A key question for advice in a domain is: how are outcomes in this domain statistically distributed?

If extremely good and extremely bad outcomes are rare, you probably can't do much better than just copying the default or median behavior. The value of acquiring information in this domain seems low.

Conversely, if the distribution has a heavy tail, then changing your behavior can avert very bad outcomes and/or lead to very good outcomes. In this case, the value of information in this domain seems comparatively much higher.

Hence the question: Which health & lifestyle interventions have particularly heavy-tailed outcomes?


Example prompts:

Toothpaste: Without having looked into this topic, I'd expect commercially available toothpaste to mostly be in the same ballpark in terms of outcomes. In which case there would be little value in optimizing this domain beyond choosing e.g. the most popular brand, or the product with the highest Amazon rating.

Proper Workout Technique: It's very easy to injure yourself with sufficiently bad workout technique. Irrespective of how much better the outcomes for the best technique are than for the median technique, it at least seems worth some effort to avoid the "bad technique" tail of the outcome distribution.

(There's also a discussion thread on the SSC subreddit.)

New Answer
Ask Related Question
New Comment
9 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:53 AM

Most american toothpaste brands don't include ingredients that can remineralize teeth for patent fight reasons IIRC. I import my toothpaste from singapore (hydroxyapatite is active ingredient)

I should've seen something like this coming, but I didn't. Oops. I wonder if the situation from which I was generalizing (toothpaste in Germany) is sufficiently different that I was just extrapolating too far, or if my assumption is wrong even there.

Can I get anything on amazon that has that ingredient, or are there other things I should know?

Just that many such brands advertise as Fluoride free, but you want fluoride. I just use a fluoride mouthwash also.

I've read somewhere that while mouthwash kills bad bacteria, it can also kill good bacteria.

That's why alcohol free is typically recommended now

Has anyone looked into how it compares to stannous fluoride?

Hydroxyapatite looks like it might be better, but regular fluoride can remineralize teeth too. Though how much fluoride remineralizes is quite dose dependent. I spent most of life rinsing my mouth out with water after brushing and only recently switched to simply spitting and leaving the toothpaste on my teeth, and I haven't had a cavity since that switch.

Note that there's also a discussion thread on the SSC subreddit.

New to LessWrong?