edge esmeralda

highlights from weeks 1-2 of a futuristic pop-up city

Jun 27, 2024
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I attended Weeks 1 and 2 of the month-long pop up city of Edge Esmeralda. I love popup cities like Burning Man and Vibeclipse so I was allured by another spin on the idea. This "city" was a conference on longevity, health, biotech, hard tech, new governance, and cryptocurrency. I will cover some of my favorite events from this conference, in the order of when I discovered them.

Week 1: Longevity

7am Running Club

On the first morning, I joined a 7am running club. I fell asleep very early on the first night and decided that I might as well join the early runs. The day before, I had run by myself and completed 4 miles at a 12 minute pace. With this running club, we instead ran 6 miles at the 9 minute pace. During that run, I had not felt stressed or rushed. I ended up becoming one of the most consistent runners of our running club. At Edge Esmeralda, I did not mind sleeping at 10pm every night. Our runs were through the beautiful wine country and mostly on sunny days.

How Everything is Killing you and How to Stay Alive

This session was a lot more informative and compelling than I expected. Justin Mares from TruMed talked about how big pharma is not incentivized to care about your nutrition. Some takeaways for me were that plastic, corn derivatives, and glyphosate are all killing you.

The second speaker highlighted that our phone’s radiation, EMFs, might also be bad for us. The idea is that some light is non-ionizing and other light is ionizing. The officials have classified "ionizing" light as bad. Examples include x-rays, UV radiation, and radioactive waste. The problem is that it is not clear what the line is between ionizing and non-ionizing and whether non-ionizing is good.


I did not get to attend this event, but I heard it was incredible. My friends who attended told me it was an intense 75 minutes where people were hyperventilating and crying. These friends who frequently attend various meditation events said this session was quite unique and deeply moving. The host, Johnny Miller, is not based in the Bay Area. If he comes to SF, I will definitely attend one of his sessions.

How to Die: A Death Ritual

We walked into a dark candle-lit room. There were about 40 of us. To start, one of the hosts shared a near death experience. The next host then narrated the experience of dying. In this ritual, dying was separated into two phases: (1) your unconscious death and (2) your body disintegrating.

It started with each of us saying goodbye to everyone and addressing the fact that we will all die someday. We will not necessarily have the chance to say goodbye when that time does come, so we might as well say goodbye to everyone we need to now. Who comes up when you say bye? Who mattered in your final moments? Throughout the journey, the narrator reminded each of us, "you’re dying". It was the equivalent of the typical meditation mantra, "bring your attention back to your breath".

After we all died at our funerals, our skin dilapidated, and our eyes slowly became nothing. Eventually, we each became skeletons. Finally, our souls hung out in the in between. Here, we were told to imagine popping back into our lives. What if we could come back? Boom, we all popped back into life.

During my goodbyes, I was surprised by the faces that appeared. The people I remembered in my dying moments are not people I am still in touch with.

Somatic Practices for Nervous System Regulation and Emotional Release

This talk was hosted by the same person who hosted the Breathwork exercise that I was unable to attend. We did co-regulation exercise where we were paired up. We would take turns commenting on how we were feeling. We were instructed to prepend everything we said with "I’m noticing…"

I'm noticing pain in my upper neck - Partner 1

I’m noticing my desire to stretch my ankles - Partner 2

I am noticing myself imagine the feeling of stretching my knees - Partner 1

I am noticing your empathy - Parter 2

Essentially, this was a a co-facilitated mindfulness exercise. "I am noticing" helped keep us from becoming the thoughts and becoming immersed in them. I quite liked this exercise and I hope Johnny hosts future events in San Francisco.

Learn about the Jhanas and Try to enter the Jhanas

Jhourney hosted a session discussing how they help their students reach the Jhanas. Jhana is the most blissful state you can reach through meditation, similar to being on MDMA but completely drug-free. Lots of people have spent years trying to get to this state unsuccessfully. Jhourney shared several testimonials from previous students.

Following the intro, Jhourney facilitated a meditation in attempt to enter the Jhanas. It started off with the three rounds of the standard Wim Hof breathing technique. I felt very calm after this portion. I had been having anxiety for the last few days and had been practicing this technique to diminish my symptoms.

After that, the host moved onto a a body scan meditation. My therapist recently recommended body scans for reducing anxiety. Considering that these last two exercises are both recommended for people with anxiety, I think our hosts goal was to first get us to the most relaxed state possible. During the body scan, I noticed a feeling that I had not experienced in over a decade, the deep calm that precedes sleep paralysis:

Sleep paralysis is when your brain is awake but your body is "asleep". Under his situation, people can see some scary things or demon-like figures. While I never saw any demons, I was able to induce sleep paralysis a few times. I would feel an "itch" all throughout my body. The internet said that that sensation was your body testing if you were awake. After I ignored the itches, I would feel a wave of calm, like a warm blanket coursing through my body. It was very physically and emotionally relaxing.

I was experiencing this calm sensation in the Jhana meditation I was doing. It was one of the only times I have experienced a clear physical feeling in a meditation session. Unfortunately, that is when the hotel shut the event down. All the events Edge had hosted that day were running over, so we had to stop the meditation.

I could pay $2k to take a Jhourney retreat to find out what the rest of the meditation would have been.

