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Willa's Shortform

Shortform #58 Day of Good Fun; Hammertime Day 5 - Comfort Zone Expansion (CoZE)

Today was wonderful, my friends and I started the day off with a nice short breakfast then spent about an hour and a half coworking and getting some things done each. We then went to a local Indian restaurant and met with one of my friend's friends and ate amazing food while having great conversations, it was a lovely time! Then we went to a few local parks for the next 3-4 hours and spending the whole afternoon outdoors in nature was fantastic. We then went back to the house, r... (read more)

Jimrandomh's Shortform

I have a dietary intervention that I am confident is a good first-line treatment for nearly any severe-enough diet-related health problem. That particularly includes obesity and metabolic syndrome, but also most micronutrient deficiencies, and even mysterious undiagnosed problems, which it can solve without even needing to figure out what they are. I also think it's worth a try for many cases of depression. It has a very sound theoretical basis. It's never studied directly, but many studies test it, usually with positive results.

It's very simple. First, yo... (read more)

Mati_Roy's Shortform

Hobby: serve so many bullets to sophisticated philosophers that they're missing half their teeth by the end of the discussion

Owain_Evans's Shortform

How much does Christianity explain Western economic and intellectual development? Some considerations against:

  1. Lack of comparable successes in most of the Orthodox Christian world. 
  2. Impressiveness of Classical Greece and Hellenistic world vs Europe until the Renaissance and scientific revolution. 
  3. Temporal correlation between Renaissance and scientific revolution and great uptick of interest in classical works (vs Christian texts).
  4. AFAIK, Christians outside Europe (Ethiopia, Middle East) not being especially successful intellectually or economi
... (read more)

No actual answer, because I know little about history. Just some thoughts:

I would assume that the impact of religion on science is mostly indirect, but quite important. Do you believe in a god who wants to be known and has set up the rules of the universe as a puzzle for the believers to solve? Or do you believe in a whimsical micromanaging god who makes arbitrary decisions about everything, so the very idea of laws of nature is a heresy? More practically, are kids supposed to learn about secular subjects, or just memorize the holy scriptures? Are girls al... (read more)

Jimrandomh's Shortform

One difficult thing that keeps coming up, in nutrition modeling, is the gut microbiome. People present hypotheses like: soluble fiber is good, because gut bacteria eat it, and then do other good things. Or: fermented foods are good, because they contain bacteria that will displace and diversify the preexisting bacteria, which might be bad. Or, obesity is caused by a bad gut microbiome, so fecal matter transplants might help. But there's a really unfortunate issue with these theories. The problem with gut microbiome-based explanations, is that the gut micro... (read more)

these interactions may vary across wide swathes of conceptual space, and we have little to no visibility into which species are present where. 

Through gene sequencing we have the technology to assess which species are present in which people. It's a nascent scientific field but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

Josephine's Shortform

I've noticed two points in recent life where I've fallen prey to Goodhart's law, and I'm working to improve them. 

1) On my birthday a few days ago I finally dropped a goal I had for this year, to read as many books as possible. (My main strategy for this was to tell people how many books I'd read and maintain a list on Goodreads whenever I finished one.) For the last three years I've tried to measure books per year as a way to gauge how much I was learning, but as I improved and the number increased the differences between "reading lots of books" and ... (read more)

Willa's Shortform

Shortform #57 Some Adjustments; Hammertime Days 3 (TAPs) and 4 (Design)

Yesterday was a day of travel, noticing the inadequacy and lack of public spaces, and happily hanging out with friends I haven't seen in awhile.

Today was quite nice, I don't particularly enjoy travel days so it was pleasant sleeping in a small bit and not having to deal with travel and instead go spend time around city with friends. I've noticed that despite being on vacation, I really want to spend time working and getting things done, and am frustrated that some of the improvement are... (read more)

Jimrandomh's Shortform

One of the most common, least questioned pieces of dietary advice is the Variety Hypothesis: that a more widely varied diet is better than a less varied diet. I think that this is false; most people's diets are on the margin too varied.

There's a low amount of variety necessary to ensure all nutrients are represented, after which adding more dietary variety is mostly negative. Institutional sources consistently overstate the importance of a varied diet, because this prevents failures of dietary advice from being too legible; if you tell someone to eat a var... (read more)

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The advice I've heard is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors to get a variety of antioxidants in your diet.

