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There is a specific emotion which can be induced by some types of trailer, classical and religious music, meditation, long distance running, psychedelics, natural beauty, some types of art and thinking about certain abstract topics (especially consciousness, theoretical physics, pure maths, meta-ethics, economics) - an emotion that might be described as 'cosmic sadness', 'intense euphoria' or 'being profoundly moved'.

It is rational for a hedonist to seek to experience this emotion even though experiencing it often causes irrational beliefs, because it is the most pleasurable of all emotions. The emotion is more easily triggered following a period of low mood and is subsequently often followed by a period of improved mood - the popular fallacy that 'suffering is ultimately a good thing' may occur because people notice a pleasurable emotion happening after suffering has occurred.

Until late adolescence I referred to this emotion as 'a spiritual experience' and used it as justification for cranky beliefs - it wasn't until after I stumbled across HPMOR that I learnt to experience this emotion whilst maintaining the belief that the emotion had entirely natural causes.


In the study which found impaired neurogenesis the rats were consuming caffeine chronically. Were the impairments in neurogenesis due to sleep deprivation which would not occur in morning-only human coffee drinkers?


From personal experience, the times when I've been happiest are:

a) The weeks after the time during adolescence when I entered an altered state of consciousness induced by meditation and music during a christian summer camp and believed that I'd had a spiritual experience - this cured the issues with eating disorder / depression that I'd had before (whereas professional counselling was totally ineffective) but I regret that at the time I was too young to be able to interpret my experience rationally. Maybe this is why religion correlates positively with happiness among pentecostals/evangelicals but not among religious groups with less focus on inducing altered states of consciousness.

b) Peak experiences during runners' high, listening to music, seeing profoundly beautiful scenery or thinking about philosophy.

c) After I tripped on magic mushrooms while a student - for days after the trip I was extremely hyperactive (even compared to my (extremely energetic) baseline) and excited, and I felt alert despite sleeping much less than usual. Be cautious about trying this as there is always the risk of a bad trip. I tried micro-dosing a few weeks before the trip, taking a dose insufficient to produce hallucinations but strong enough to create a feeing of euphoria similar to runners' high but more relaxed and less excited - I'd recommend micro-dosing as a way to get the happiness-boosting effects without the risks associated with tripping.

I'm not sure why entering altered states of consciousness causes intense happiness. I suspect that down-regulation of 5HT2A receptor activity plays a role, since psychedelics act on 5HT2A and an increase in 5HT2A receptor density is the most common finding from dissections of the brains of depressed patients. Increases in BDNF expression and neurogenesis may also play a role. SSRIs probably work by increasing neurogenesis - I don't know whether entering altered states affects neurogenesis but they involve entering a REM-like state of mind and the best current hypotheses about the function of REM sleep are that it plays a role in neurogenesis and in consolidating emotional memories - on the other hand SSRIs actually suppress REM sleep. Many people taking SSRIs report that their emotions are blunted whereas I'm not aware of anyone reporting blunted emotions are taking psychedelics - it would be interesting to test how psychedelics affect REM sleep on subsequent nights after the trip, and whether the degree of REM suppression among people taking SSRIs is different in those who report blunted emotions compared with those who don't.


Whether to cheat on gift aid and whether I should steal money from my parents to fund charitable donations. In my case the fear of being caught and desire to appear moral in front of other people won out over the desire to do the right thing.


When I have to go home during the holidays I have the dilemma of deciding whether it is worse to eat animal products or to argue with my parents. Normally I'd compromise and agree to eat small quantities of milk and eggs and only eat meat in cases where it would be wasted if I don't eat it. Now Mum often cooks too much meat and tries to persuade me that the leftovers will be wasted if I don't eat them. If I eat them, she'll keep using the same trick. If I don't, she'll say that I'm being irrational and betraying my principles against wasting food.


At around three years old one of the staff at preschool suggested that I had Aspergers or ADHD after I had gotten into trouble for playing with the fire extinguisher. I was formally diagnosed on the autistic spectrum at age four/five. I took two separate verbal ability tests at age 4y7m as part of the assessment process to receive a diagnosis and scored respectively in the 4th and 96th percentiles. Wildly discrepant, but not in the gifted range.

In my case social isolation was due more to a lack of interest in socialising than to a lack of innate ability. I was comparatively sociable during my primary school years, though I had a few periods of selective mutism, and in earlier childhood I'd play with more boisterous older children but refused to interact with other children my own age. When I got older my peers were no longer interested in playing running-around games and switched to spending all their time chatting about topics that I had no interest in. So I became a loner and developed social anxiety issues.

Some symptoms didn't apply to me; I never had difficulty with understanding pragmatics or sarcasm or with theory of mind and I never had enough difficulties with abstract thought to prevent me from studying philosophy or category theory.

However I was/am hyperactive, hypersensitive to sound, lined up toys, would scream at any attempt to have my hair brushed, refused to wear shoes and socks until I was given seamless socks and rocked or stimmed when stressed. I have atrocious handwriting, can't really catch a ball and once accumulated so many bruises that a teacher called social services. I frequently space out, which could be interpreted either as a sign of autism or of the ability to think about something more interesting than my immediate surroundings. Additionally, I have narrow obsessive interests in life, the universe and everything in the complement of the set of things that non-nerds are interested in.

NB I deviate from the nerd stereotype insofar as I am blonde, like being outdoors and run ten miles a day.

I suspect that the clumsiness is a sign of cerebellar problems, and the sensory differences are down to 'weak central coherence' - being more conscious of the lower levels of sensory processing.

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Does CBT make the patient happier, or is it a way of persuading patients to self-rate their happiness as higher on surveys and pretend to be happy? I was forced into talking therapy during the early teenage years (for issues related to Aspergers syndrome) and am convinced that the answer is the latter.


In the specific case of height increases it is possible that heterosis played a role; genes correlated with greater height are more often dominant than recessive, and as modern transport led to people mating further afield rather than mainly marrying others within their village average homozygosity decreased.


There exists a polynomial time reduction from SAT to the problem of asking Eliezer Yudkowsky whether a formula is satisfiable. It only remains to be proved that he is not using any hyper-computable processes.


Curiosity also has it's downsides; it's hard to get boring work done when there's always some question that you urgently need to google.

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