Conducting electricity from under your skin

Andy Kong hosted a session on hard tech implants. He described an implant he developed, where skin acts as a wire for electricity. Your skin is pretty conductive and can absorb infrared rays from the Sun. Currently, this project results in very little electricity, but enough to light up a small light bulb.

I loved how inventive and creative this approach was. I was so excited by this talk that I made these tweets:

Andy researches many novel technologies and ideas, which you can read about on his blog.

Week 2: Hard Tech, AI Tech, BioTech

Friend AI Wearable

I participated in a workshop where we soldered and put together our own Friend AI wearables. These wearables transcribe your conversations and summarize them. You can view the summarized and raw transcripts on your phone, which are stored on the app. I had not soldered in years and my circuit knowledge was rusty, so it was fun to do a hands-on workshop.

My wearable was really useful for transcribing the many sessions I later attended. I do feel weird when I wear it. I was informed that it is totally legal to transcribe conversations, but could the legalities around this device change?

Quantum Biology

Geoff Anders, the founder of Leverage Research, gave a talk about investing in quantum biology. Do the magnetics at the quantum level have a measurable impact on the cell? That is an inference that comes from the 2001 discovery that birds have worse sight when looking at the North. Effectively, they are "seeing" the magnetic field.

He discussed that there is a lot of doubt around quantum biology, but he is still very interested in the space. He also highlighted that there is a huge funding gap. A lot of industries easily get funding and other sectors struggle enormously. Quantum biology funding is on the lower side and Anders is looking to raise more money and bring quantum biology to the forefront.

Debate Crew

I am hosting a debate series at The Commons for the next couple months. We were encouraged to host events at Edge, so I decided to host a first Debate session there. I worked with Colton, who had experience in traditional highschool debate. He was tremendously helpful in planning and structuring the event. We chose a format that was a mix of traditional and highschool debate.

The main issue we had was finding an event space, but we settled for a very hot meeting room. Despite rounds of topic selection, we ended up choosing the topic on the spot: Should we eliminate death? It is a very Edge Esmeraldan choice. Despite the heat, each person was a very passionate and active participant. I think the event went mostly smoothly and we hosted an even more fine-tuned session at The Commons yesterday! If you are interested in coming to future sessions, feel free to message me on Twitter.

Animal Flow

I had never heard of Animal Flow before and the title sounded gimmicky. Despite my reservations, I really enjoyed the workout. Animal flow is a series of quadrupedal bodyweight movements. The final result is a smooth flow, similar to that in yoga or choreo in dance. Most of the moves are named after animals including, "beast", "crab", and "monkey".

I think of animal flow as a variation of yoga moves with some cardio. I felt surprisingly pleasant and calm after. I don’t usually feel that pleasant after yoga or that calm after a cardio workout. I tried out Animal Flow on my own a couple more times. Each time, I was surprised by how great I felt. I decided to host an Animal Flow workout at my house back in SF.

Prophetic | Qualia Takeoff in the Age of Spiritual Machines

Eric Wollberg presented a headset that induces lucid dreaming and using it as a mechanism for exploring and manipulating consciousness. He is currently improving upon the product and planning to scale it out for public use.

After the talk, we broke up into groups to discuss our experiences with this topic. In my group, I heard a familiar voice. It was Joscha Bach. He is a famous AI researcher who my roommate, Lisa Shmulyan, hosted at our house for a discussion on AI Consciousness. He is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met and has a lovely sense of humor. I approached him after the event to tell him that I had previously met him and was delighted to see him. As we headed out, he kindly offered that I join him and his friends for dinner. I was so happy! Everyone at the table was accomplished and kind.

Replacing Aging

There were two groups that discussed their research in reducing aging.

One researcher has experimented with replacing old tissues with new tissues, likening the process to replacing car parts. The key is to make sure to replace tissues and not just a few cells. In his research, they were transplanting young pig tissue in humans. Combining the transplant with immunosuppressants had some success.

The next researcher discussed partial cellular reprogramming. They emphasized that epigenetics, the expression of your genes, absolutely determine your lifespan. They accurately reflect your age and how animals of different species can live for. He said that modifying the gene expression can result in the cells acting differently and "younger". From his research, this approach only works when a large cluster of cells, tissue, is reprogrammed together.

A common denominator is that working with whole tissues is essential for today’s replacing aging studies.

Drafts & Demos

I came to Edge Esmerelda on a Builder Scholarship. I wanted to participate in at least one hackathon while I was here, so I participated in the Week 2 Draft & Demos hackathon. If you are at the conference for at least two weeks, your Edge Esmeralda wristband includes an NFC chip. The NFC chip says what type of ticket you have, but is not connected to your accounts.

We built a contact exchange app on top of the NFC chips, Edge Connect. I worked with a lovely engineer from Zupass, Rob Knight. Zupass is a cryptographic SDK that uses zero knowledge proofs to prove your identity. To use Edge Connect, you could go to a specific website, scan your NFC chips on that website by holding your wrist to your device, and it would bring you to a profile creation step. From there, you can link your Zupass account to your NFC chip. After you have created your profile, you can add other people by scanning their NFC chip.

Our product worked and I had a lovely time working with Rob. I would highly recommend him and the Zupass product.

Final Thoughts

A lot of the events that my ticked paid were samples or sneak peaks of experimental retreats and less publicly accessible cutting-edge research. Edge Esmeralda gave us the opportunity to dip our toes past the paywalls.

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