Until recently, the thinking had been that the more antioxidants, the less oxidative stress, because all of those lonely electrons would quickly get paired up before they had the chance to start mucking things up in our cells. But that thinking has changed.

Drs. Cleva Villanueva and Robert Kross published a 2012 review titled “Antioxidant-Induced Stress” in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. We spoke via Sky

... (read more)
1Firinn2dYou may find this source interesting: [] I remember reading that some hunter-gatherers have diet breadth entirely set by the calorie per hour return rate: take the calories and time expended to acquire the food (eg effort to chase prey) against the calorie density of the food to get the caloric return rate, and compare that to the average expected calories per hour of continuing to look for some other food. Humans will include every food in their diet for which making an effort to go after that food has a higher expected return than continuing to search for something else, ie they'll maximise variety in order to get calories faster. I can't find the citation for it right now though. (Also I apologise if that explanation was garbled, it's 2am)
1Ann Brown2dPossibly because I consume sucralose regularly as a sweetener and have some negative impacts from sugar, it is definitely discerned and distinct from 'sugar - will cause sugar effects' to my tastes. I enjoy it for coffee and ice cream. I need more of it to balance out a bitter flavor, but don't crave it for itself; accidentally making saccharine coffee doesn't result in deciding to put splenda in tea later rather than go without or use honey. For more pure sugar (candy, honey, syrup, possibly milk even), there's definitely a saccharine-averse and a sugar-consume fighting at different kinds of craving for me. Past a certain amount, I don't want more at the level of feeling like, oh, I could really use more sugar effects now; quite the opposite. But taste alone continues to be oddly desperate for it. Fresh or frozen sweet fruit either lacks this aversion, or takes notably longer to reach it. I don't taste a fruit and immediately anticipate having a bad time at a gut level. Remains delicious, though, and craved at the taste level.
Jimrandomh's Shortform

Standard Advice about nutrition puts a lot of emphasis on fruits and vegetables. Now, "vegetable" is a pretty terribly overbroad category, and "fruit or vegetable" is even more so, but put that aside for a moment. In observational studies, eating more fruits and vegetables correlates with good health outcomes. This is usually explained in terms of micronutrients. But I think there's a simpler explanation.

People instinctively seek nutrients--water, calories, protein, and other things--in something that approximates a priority ordering. You can think of it a... (read more)

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someone found this:

From the first article:

Weight loss studies provide additional arguments against the “nutrient deficiency” theory.

In one weight loss study, participants following a low-carb diet for two years reported much lower cravings for carb-rich foods than those following a low-fat diet.

Similarly, participants put on low-fat diets during the same period reported fewer cravings f

... (read more)
5Ann Brown3dIs there a place for unsweetened chocolate or alternately raw cacao, if you can make the palate adjustment to munch on something that bitter? I usually mix the nibs into something, but if my chocolate craving is high enough they grow worth the effort to eat straight. (Ie, rule out the sugar vs chocolate craving difference. In the case of chocolate or coffee, sugar/sweetener's just serving the role of making what I'm actually craving more palatable.)
2Viliam2dWorth trying, but I am afraid that the likely outcome would be "I consume all the unsweetened chocolate, and then still go looking for something else". Though recently I partially substituted sweets by peanuts (peeled, unsalted), which is almost healthy... considering the likely alternatives.
Stuart_Armstrong's Shortform

Here are a few examples of model splintering in the past:

  1. The concept of honour; which includes concepts such as: "nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness" [...] personal integrity [...] reputation [...] fame [...] privileges of rank or birth [...] respect [...] consequence of power [...] chastity". That is a grab-bag of different concepts, but in various times and social situations, "honour" was seen as single, clear concept.
  2. Gender. We're now in a period where people are questioning and redefining gender, but gender has been splintering f
... (read more)
Jimrandomh's Shortform

Most philosophical analyses of human values feature a split-and-linearly-aggregate step. Eg:

  • Value is the sum (or average) of a person-specific preference function applied to each person
  • A person's happiness is the sum of their momentary happiness for each moment they're alive.
  • The goodness of an uncertain future is the probability-weighted sum of the goodness of concrete futures.
  • If you value multiple orthogonal things, your preferences are the weighted sum of a set of functions that each capture one of those values independently.

