Skip To Content

Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on March 22, 2024

Within and across species, relationships are essential to surviving and thriving. Complex social arrangements between trees and fungi sustain forests, individual bees and ants cannot feed themselves, beavers work in groups of up to 10 to build their dams, and bald eagles mate for life. Crocodiles and orcas engage in coordinated hunting strategies reminiscent of those practiced by early humans.

Humans have speedballed the power of relationships. Physically we are weak, slow, and fragile, with mediocre senses and absurdly long infancies. Yet, thanks to our superpower of cooperation, we’ve dominated our environment and become the apex of apex predators. There are more birds in captivity than birds in the wild. (Hint: chicken.) In aggregate, humans outweigh all the wild mammals on planet Earth — and our domesticated livestock outweigh both groups combined. I just read the last sentence and hope, if there’s an afterlife, that judgment is not part of the process, as the cruelty we levy on animals is staggering. But that’s another post.

We are wired to seek and sustain relationships and cannot survive without them. The future of the human race won’t turn on space travel or climate tech, but on our ability to attach to others. A sense that we matter, that we can call on and be called upon by others to ease burdens and celebrate joy.

A study of Romanian orphanages, where babies received adequate nutrition but were deprived of affection, found they had smaller brains and reduced cognitive function. Videos of the “still face experiment” show how intensely babies crave not just affection, but also social connection with their parents. Among adults in the U.S., social isolation increases the risk of premature death by 29% — more than smoking 15 cigarettes per day. In sum, loneliness kills.

Friendship Pays

Friendship is an economic accelerant. The economist Raj Chetty found that for people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, having wealthier friends “is the single strongest predictor of upward mobility.” Unemployed people who volunteer are 27% more likely to find work than those who do not, aided by the “social capital” (economist-speak for “friends”) they accumulate through volunteering. Regions with greater civic engagement are more resistant to economic slowdowns, and communities to which the residents have a strong emotional attachment see higher rates of GDP growth. The flip side? The CDC estimates that loneliness costs the U.S. economy $406 billion a year — more than the combined GDP of Vermont, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, South Dakota, and Rhode Island.

Politics of Loneliness

The political manifestation of weakening relationships is extremism. In the 2016 election, extreme candidates on both the left and right drew outsized support from disaffected, isolated voters. And there are more such voters than ever: A study during that election concluded: “Americans’ core [social] networks are significantly smaller and more politically homogeneous than at any other period.” Extremism is incompatible with legislative and judicial processes — witness the dysfunction in Congress and the rapidly eroding credibility of the Supreme Court — and can lead to violence.

As social networks shrink, anxiety and polarization rise, and we become soft targets for bad actors and self-inflicted harms. Scams targeting lonely people are the go-to tactic for con artists. This month, former National Guardsman Jack Teixeira pled guilty to leaking military secrets over Discord. Teixera was showing off for his online friends — he only got caught because some of those “friends” circulated what he’d shared, drawing the attention of reporters at the New York Times. Teixeira’s motivations were personal, not political, and that’s what is so ominous — an adversary doesn’t need to find anti-American citizens, but lonely Americans seeking social status.

The military is justifiably concerned about a wave of lonely recruits betraying their country, and it’s relatively well positioned to monitor contacts. However, vulnerable people also work at nodes of critical infrastructure — power plants, data centers, hospitals, water treatment plants. It’s cinematic to worry about AI attacking humans, but a more likely threat is that humans will use AI to attack other humans. Well-intended companion bots like Replika have millions of users, but their privacy and security protocols are suspect. With the tech getting better and cheaper, it’s likely that Putin, Xi, and Biden have programs under development to produce bots that can establish deep relationships with lonely soldiers and technicians — and weaponize them.

