Baseline Likelihood of Long-Term Side Effects From New Drugs?

I would say the mind is complex and multifaceted and interconnected enough that the odds of any given psychoactive drug having long term negative side effects beyond the intended one, at least in some proportion of those taking it, should be close to 100%.  Once I asked my doctor whether something could be a side effect of an over-the-counter medicine, and his response was, "In the right patient, any drug can have any effect." Not literally true, but a good heuristic.

I was prescribed modafinil from 2012-2016 for a sleep disorder no one could identify. It's probably the only reason I was able to keep my job and my relationship (now marriage), or was able to safely drive. The only side effect I noticed was some increased moodiness.

Unfortunately the extra energy and focus also masked other underlying issues and symptoms. Until I went off the medication I didn't realize I'd been in a state of depression, possibly since as far back as 2007. Because it happened so gradually, and because I'd been able to function day to day, I didn't notice that I'd pretty much stopped having emotions, that my reaction times were slower, and that my senses and memory and thinking were dulled (it got bad enough that several times I and others thought I might have had a stroke). It's taken years of therapy (and later, bupropion) to function normally again. 

None of that was a chemical side effect of modafinil in the way you're asking about, but if I had been thinking psychologically instead of pharmacologically I could have better identified what was going on and avoided years of suffering (my own and my wife's).

My point is: even if you have no adverse biological reactions to something, the medium and long term effects of a psychoactive substance have a good chance of being dominated by second-order effects resulting from how changes in your thinking affect how you live and experience your life, in ways that are extremely hard to predict and very individually variable. And because those things can change who you become and not just how you think, they will tend to last long after you stop taking the substance.

Why is loss of muscle cells not considered one of the hallmarks of aging?

What does "negligible" mean here? Negligible on what time scale? Because if the overarching question is "How do we stop or reverse aging to become amortal?" then any process of monotonic irreversible decline becomes important eventually.

Is Free Will A Myth?

I'll ask you the same question that clarified my thinking on this: what is it you want from your free will? For me, it's that I want to be the one to decide my actions.

Do you want your actions to follow no laws at all? Then they're essentially random. You cannot possibly be in control of what you do, in that world.

Since I don't think most people want that, what kind of laws do you want them to follow? Because whatever laws determine your actions, and whatever you are, you exist within them, not outside them. In order for 'you' to freely choose your actions, they must be sufficient to determine what you choose.

Do you want to not be influenced by anything outside yourself? Then you have no ability to take account of the state of the outside world in deciding what to do. You've given up any chance of steering the future state of the world you live in, or of achieving goals involving anything outside your own body.

What I want is for the primary locus of control, the proximal cause of my actions, to be within me. I want to minimize certain kinds of external influence on my decision-making processes, which I loosely categorize under labels like "coercion" or "violence" and so on, despite not having or expecting precise definitions of those things. That list also includes minimizing certain biases built into me by history and evolution from before I was conscious, which is how I first ended up here on lesswrong. None of this has much of anything to do with what the laws of physics are. I have a lot of that, and I get more of it the more I learn about what things influence and determine my thoughts, choices, and actions.

An appeal for vitamin D supplementation as a prophylactic for coronaviruses and influenza and a simple evolutionary theory for why this is plausible.

4000 IU daily is the safe upper limit for a daily dose according to the NIH. The body buffers D3 by building up stores in the spring and summer. So in order to see benefit any time soon at all, an initial one-time only large loading dose(or doses) should be taken, ideally with a fatty meal. I'm not sure if providing a conservative number here would be against the forum rules. 

I can't comment on what anyone should take, but I'm a ~215 lb male, and a few years ago (age 30) I was diagnosed with a mild Vitamin D deficiency and prescribed 50,000 IU once per week for either one or two months.

Babble challenge: 50 consequences of intelligent ant colonies

Yeah, before I started I considered adding "GEB gets more popular" to my list, but then forgot to include it.