I currently think that this i... (read more)

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2AlexMennen3dExamples 3 and 1 are justified by the VNM theorm and Harsanyi's utilitarian theorem, respectively. I agree that 2 and 4 are wrong.
1Connor_Flexman4dI like this a lot. I've been thinking recently about how a lot of my highly-valued experiences have a "fragility" to them, where one big thing missing would make them pretty worthless. In other words, there's a strongly conjunctive aspect. This is pretty clear to everyone in cases like fashion, where you can wear an outfit that looks good aside from clashing with your shoes, or social cases, like if you have a fun party except the guy who relentlessly hits on you is there. But I think it's underappreciated how widespread this dynamic is. Getting good relaxation in. Having a house that "just works". Having a social event where it "just flows". A song that you like except for the terrible lyrics. A thread that you like but it contains one very bad claim. A job or relationship that goes very well until a bad falling-out at the end. A related claim, maybe a corollary or maybe separate: lots of good experiences can be multiplicatively enhanced, rather than additively, if you add good things. The canonical example is probably experiencing something profound with your significant other vs without; or something good with your significant other vs something profound. Seems like it's useful as a very approximate estimate of value to split wrt time, current facets of experience, experiencers, etc, but with so many basic counterexamples it doesn't require much pushing toward edge cases at all before you're getting misleading results.
Willa's Shortform

Shortform #56 Travel; Hammertime Day 2 - Yoda Timers

I followed my media diet today except regarding Discord, plus didn't get in my full reserved hours of work. On the whole, I was reasonably productive, but didn't focus my actions very well today.

This evening we had a Houston Rationalists virtual meetup which went quite well! Had a new attendee, several regulars, and great discussion. We focused a lot of the discussion on timelessness, or, why is it some ideas, cultural practices, books, etc. survive over the long term whereas others do not (yes the lindy ... (read more)

bfinn's Shortform

There seems a big contradiction in the position of environmentalists who support animal rights (as almost all do). They say we shouldn’t eat meat because animals, and animal feed, contribute to CO2 emissions. But if we didn't eat meat, the animals we breed for that purpose wouldn’t exist.

Surely animal rights include the right to life. So denying billions of cows & chickens any life at all seems a strongly anti-animal position.

While meat production involves killing animals, at least they get some life. And if (a big 'if') they were well treated, so they... (read more)

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Cf very surprisingly, a few years ago Princess Anne, a noted horse-rider who competed in the Olympics, called for horses to be eaten so as to improve their welfare. (I.e. so those unsuitable, or no longer suitable, for riding still have a value.) She said this in a speech for the World Horse Welfare charity, of which she is president.

1JBlack2dYes, there is an idea of "right to reproduce", but hardly anyone believes that it should hold for animals in the sense of your article. The exceptions seem mainly to apply to critically endangered species. Rather a lot of people don't hold "right to reproduce" in unrestricted form for humans either. It certainly doesn't have the same near-universality as human right to life. While mass forced sterilization of particular ethnic groups is absolutely a form of genocide, this again goes way beyond any analogous beliefs that animal rights people hold. Nobody is saying that all chickens and cows should be sterilized so that their species becomes extinct. The closest it gets is "stop force-breeding them".
1bfinn2dI didn’t mean make them extinct. I meant not let them reproduce freely, and control their numbers by sterilisation and culling. If done to a severe extent (which may not be necessary in the case of food animals) I can see an analogy with genocide. (Cf though I’m not an animal rights activist in any way, even as a child I thought there was something odd about the mass extermination of coypu in the UK merely because they ate crops.)
Willa's Shortform

Shortform #55 Alons-y; Hammertime Day 1 - Bug Hunt

I spent the first ~10 minutes of my workday creating my day's agenda. It turns out that setting a timer for 10 minutes before doing any work for the day to create an agenda for the day is a most excellent and helpful ritual, so I'm doing that from here on out.

I scheduled very aggressively and didn't leave buffer time, so tomorrow I'll add 5-10 minutes of buffer time between each non-travel-required / other unavoidable time sink item on my schedule and see if that's enough. Despite the no buffer time and mul... (read more)

Connor_Flexman's Shortform

Saving this example for later, when everyone claims the CDC and other "experts" didn't act incredibly stupidly about boosters:

"Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time," according to a joint statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed."

