All of aceofspades's Comments + Replies

Do you disagree with any matters of fact that I have asserted or implied? When you try to have a discussion like you are trying to have, about "logical necessity" and so on, you are just arguing about words. What do you predict about the world that is different from what I predict?

I think that it is important to recognize the relationship between thought processes because having a well organized mind allows us to change our minds more efficiently which improves the quality of our predictions. So long as you recognize that all moral behavior is motivated by internal experiences and values I don't really care what you call it.

I agree that low carb diets are an effective means of weight loss relative to low fat diets for people in the aggregate. I do not agree that they are in the aggregate better for reducing mortality than DASH, and I think my personal health is optimized by eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, and lean protein and avoiding all else.

The reason I rejected the utility function and why I rejected this argument is that I judged them useless.

What would you recommend people do, in general? I think this is a question that is actually valuable. At the least I would benefit from considering other people's answers to this question.

I don't understand how your reply is responsive. I recommend that people act in accordance with their (selfish) values because no other values are situated so as to be motivational. Motivation and values are brute facts, chemical processes that happen in individual brains, but that actually gives them an influence beyond that of mere reason, which could never produce obligations. My system also offers a solution to the paralysis brought on by infinitarian ethics - it's not the aggregate amount of well being that matters, it's only mine. Because I believe this, recognizing that altruism is a subset of egoism is important for my system of ethics. I still believe in altruistic behavior, but only that which is motivated by empathy as opposed to some abstract sense of duty or fear of God's wrath or something. Does my position make more sense now?

This pattern-matches exactly to everything else conspiracy theory related I have ever read, and by that I mean it misinterprets the relative incentives. You speak of organizations that apparently face financial loss if they turn out to be wrong, but you provide no convincing reason for why they would lose funding if they revised their positions due to new evidence. You also don't mention the huge profits an organization would surely make if it provided compelling evidence for how to actually lower the risk of the largest cause of death in the United States... (read more)

I pointed to sources that contain huge lists of sources, including such studies. Some of what I pointed to is free. There is no need to reproduce this here. The relevance here is to cascades, which occur without "conspiracies." A common response to a cascade being pointed out is to call the observer a "conspiracy theorist," and that happens even if no conspiracy has been alleged. That people might be unconsciously motivated by issues of reputation and "face" is just what's so for human beings. I mentioned funding and was explicit that I did not know if this had an actual effect on recommendations. Taubes has laid out the history of the "official dietary recommendations," and he makes a persuasive case that some serious errors were made, and that some are persisting in beliefs that are not consistent with what is scientifically known. Anyway, aceofspades asks for studies. He didn't specify the context, but it was that he had written I linked to extensive coverage of that research, by science journalists. However, specifically, and just what I picked up quickly: Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet. (Blood lipids, i.e., cardiac risk factors, were studied.) Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. (Lipid profile was studied.) Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat/low-calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbidities. (This is a "systematic review," very much on point as to cardiac risk.) Part of my own experience: I was under forty when my doctor, whom I trusted greatly, recommended that I go on a low-fat diet because I had mildly elevated cholesterol. Over 20 years later, the results: I'd gained about 30 lbs, my cholesterol levels were a lot higher. Sure, I wasn't terribly compliant, but I'd shifted the balance greatly towa

This line of discussion says nothing on the object level. The words "altruistic" and "selfish" in this conversation have ceased to mean anything that anyone could use to meaningfully alter his or her real world behavior.

Altruistic behavior is usually thought of as motivated by compassion or caring for others, so I think you are wrong. You are the one arguing about definitions in order to trivialize my point, if anything.

It doesn't seem to me that this post actually makes any coherent argument. It spends a fair amount of words using seemingly metaphysical terms without actually saying anything. But that's not even the important thing.

Is this post supposed to increase my happiness or lifespan, or even that of someone else?

1Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 11y
Well, for one, "beliefs in beliefs" are embodied in patterns of neurons in human brains–they're a real phenomenon, not a "metaphysical" one, and they can influence peoples' thoughts, words, and actions. Someone who every week donates money to their their church, because they go to a church, because they "believe in God", may not really belief in God in the sense of not letting it determine any important decision. But the belief is still there, floating around interacting with the rest of their value system, combining with social pressure, pulling their personal opinions over towards the beliefs endorsed by that church, and of course costing them $x money every week, which, based on how churches usually spend money, is probably mostly spent on installing the belief in belief in God into other peoples' heads. On an individual level, it's hard to evaluate whether that person is more or less happy or will live longer, but on a societal level, there are definite effects.