Babble challenge: 50 consequences of intelligent ant colonies
  1. We would immediately start trying to figure out how intelligent they are, the same way we do with other animals.
  2. We would test how intelligence varies with age, size, ant species, geography, climate, and so on
  3. We would test whether they can and do communicate with each other.
  4. The search for a global cause for them becoming intelligent would get a lot of funding.
  5. If it happened spontaneously, and one became intelligent and somehow spread that to others very rapidly, we’d try to figure out if the same could happen in other eusocial species, like bees.
  6. If a human somehow made this happen, they’d win a lot of accolades and even more condemnations.
  7. Otherwise, a third intelligence would need to be active on Earth. SETI would get a lot of funding.
  8. Interspecies communication research would become a high priority, since ants are much more directly relevant to human life than other intelligent species like whales, dolphins, apes, or octopods.
  9. Learning what ant hills value becomes a huge moral imperative. Do they care (or even know) about ants? Or is killing a few ants akin to me getting a haircut?
  10. Philosophy departments get a boost in funding for work on actually solving some of the problems of moral philosophy, including some of the important ones related to FAI, now that they’re finally confronted with actually alien intelligences.
  11. Most people will go about their lives pretending this discovery didn’t happen, or has no moral consequences, for long enough to commit many atrocities.
  12. Use of ant poison wouldn’t become illegal, but would be limited to professionals who know how to use it only to keep ants out of specific places, how to use the least lethal effective methods, how to use ant hill coordination and communication methods to inform them what areas to stay away from, and so on.
  13. Ant hills become legal persons – laws and constitutions need to be rewritten to account for changes in what personhood implies, and this leads to delays, divisions, and kludges that will shape humanity’s interactions with other artificial and alien intelligences in the future.
  14. It turns out we do live in a cosmic zoo, and how we interact with intelligent ant hills determines whether we’re allowed to continue to exist, or at least whether we’re allowed to learn about and eventually join our galactic community.
  15. Intelligence turns out to be a network effect, proportional to ant number squared. Teaching ant hills human values and uniting them all into a global-super-hive-mind, possibly in combination with other eusocial insects, replaces AGI and AFI development work. Slow clock speed, but massively powerful and parallel.
  16. Intelligence turns out to be a network effect, proportional to ant number squared. Genetic research to apply the same effect to human brains becomes an arms race for dominance over the Earth, forcing everyone to set aside ethical concerns over modifying humanity.
  17. Picnics start to include dedicated plates for ant hills as a kind of offering/host gift. Ant hills learn to eat from them and leave everything else alone.
  18. Ant hills and humans collaborate to build better ant hill homes/farms. The initialy goal is to help the ant hills flourish and grow.
  19. In time, artificial ant hill structures effectively become robots enabling ant hills and humans to interact more directly.
  20. Some ant hill robots join human society with full citizenship rights. Certain jobs become almost exclusively their domain, by preference (waste management?) and talent (logistics?).
  21. Ant hill society exists in parallel to human society, with its own legal system and governing structures.
  22. Ant hill governments join the UN, with borders unrelated to human countries.
  23. Concept of a nation-state gets updated based on the idea of sympatric nations.
  24. Increased need for “international” dispute resolution leads to formation and strengthening of world governing bodies.
  25. Humans adopt the idea of sympatric nations for themselves, extending to citizenship the transformation that telecommunications and telepresence have begun. You can live anywhere and be a citizen of any “country” irrespective of what dirt you stand on.
  26. Interaction with anyone else can potentially become an international incident. Norms of behavior shift dramatically to accommodate the fact that other people might literally operate under different laws than you.
  27. Large scale conversions to religions that espouse beliefs that animals have souls. Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, and general beliefs involving reincarnation or past lives.
  28. Christian religious extremists begin wars of genocide against ant hills and the humans who work with them, on the basis that God gave the Earth to *man’s* dominion.
  29. Ant hills are highly sought after as employees: immortal, no need for sleep, increased multitasking capability, ability to do much finer manual manipulations than humans can, and able to subsist on resources that have little value to humans.
  30. Ant hill labor becomes a major political issue; how to define slavery, exploitation, and so on, in relation to beings with non-human emotional makeup.
  31. Interspecies sex and marriage become a significant political issue. Bestiality laws amended to account for uplift.
  32. Ideas of sexual orientation and gender expand to account for ant hills being hermaphroditic, while individual ants are gendered, and sex is often violent and polyandrous.
  33. Ability to exchange drones effectively enables horizontal gene flow between ant hills – genetic change of a single “individual” within its lifetime
  34. Rule 34 takes immediate effect.
  35. Someone shows ant hills the internet. Humans answer some very awkward questions.
  36. Ant hills learn about exterminators and plan revenge.
  37. Ant hills learn about exterminators but manage to forgive us
  38. Ant hills learn about exterminators but don’t see anything wrong with us trying to kill each other. They assume that means it is okay for them to kill us for convenience, too.
  39. Ant hills are potentially immortal, and push society towards longer-term thinking. Greater investment in the long term future, environmental stewardship, and expansion beyond Earth ensue.
  40. Ant hills become the majority of astronauts, since they are better able to survive conditions in space and spaceships.
  41. Ant hill colonies begin terraforming the other worlds of the solar system, mining asteroids, and preparing the way for humans to join them.
  42. Alternatively, ant hills take over the solar system, and leave Earth and its orbit as a preserve for humans.
  43. Humans invest heavily in Neuralink-like technologies to obtain the observed benefits of hive-mind capabilities.
  44. Observation of immortality in ant hills leads humans to accept that they want it, too, and that wanting it isn’t evil. Greater acceptance of cryonics, more anti-aging research.
  45. Observation of intelligence in non-human forms and without well-defined body plans increased scope of the body-modding community. Custom organs, prosthetics, and other modifications beyond more common and sophisticated.
  46. Anteaters mysteriously go extinct.
  47. Anteaters become domesticated animals, and/or form a symbiotic relationship with ant hills like cleaner fish with larger sea creatures.
  48. Humans use the principles of ant hill intelligence to figure out how to uplift other species, starting with eusocial insects, then maybe naked mole rats, and continuing to trees, which think slowly but similarly benefit from chemical communication and a flexible body plan. This turns out to be much simpler increasing intelligence in individual mammals like apes, dogs, or dolphins.
  49. Ant hills domesticate other insect species, like termites or bees, and take over key industries including landscaping, agriculture, pest control, and forestry.
  50. Multipartite ant hill minds prove highly effective at understanding ecological systems and enable humans to better evaluate the environmental impacts of our decisions.
Learning flirting with an acting coach - thoughts?