Think of it as a consumer marketing funnel, but at the bottom is an act of terror vs. buying Nespresso pods. Using public records, a spy agency or terror group identifies thousands of people in sensitive posts, reaches out with AI girlfriends or boyfriends, and tests what activities (e.g., sharing articles and experiences, engaging in joint pursuits, sexual messages that feel personalized, etc.) move the target further down the path. Then, monitoring millions of signals per second (“turn on your webcam, I want to see you”) the AI identifies windows of opportunity (when the target seems especially tired, paranoid, angry, etc.) and activates (coaxing them to share a password so the bot can access a computer at work, not inspect a certain container, turn off the drone defense system, etc.). It’s a centuries-old espionage strategy, but, executed with AI avatars and tech, it can be done with a reach and scale that could radicalize hundreds, maybe thousands. Fallow cells of people in highly sensitive roles on warships, in nuclear power plants, or at ports could be waiting for activation.

It’s not an Ian Fleming book, but reality. The KGB allegedly had a school to train female agents in the art of sexpionage. Islamic terrorists have been radicalizing Americans for years: The 2009 Fort Hood shooter, who killed 13 people, was an “isolated, lonely man” who “had difficulty making friends” and needed only minimal encouragement from a radical cleric (over email) to nudge him into terrorism. The 2015 San Bernardino shooters, who killed 13 in the name of Islam, were radicalized online. All that’s new is the power to do this at near-infinite scale. An army of highly intelligent, unsleeping agents who/that shift personalities and modalities at the speed of compute. And an ever-increasing population of people who lack the robust real-world social networks to inoculate them against online manipulation. Such as the troubled young man who broke into Windsor Castle armed with a crossbow in 2021, intending to kill the queen — after being encouraged by his Replika AI girlfriend.


There’s nothing pithy or revelatory about the solution. We need to advocate for programs (after-school groups, athletic leagues, affordable education, public places, paid nonprofit work, national service, vocational training). And also, money — more of it. More economic support (e.g., a negative tax rate) that levels up young people who’ve seen their share of wealth leak to older Americans through a set of policies designed by old people elected by older people.

Every population segment has its vulnerabilities to loneliness and weaponized AI, but young men are ground zero. Young men need more friends. And older men need to take responsibility for getting more involved in their lives. The abundance of single-parent homes, a dearth of male teachers in primary school, and technology firms that invest billions in keeping kids sequestered from in-person friendships mean millions of boys are being raised with almost no male contact or relationships.

The single point of failure for a young man is when he loses a male role model. Boys need men, full stop. In my view, the ultimate expression of masculinity is to become irrationally passionate about the well-being of a young person who you are not biologically related to. But not enough of us are there for them and fighting for the resources they need. We are failing our brothers, sons, neighbors, and country. Being a man means making better men. We have adversaries, but our real enemy is loneliness.

Life is so rich,

P.S To resist my new book is futile. Order it here.

P.P.S. Last chance to register for my AMA on building personal wealth next Thursday. Bring your questions.



  1. Mumia Obsidian Ali says:

    I could not disagree more, Scott. As a Black American, the fatherless problem is quite acute in my neck of the woods. Not personally; I was very fortunate to have a dad and grand dad in my life, and it made all the difference. But that was because my mom and grand mom made smart choices about who they would mate and create children with. The problem – and again I say this from my vantage point in Black America, which is ground zero for the problems you’re addressing – is that far too many women make very bad choices in this area, and everyone else is supposed to clean up the mess. Winston Churchill is supposed to have said, that if you want to see more of something, to subsidize it. That’s exactly what we’ll be doing if we implement your plan, Scott. It will send a signal that there will always be de facto surrogate dads around to pickup the pieces instead of the actual dads of these boys doing what their supposed to be doing – a major disincentive for women to choose better and to choose wisely. There’s a powerful, profound reason why Russell Wilson is seen as an Apex Simp among Black men – trust me, I know, I’ve been hearing about it for nearly a decade now.


