
We talked about the future, with a big focus on space, transportation costs, and how what happened in the Age of Discoveries is an interesting blueprint for understanding what’s going to happen in space.
It’s a good teaser on an upcoming series I have about space, with the first articles coming next week. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about it.
But please, if you made it to here and haven’t yet, fill out the survey!
How is it going to work in detail? I will record all referrals between today March 12th and April 11th (included). I will count all the referrals, and offer one three-month premium subscription for every 20 free referrals, and one for every 5 premium referrals. Each referrer gets one entry for a free referral, and five for every premium referral (if you are already a premium subscriber, I will discount this from your subscription). I will then randomly allocate the premium subscriptions according to people’s entries.The more entries, the more chances of rewards! Here’s an example to illustrate it. Imagine you bring in 10 free subscribers and one premium subscriber. You get 15 entries. Imagine UT receives 1000 free subscribers and 100 premium ones in total, for a total of 1500 entries. You will have about 7% chances of winning a free subscription, and 1/1500 chance of winning the course.
Tomas, your plan to grow UT is wonderful news. I voted to keep your articles short and to the point but what I mean by that is to keep your deep dive articles but layer it with a summary up front, the “to the point” content in the middle, and the detailed details in the footnotes. You already use footnotes, which works really well for people who want more. Although most of the time I read your full article, there are times I do skip ahead if it’s getting too detailed. The sandwich approach combined with your awesome visuals and super interesting content will help you reach the various preferences of your readers, and ultimately your subscribers! I have already shared UT with others and will keep doing so. Best of luck!
Thanks for coming on The Post! I’m a big fan of everything you’re doing and I love that your deep dives are changing the world!