The statement came after Pfizer-BioNTech announced plans to seek authorization for a booster shot for its COVID-19 vaccine. Thou... (read more)

Jan Czechowski's Shortform

Bayesian Signaling: good way to think about signaling is handcrafting a piece of evidence, that for the other person will be objectively strong evidence for the claim that you're making. Hearing X saying "I'm pretty smart" is a weak evidence for the hypothesis "X is smart". Seeing a Harvard's degree with X's name on it is much stronger evidence. Hearing X saying "I'm a millionaire" is a weak evidence for the hypothesis "X is a millionaire". Receiving a 10000$ gift from them is much stronger evidence.

Jimrandomh's Shortform

COVID variants have mutated in the direction of faster spread and less immunity, as expected. They also seem to be mutating to higher disease severity, which was not expected. Why would that be, and should we expect this to continue?

My current theory is that the reason variants are more severe is because there's evolutionary pressure on a common factor that affects both severity and secondary attack rate, and that factor is viral replication rate.

In the initial stage of an infection, the number of virus-copies inside someone grows exponentially. If the spi... (read more)

I highly recommend reading something about mainstream research on this topic:

Matthew Barnett's Shortform

Rationalists are fond of saying that the problems of the world are not from people being evil, but instead a result of the incentives of our system, which are such that this bad outcome is an equilibrium. There's a weaker thesis here that I agree with, but otherwise I don't think this argument actually follows.

In game theory, an equilibrium is determined by both the setup of the game, and by the payoffs for each player. The payoffs are basically the values of the players in the game—their utility functions. In other words, you get different equilibria if p... (read more)

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2Dagon3dI'm not sure what our disagreement actually is - I agree with your summary of Ayn Rand, I agree that there are lots of ways to hurt people without stabbing. I'm not sure you're claiming this, but I think that failure to help is selfish too, though I'm not sure it's comparable with active harm. It may be that I'm reacting badly to the use of "truly selfish" - I fear a motte-and-bailey argument is coming, where we define it loosely, and then categorize actions inconsistently as "truly selfish" only in extremes, but then try to define policy to cover far more things. I think we're agreed that the world contains a range of motivated behaviors, from sadistic psychopaths (who have NEGATIVE nonzero terms for others' happiness) to saints (whose utility functions weight very heavily toward other's happiness over their own). I don't know if we agree that "second-order effect" very often dominate the observed behaviors over most of this range. I hope we agree that almost everyone changes their behavior to some extent based on visible incentives. I still disagree with your post that a coefficient of 0 for you in someone's mind implies murder for pocket change. And I disagree with the implication that murder for pocket change is impossible even if the coefficient is above 0 - circumstances matter more than innate utility function. To the OP's point, it's hard to know how to accomplish "make people less selfish", but "make the environment more conducive to positive-sum choices so selfish people take cooperative actions" is quite feasible.
2Viliam2dI believe this is exactly what it means, unless there is a chance of punishment or being hurt by victim's self-defense or a chance of better alternative interaction with given person. Do you assume that there is always a more profitable interaction? (What if the target says "hey, I just realized that you are a psychopath, and I do not want to interact with you anymore", and they mean it.) Could you please list the pros and cons of deciding whether to murder a stranger who refuses to interact with you, if there is zero risk of being punished, from the perspective of a psychopath? As I see it, the "might get some pocket change" in the pro column is the only nonzero item in this model.

unless there is a chance of punishment or being hurt by victim's self-defense or a chance of better alternative interaction with given person.

There always is that chance.  That's mostly our disagreement.  Using real-world illustrations (murder) for motivational models (utility) really needs to acknowledge the uncertainty and variability, which the vast majority of the time "adds up to normal".  There really aren't that many murders among strangers.  And there are a fair number of people who don't value others' very highly.  

Rafael Harth's Shortform

Instead of explaining something to a rubber duck, why not explain it via an extensive comment? Maybe this isn't practical for projects with multiple people, but if it's personal code, writing it down seems better as a way to force rigor from yourself, and it's an investment into a possible future in which you have to understand the code once again.

Willa's Shortform

Shortform #54 Preparation

Today I alternated between resting, having fun, and getting the word out about the Hammertime Sequence group I'm leading (we start tomorrow, join us!). I suspect we may gain a new member or few to the group even after starting since I have a bit more promotion to do tomorrow morning.

I'm looking forward to engaging with my media diet and new habits, doing Hammertime, and somehow also doing those things while on vacation in a few days, should be fun :)

For now though, rest is best, so to bed I go.

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