    • Mumia Obsidian Ali says:

      Moreover, it is deeply unfair – and I would even go so far as to say immoral  – to have men who kept their noses clean and kept their shoulders to the grindstone, to clean up after men who were not AND were sexually rewarded for it, both in getting the sex itself, AND getting to put their genes into the future. There is a large percentage of Black men who are single, childless and middle class – why should they look out for the Black men who got to spread their seed around? Make that make sense? What you’re advocating for is a kind of Cuckoldry Once Removed – and if that’s your idea of masculinity, you can count me out.

      • Mumia Obsidian Ali says:

        Another thing I would add is the fact that this loneliness piece – pandemic notwithstanding – is in part due to the moves made by the feminists. Remember the #MeToo movement? Studies have since showed that men don’t want to be bothered even trying to approach women anymore, especially on the job, and as we both know, more men are voting with their feet when it comes to the college campus. One can argue that #MeToo and other feminist moves were necessary and long overdue; I would respond to that by saying, that the cure may be worse than the disease. In any event, be it by design or unintended, the feminists have gotten what they wanted – but at what price?

  2. Shaun Emerson says:

    Another great post, Scott. At my nonprofit, MenLiving, we are working every day to create virtual and in person spaces for men to connect. Talked to 66 year old man today who reached out to us asking for a call. The story he told me is the same one I have heard from hundreds of men over the last 5 years. The sooner we can get to the young guys, the less men we’ll have like the one I talked to today.

  3. Adam motiwala says:

    Hey Scott completely agree. Thanks for talking about this.

    Curious if there is a gender component to this as well. Are lonley men more likely to do something ominous than women.

    Also why do you use the phrase Islamic terrorism. There is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people. These are just terrorist who are radicalized as extremist. Giving them that much power and influence by saying they speak for Islam is the exact glory they aspire for and want. Calling them standard extremist takes the glory out and hopefully the violence out.

  4. Miles Protter says:

    Thanks Scott. I’m on the board of a uniquely Australian organisation called Men’s Sheds that seeks to address this issue. It’s simple – men (mostly retired) in a neighbourhood decide they want to set up a shed. They get money from the council, the lottery whomever, lease a shed, get some woodworking gear and invite interested men to come for fellowship, cups of tea and chat. Sometimes woodworking gets done, and those not interested set up wine clubs, beekeeping or cooking, whatever. The mental health and community benefits are enormous as you can imagine. Disabled guys come along, guys with dementia, mental health issues, etc. All are welcome. We have almost 200 sheds in Western Australia alone, 8000 members, and now are getting women’s sheds, Aboriginal sheds, and others applying to join. It’s real grass roots volunteering, creating sinews of relationship. Can tell you more if you like.

  5. Adam Zak says:

    This strikes a responsive chord. How best to identify the private / public organizations, individuals who are most involved in helping address the issues you raise here? Thanks!

  6. Jan says:

    Re: male friendships
    As an immigrant to the US of over 40 years, I have found that the surest way to have another dude in America avoid you, is to ask him to meet for lunch, or a walk, or to talk. Never seems to fail. Inviting a guy to get drunk, go hunting, or help you fix a car seems more acceptable. But if you don’t do these things, you are going to be lonely. Mind you, I live in the Seattle suburb, area with arguably the highest education attainment in the country.

  7. Rae Lambert says:

    My startup, River, is inadvertently solving for loneliness by bringing like-minded people together IRL (especially among males, which seems to be the hardest group to crack).
    We’re making it effortless to orchestrate meetups at massive scale for audiences who have common interests (The All-In Podcast, Bryan Johnson, Tim Ferriss).

    Attendees say it’s cathartic to finally “meet their people” and that they “didn’t realize there were so many people who like the same things as me in my city”.

    Scott: We have a lot to talk about!

  8. tony guarisco says:

    Young male elephants become “juvenile delinquents” when the older male elephants are removed! Reintroducing the elders elimited the bad behavior.