If this is article is actually correct, representative, etc. then the only thing it says to me is that the entire field of self-help is completely worthless, so I am going to actually operate under that assumption and just do what I want.

By listing those "suggestions," you are causing people at least one person to try to use them even though they are in my judgment largely worthless or at least not worth the time and effort required to try to adopt them (this judgment means little compared to actual evidence of their relative effectiveness, but since I haven't seen any it will have to suffice as a prior). I have also seen no plausible argument here that this type of bias actually causes unhappiness, and so I therefore care nothing about it.

So the normal chain of events here would just be that I argue those are still all subgoals of increasing happiness and we would go back and forth about that. But this is just arguing by definition, so I won't continue along that line.

To the extent I understand the first paragraph in terms of what it actually says at the level of real-world experience, I have never seen evidence supporting its truth. The second paragraph seems to say what I intended the second paragraph of my previous comment to mean. So really it doesn't seem that we disagree about anything important.

0Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 11y
Agreed. I find it practical to define my goals as all of those subgoals and not make happiness an explicit node, because it's easy to evaluate my subgoals and measure how well I'm achieving them. But maybe you find it simpler to have only one mental construct, "happiness", instead of lots. I guess I explicitly don't allow myself to have abstract systems with no measurable components and/or clear practical implications–my concrete goals take up enough mental space. So my automatic reaction was "you're doing it wrong," but it's possible that having an unconnected mental system doesn't sabotage your motivation the same way it does mine. Also, "what I actually end up doing" doesn't, to me, have to connotation of "choosing and achieving subgoals", it has the connotation of not having goals. But it sounds like that's not what it means to you.
It's not an argument about definitions, it's an argument about logical priority. Altruistic impulses are logically a subset of selfish ones because all impulses are selfish because they're only experienced internally. (I'm using impulse as roughly synonymous with an action taken because of values). Altruism is only relevant to your morality insofar as you value altruistic actions. Altruism can only be justified on somewhat selfish grounds. (To clarify, it can be justified on other grounds but I don't think those grounds make sense.)

Would you mind linking to this research that shows low carb diets lower cardiac risk factors? All I really know about the matter is that in the aggregate people who actually study diet generally conclude that Atkins-like diets are not optimal for health. In particular, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Heart Association, and the World Health Organization all seem to conclude that saturated fats directly increase cardiovascular risk.

You're also arguing against anything said by these organizations ... (read more)

Okay, read Taubes' article in the New York Times, "What if it's all been a big fat lie?". That's ten years old, there has been research published since then, but nothing to change the basic conclusions. I suggest reading it before the rest here! The organizations are not "scientific." They are largely political creatures, and how they are funded can be an issue. If cholesterol is not the problem, what happens to the statin drug market? But I don't know that recommendations are driven by funding. Taubes is a thorough science writer, a skeptic, and it is indeed science that he's interested in. He is not selling a diet. Taubes covers the history of diet recommendations in the U.S. It's shocking. Something brief: In 1957, the American Heart Association opposed Ansel Keys (the author of the epidemiological study that got the whole fat=bad thing going), with a 15-page report, saying there was no evidence for the fat/heart disease hypothesis. Less than four years later, a 2-page report from the AHA totally reversed that, and, according to Taubes, that report included a half-page of "recent scientific references on dietary fat and atherosclerosis," many of which contradicted the conclusions of the report, which recommended reducing the risk of heart disease by reducing dietary fat.. What happened? Did the science change that quickly? Read Taubes! (i.e, read the book, "Good Calories, Bad Calories." Taubes also has a recent book, less technical, more popular, I think, but I haven't read it.) I could point to studies; the Atkins diet in particular has been studied independently, and it improves cardiac risk factors, it does not make them worse. Yet it's a high-fat diet. So what is the risk? Yes. I'm arguing against a commonly-recommended diet. I'm suggesting that relying on these agencies and their recommendations, without understanding the science, is very dangerous. Taube had written a book about salt, and when he was doing the research, he noticed nutritional "expe

I have decided that maximizing the integral of happiness with respect to time is my selfish supergoal and that maximizing the double integral of happiness with respect to time and with respect to number of people is my altruistic supergoal. All other goals are only relevant insofar as they affect the supergoals. I have yet to be convinced this is a bad system, though previous experience suggests I probably will make modifications at some point. I also need to decide what weight to place on the selfish/altruistic components.