What are your specific goals here? 

If you want to close a gap between who you believe you are and how you present yourselves to others in certain situations, I think that there's a good chance coaching can help.

If you want to change who you are to match your own ideal of who you want to be, that may be possible, but much harder.

If you want to get dates, it's probably possible to learn to fake your way well enough to do that. But be careful when, where, and how you do that, because it's very easy for that path to get pretty dark. 

If you want to find a partner, though, you don't just want to be attractive to "women," you want to find the subset of women who will be a good match for you, and around whom you can be yourself. See for a much better discussion than I could ever manage.

What is the actual feasibility of a unified world order?

I think, like every other proposed utopia to date, any such system would 1) be horrible to live under, since it's would need to be a near-totalitarian system ruling over a large, non-homogeneous population nonconsensually, and 2) fall apart in five minutes through in-fighting, since no one actually has the ability to control what billions of people think and believe and do.

Also, your question depends heavily on drawing a boundary between culture and ideology that I suspect is fuzzier in practice than that. Suppose you succeed in unifying every human, and we all agree to live by a single set of ideals. What happens next? We have to figure out how to apply them, and how to resolve disagreements about how to apply them, because any ideals worth living by are complicated, and humans are not logically omniscient. We have to teach the next generation those ideals, and persuade or coerce them to live by them. Even if you define your system with mathematical precision, and go full Shining Garden, average humans will just be abiding by the output of a decision-making process they can't independently reproduce, and (after a while) much of which happened before they were born - aka culture.

Side note: the use of passive voice in your question is a big red flag for me. Who does the removing? 

Similarly, "the system of opposing beliefs" sidesteps the whole problem that (like Moloch), it isn't so much a system, no one instantiated it, it's just a consequence of us all being able to think and learn and not leading identical lives or having identical drives, wants, and needs.

Still, my answer is: trivially yes, that scenario would result in unification, but by default I would be extremely strongly opposed to any path that led in that direction, and would need a heck of a lot of convincing to even consider any proposal of that sort.

It turns out that group meetings are mostly a terrible way to make decisions

I am 100% in agreement with TheMajor's and Mathisco's comments on power, status, and enforcing cooperation.

I just wanted to comment on these lines:

  • Having leaders suppress their own opinions at the start of deliberations and explicitly express a desire to hear new information
  • Setting cultural norms that encourage critical thinking and productive disagreement

Implementing this requires a greater degree of trust in the honesty and intentions of management, fellow employees, and future outcomes of things like promotion and hiring/firing decisions than I have ever experienced anywhere I've worked, or anywhere most people I know have worked. Even if your boss really does believe this would be a better way to make decisions, doing something different opens up everyone involved to being first in line for scapegoating when something goes wrong, and last in line for promotion if they're seen as a threat to the jobs of the higher-ups. In most meetings I've been in, everyone with any savvy at all knows this, and will only express their own opinions if they're already very secure in their status within a meeting (or if they're relative outsiders or newcomers able to frame opinion or criticism as a question).

Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong

I honestly wasn't sure how to answer the memory question, because although I remember lots of things well, they don't seem to be organized or attached to each other the way they seem to be for other people around me. A person's name, face, and story might all be things I know, but I don't easily link them to each other. I remember the (complicated) names of characters from hundreds of fantasy and sci-fi novels I read 10-20 years ago, and have near-photographic memory of the location of every item in my refrigerator (yes, refrigerator specifically, not the pantry cabinets around it), but routinely forget where I put my keys/phone/wallet/mug/etc. The other night I was talking about a bunch of similar places I've been along a route, and I remembered images of each one, and the set of street names they were all on, but had no idea which was which, or where they were geographically in relation to each other. 

As far as unusual mental experience, I went through a years-long period of depression without realizing it had happened. I gradually lost most emotions and didn't notice. I lost much of my senses of smell and taste. I lost a lot of my ability to distinguish specific sounds and visual features in my environment (I'd look right at a field and not see the bright red flowers, or in one notable instance, the tree that had fallen into a house). At its worst I thought I had had a stroke, because one day my reaction time slowed by at least a factor of 2-3, I had trouble doing basic tasks like paying at the grocery store, and when people spoke to me I sometimes heard the individual sounds but they didn't form words in my head. That part lasted about a week. All of those symptoms went away in one moment three days after I started taking antidepressants, and since I got the dosage right, they've never been back for more than a few hours at times when I missed a dose and am extremely stressed or tired. Also in that first month on antidepressants I reread Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha and made more progress in my meditation practice than I ever had before or since (extremely clear experiences of what he describes as all eight jhanas and all the stages leading up to stream entry), like I cleared a blockage and released a flood of potential I'd been building up for years.

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