  9. Linda says:

    Find out if the branches of the military give their members opportunities to do community service. If they do not, try to get it established, even with a pilot project. Then contact schools that would like some volunteers and match them with teachers who can link them with the sad and alienated students who would just like an adult friend/mentor. Next get the military to give these volunteers a chance to take courses leading to a teaching certificate while still in the military. Career military can retire in their forties thus producing a perfect group able to pursue a second career in treaching. Clearly this is not for every retiring military person but it would be an opportunity for growth for many middle aged men and a wonderful connection for school age kids already feeling like outcasts.

  10. Sara says:

    Ok but wild he’s so obsessed with radical Islam when the greatest threat facing the US today is white supremacy

    • Mariel says:

      White nationalists could use AI bots too though? I don’t think the examples are meant to be exclusive.

    • Amanda says:

      Sara, you’ve obviously never spent time where Islam is the predominant religion. Only an American who had been indoctrinated by social media would believe such a statement, “white supremacy is a greater threat than radical Islam”. Lol, really? Where were you on September 11th? Sure, we have goofballs in America that think the days of the KKK were the good old days, yet not so many. And most of us know they’re goofballs. And, yes, there are lingering issues with system racism. Yet those issues pale in comparison with *radical* Islam. Wake up Sara. You (and me) would be beaten and hooded and mutilated for voicing these opinions in an Islamic society.

    • SomePerverted NotionOfLiberty says:

      Really sick and tired of seeing video after video of packs of white supremacists looting stores or packs of white supremacists attacking people on public transportation or packs of white supremacists jumping a person and bashing their head into the concrete while someone yells “Worldstar!” in the background.

  11. Peter says:

    Brilliant and moving, as always. It’s difficult not to be pessimistic about the future of humanity, with our odd mixture of mercy and malice, not to mention casual cruelty. As a certifiably old person, I try to be a benevolent influence on the young people I interact with, most of whom I pity because of the future in store for them. Rodney King asked the $64,000 question: Can we get along?

    • B Danner says:

      After the last 8 years, I think the answer to the $64K question is: clearly not.

  12. MM says:

    Male loneliness should include a conversation about pornograpy. Economics, psychological effects.

  13. Antony Toms says:

    So the solution is to have girls, not boys.

  14. Jim C says:

    Totally agree on the male on male influence. There is a great example of this in an English footballer Ian Wright and his school teacher Sydney Pigden giving him the direction he’d never had . Take a look at this, very powerful. Not a dry eye in the house Look it up on YouTube

  15. Dan says:

    Sorry, not buying it. The “enemy” is not loneliness. It is lack of proper value system. Human history is dominated by tribes and tribalism, i.e. the antithesis of loneliness, most of which have had spectacularly egregious value systems. Regardless whether an individual chooses a tribe or other affiliations or to be alone the responsibility for seeking and adopting a proper, i.e. rational, value system rests entirely on the individual and his/her choices. Many of us are “lonely” by choice, for among many other reaaons, the prevalence of mass psychosis formation inherent in tribalism makes it so difficult to find anyone we wish to associate or communicate with, including our close family. Has nothing to do with loneliness and everything to do with self determined value systems and rational thinking.

    • SomePerverted NotionOfLiberty says:

      Atheists love to talk about how lonely they are all the time.

  16. Miles Protter says:

    Love the solution! I’ve been encouraging men to get interested in the well being of young people for years. Many lack the confidence however because they never received mentoring themselves, so we have a vicious circle. So many men don’t realise their presence and interest is sufficient. And there are many safety process hurdles. Let’s mentor another man, and soon he will want to pay it forward. .

  17. Susie says:

    Yes. This is why sports are so important, male coaches can show up for boys when dads can’t or won’t. But why focus on lack of males in elementary schools? There are plenty of male professors in college. Perhaps you could start a network and get them to take an interest in the boys in their classes. You have the influence to start something that could influence a generation of young men. College is not too late. On the crest of adulthood, they need the adult male mentorship more than ever to help them navigate their launching.