But despite my finding such an ab... (read more)

I would argue that the altruism should be part of the selfish utility function. The reason that you care about other people is because you value other people. If you did not value other people there is no reason they should be in your utility function.
5Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 11y
I think this is a common problem. That doesn't mean you have to give up on having your second-order desires agree with your first-order desires. It is possible to use your abstract models to change your day-to-day behaviour, and it's definitely possible to build a more accurate model of yourself and then use that model to make yourself do the things you endorse yourself doing (i.e. avoiding having to use willpower by making what you want to want to do the "default.") As for me, I've decided that happiness is too elusive of a goal–I'm bad at predicting what will make me happier-than-baseline, the process of explicitly pursuing happiness seems to make it harder to achieve, and the hedonic treadmill effect means that even if I did, I would have to keep working at it constantly to stay in the same place. Instead, I default to a number of proxy measures: I want to be physically fit, so I endorse myself exercising and preferably enjoying exercise; I want to have enough money to satisfy my needs; I want to finish school with good grades; I want to read interesting books; I want to have a social life; I want to be a good friend. Taken all together, these are at least the building blocks of happiness, which happens by itself unless my brain chemistry gets too wacked out.

I have read this post and have not been persuaded that people who follow these steps will lead longer or happier lives (or will cause others to live longer or happier lives). I therefore will make no conscious effort to pay much of any regard to this post, though it is plausible it will have at least a small unconscious effect. I am posting this to fight groupthink and sampling biases, though this post actually does very little against them.

2Swimmer963 (Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg) 11y
Longer? Probably not. Happier? Possible, depending on that person's baseline, since we don't know our own desires and acquiring these skills might help, but given the hedonic treadmill effect, unlikely. Achieving more of their interim goals? Possible if not probable. There are a lot of possible goals aside from living longer and being happier.

Maybe I should be more clear.

The anecdotes of a few people on this site mean very little to me in regards to the efficacy of a particular diet. There doesn't seem to be any experimental evidence with a reasonable sample size to suggest that Paleo diets actually lead to weight loss (there is evidence that DASH leads to weight loss). The paleo diet is relatively high in saturated fat (and there is a scientific consensus that high saturated fat intake causes heart disease) while DASH is not. Omitting grain and dairy eliminates the sources of some nutrients an... (read more)

There is a lot of really bad "science" out there on diet, there was a political decision made in the 1970s to promote low-fat diets, in spite of what most scientists thought. For a detailed story on this, and on what is known about fat and carbohydrates in diet, I suggest Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories. While little about diet is certain, the bulk of the scientific evidence is that "high saturated fat intake," in the context of a low-carbohydrate diet, does not increase real cardiac risk. On the contrary, high-fat low-carb diets, like the Atkins diet, lower cardiac risk factors. The "scientific consensus" described above isn't. This isn't about "paleo diet," as such, except that paleo diets do tend to be high-fat and low-carb. We did not evolve eating grain, and then the grain may be highly processed to remove most fiber, creating rapid absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, requiring, then, fast insulin release to avoid toxic levels. We can eat carbohydrrates, but they were a small part of our diet, generally mixed with fiber, which slows digestion. Fat also does this. It's being claimed with substantial evidence that the "diseases of civilization," i.e., heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, are largely caused by diets with high carb content, especially highly processed carbs. High natural fat content does not seem to be a problem, the opposite. I did the research and am bettiing my life on this. And I wish we knew more than we do. Taubes has started a Nutrition Science Initiative.

You say that paleo-inspired diets "have helped many other people in the community." What percent of people in this community have benefited from those diets how much, and how does this compare with other diets, e.g. DASH?

When I switched to a mostly paleo diet this spring, I stopped needing willpower to prevent weight gain. I suspect I experienced other advantages, but don't have good evidence for them. It will be hard to tell what fraction have benefited, because people who found it hard or ineffective are less likely to write about it.

I don't think it's necessary for each individual to be aware of their own irrationality or try to become more rational or what have you. You don't have to have any formal study in physics to be great at pool, and you don't need formal study in rationality to do well in life or even science specifically. Any flaws in the ability of some individuals to act "rationally" won't matter in the aggregate because just a small number of people can profit heavily from the economic rent this will leave (in proportion to how much it actually matters) and in the process fix this efficiency.

