Miscellaneous Musings of Luke Shors

“Where the telescope ends the microscope begins, and who can say which has the wider vision?” - Victor Hugo


Keeping up with the Chan-Zuckerbergs

Caption: This is not Pricilla Chan & Mark Zuckerberg's house. Their house is much nicer.

So everyone knows the expression 'Keeping up with the Joneses'. Hard to do but sort of possible for many near-Joneses families. But keeping up with the Chan-Zuckerbergs? The Gates? The couple formerly known as the Bezoses? I don't think so.

In the Social Determinants of Health literature, status and perceived status play an important role in health. In some of Michael Marmot's original research in the UK he expected to find the top British civil servants to be the most physiologically stressed. After all they had the most demanding jobs. But they had roughly 1/4 the risk of a heart attack than the lower cadres in the organization. Short story: High status was protective and low status hugely stressful.

The simplicity of that inference can be challenged and many have but the social determinants literature is significant and hard to dismiss. Here I only want to ask what happens to perceived status and consequently health via perceived social status stress responses when we introduce Uber status into the mix? Would the physiological stress markers of 99.99% of the population be reduced in the absence of the Chan-Zuckerbergs? Is it stressful for populations to feel even a modest need to keep up with the Chan-Zuckerbergs or is their wealth and status so astronomical that people do see them within the same social order and hence discount any need to compete?

I don't have the answer to that question but even if the effect was small the accumulated population impact could be huge. I would think a clever researcher might be able to design an experiment to yield a suggestive answer. There's plenty of research on health as correlated with a measure of a countries' economic equality/inequality (the gini coefficient). But no research that I'm aware of examines perceptions of status (and consequently health via some of these pathways theorized in the social determinants literature) with the inclusion of the Uber wealthy.


About Me

"Not all those who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkinn

I think of myself (as well as aspire to be) a curious person. Curious in a book store, but also curious exploring a new city or meeting a new person. Curious in planned and unplanned moments. In an era where knowledge about the world is both vast and deep, curiosity occasionally strikes me as anathema to expertise. Or, more accurately, if you are curious, best to be curious about some very specific topic. But so far at least, that does not seem to be my path. My professional work is orientated towards start ups as well as international development.

In 2019 I decided to make a more concerted effort to write - hence this site. My blog focuses on science and technology, health research and education. My fiction is of the speculative variety - Science fiction that uses scientific ideas to explore human experiences. Thanks for reading!

People Walking


University of Iowa, BA Philosophy (2000)

Johns Hopkins, MPH (2005)

Johns Hopkins, MBA (2005)

Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ed.D. (2017)


©2018 by Dr. Luke Shors