  18. Andrew says:

    RE: Volunteering and older men getting involved

    This is correct, but you want to know the issue? You can’t just go do it. I’ve gone through the process of applying and it’s rigorous to the point of defeating their own purpose.

    We absolutely need protections in place but the red tape needs to be better. I recently went to apply for volunteering at a local garden in santa monica and first I ran into dead links. Then months later I got an email with a new application package in a shit show google doc that demands my criminal report, finger prints and I need to take a two hour training on spotting child abuse in california. Bro I would pass with flying colors, I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket, but even so, I have an insanely demanding day job and this is a MASSIVE barrier to entry.

    The real issue is how do you make it easier for people to jump in to the fire and help, otherwise people just give up

    • Jan says:

      Agree. Also, being on a cusp of retirement and observing guys who already have retired: there are a lot of men out there grasping for something meaningful to do and for people to do it with. Some fill their time with traveling to exotic places they don’t really want to visit, some start playing golf obsessively, some walk around the park picking up garbage and find meaning that way. These are retired professionals, mostly with few if any friends for whom they never had time while working and raising families.

  19. Jon Martin says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I can say this is 100% real for me personally. Coming from being a remote tech worker who primarily communicates through video to a now unemployed person working in a pottery studio and socializing with real people every day I feel a thousand times better! Keep sharing these incredibly helpful and insightful messages. Thanks man.

  20. Jon Martin says:

    I love you!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing this. I can say this is 100% real for me personally. Coming from being a remote tech worker who primarily communicates through video to a now unemployed person working in a pottery studio and socializing with real people every day I feel a thousand times better! Keep sharing these incredibly helpful and insightful messages. Thanks man.

    • Jon martin says:

      Also, fun fact, I talked to Replika years ago interviewing for a head of product role and turned it down for that very reason. I asked about their tech and architecture and found it quite risky and subject to bias. This was a long time ago.

  21. Commentor, A. Commentor says:

    Ian *Fleming*

  22. SomePerverted NotionOfLiberty says:

    Speaking of how relationships are essential to surviving and the cruelty we levy on animals and other human beings, remember the time Galloway wished economic ruin and suffering upon everyone who choose not to shoot up an experimental drug (that didn’t even work as advertised) and then the CDC later said that we can pretty much treat Covid like the Flu and then Galloway went on Bill Maher to remind everyone that he was really the good guy in this story that was “doing his best”

    This is how history will judge you, Galloway.

    “Enough already. Federal law should require any citizen who wants to cash a government check, use public transport, or enter a place of business to show proof of vaccination.”
    – Scott Galloway

    It’s Official: We Can Pretty Much Treat Covid Like the Flu Now. Here’s a Guide. New guidelines from the CDC Friday bring Covid precautions in line with those of other respiratory viruses
    -Wall Street Journal

  23. Scott Slater says:

    The normal nurturing and discovery that school-aged children gain from families, community, and youth activities has decayed due to daily challenges and what many refer to as “algorithms”, leaving families and youth today overwhelmed.

    We are focused on introducing a free “community calendar and resource network” on a mission to transform youth development and family engagement. (We call this The Big Blue Marble).

    We believe that providing innovative Go-To Who, What, When, Where, Why and How capabilities provides the simplifying connective tissue that revolutionizes opportunities and the way parents and youth interact.

    Greatly appreciate your promoting awareness about the importance of building relationships.

    Keep up this important work!


    • Kellie Manthe says:

      💯 Loneliness and isolation is truly an enemy
      Interested on your input / writing on younger persons.

  24. Keren Seymour says:

    You say, “The political manifestation of weakening relationships is extremism.” But I’d argue that the inverse is true: extremism has caused weakened relationships. Both can be true, of course; but I believe that the extremism came first with the arrival of the cult figure descending a golden staircase spouting hatred.

  25. Matt Covington says:

    Scott, I also see that church attendance is up amongst young men, is that “community” feeling causal to the above writings?

Join the 500,000 who subscribe

To resist is futile … new content every Friday.