"I don't think it's necessary for each individual to be aware of their own irrationality or try to become more rational or what have you." Necessary? True. Human civilisation has progressed quite far without rationality taking an obvious, prominent stand at it's forefront. I wouldn't even say that making rationality worldwide would make life for the average human easier enough to use such a stance as marketing for rationality. But, you are forgetting a rather, in my opinion, obvious benefit of rational thinking: the efficiency of rationality. Suppose I am confronted with a man who was raised believing bananas induce insanity. How can I convince him otherwise? If neither of us are advocates of rational thinking, it could devolve into a shouting match with both of us believing the other completely insane. This is speculation, here. If I'm an advocate of rational thinking, I might suggest experimenting with feeding bananas to previously confirmed sane people as a way to prove him wrong, if I don't think there's a chance of him being right. This taking more time than a shouting match. If I decide to approach the issue with the caution of a scientist, I'd need to approach the issue slowly and cautiously, because I'd need him to monitor my experiments, taking even more time than a shouting match. If we are BOTH rational thinkers, a simple discussion about how many billions of people should be somewhere between frothing at the mouth to ticking homicidal time-bombs(depending upon his personal definition of insanity), taking about the same time as a shouting match. And(hopefully!)leaving him with the conclusion that bananas do NOT induce insanity. I dare you to argue with rationality's efficiency.

I just operate under the assumption that I will never actually encounter a situation where 2+2 does not equal 4, and therefore do not spend time worrying about such a hypothetical situation. This assumption has never failed me before.

In order to dissolve the disagreement: I think the first sentence of my original comment here was ill-posed. It makes sense to me because it serves as a convenient pointer for the type of "religion" espoused by a significant proportion of people which involves "belief" and "faith" and does not actually contain any differences in anticipated experience from a non-religious position. However, given only the original sentence it does not mean much. And even with elaboration it is pretty much going to be tautological. As to my sec... (read more)

The things posted here are not impressive enough to make me more likely to donate to SIAI and I doubt they appear so for others on this site, especially the many lurkers/infrequent posters here.

I just find it very unlikely that the specifics of how this post is constructed have much of an effect on correcting this issue.

If his interest resulted in actions that would provide evidence of his existence, then yes. Also, if libertarian free will existed then the world would be an even more different place.

I'd argue that libertarian free will is an incoherent concept, and therefore there is no counterfactual world where it "exists", or if there is, that it is identical to any nondeterministic world without libertarian free will. On the other hand the existence of Thor might be exceedingly improbable, but it's not incoherent.

Arguing about the existence of a god is like arguing about free will. The only worthwhile argument concerns differences in anticipated experience, notably things like "Does prayer work?".

The world would be a very different place if, say, Thor existed and took a strong interest in the affairs of the human world.

Does the reductionist model give different predictions about the world than the non-reductionist model? If so, are any easily checked?

I'm not convinced that this post actually says anything. If seeking the truth is useful for any specific reason, then people who see some benefit from it will do so and if it isn't useful then they won't. Actually writing this out has made me think both this post and my comment haven't really said much, but I think that's because this discussion is too abstract to have any real use/meaning. Ideas which are true/work will work, ideas that aren't won't, and that's all that needs to be said, never mind this business about rationality and truth and curiosity.

Ah, but the seeker needs to find out if the answer - the truth - is beneficial. You can't not know the truth and make a decision without knowing the answer. That's just guessing. My friend argues that believing in an afterlife (i.e. religion) is beneficial for some people because it gives them a (patently false!) sense of "security". So why tell them it's wrong to believe such a thing? My answer is a) the fact that there's no afterlife is the truth, as far as humans know (i.e. as far as the evidence - or lack of evidence - shows); and b) it's wrong to believe in such a falsehood - in the sense that most people with such a belief tend to be either less ethical/moral (because they'll fix up the imbalance 'later'), or irrationally over-moral or hyper-ethical because they don't want to risk their slot in eternity's gravy train. Either way, they act irrationally and abnormally, and for the wrong reasons! I can't think of much in life that could be worse than that. What a horrible life!
Would that this were true. Indeed, if that were all there was to it, nothing would need to be said at all, as that's a tautology. But people manage to fail at noticing when things do / don't work anyway, and false ideas stick around a very long time.

Some people who upvoted the post may think it is one of the best-written and most important examples of instrumental rationality on this site.

I think this post would benefit from a link to some article about the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, since the beginning of this post requires some knowledge about it to be valuable.

"FWIW" == "For What It's Worth," to save a few person-minutes for other passive readers here.

It's not clear to me whether I should spend this sum of money (considering opportunity cost etc.) on potentially cryopreserving myself or reducing existential risk or making some other charitable contribution or actually passing on substantially more of my money to my relatives or whatever else. Namely, I'm not sure how to estimate the probability of actually being revived at some point. It might help to determine the probability of legally "dying" in such a way as to be around people during death or "dying" only a short time before whi... (read more)