All of Cosmos's Comments + Replies

“we should be clear about what observations his theory strongly predicts, and rapid weight loss on unpalatable diets is just not one of them.”

It is worth noting that Guyenet sells a diet plan, which includes a bland food diet as a weight loss strategy, as well as exercise (which he has claimed is ineffective/unrelated to weight loss):

Brief note: the 5% unearned income tax in NH is I believe only interest and dividend income, not capital gains. Obviously having lots of dividend income from stocks would be slightly less attractive, but at least for now most crypto gains are in capital appreciation. As the ecosystem switches more to staking and such and we don’t see huge bubbles maybe that calculus will change.

We recently moved to Reno, and I think it does better on some metrics than others.

It’s much more affordable and free to build if you want to do your own custom thing. Prices are rising a lot because folks are fleeing CA to move here, and that makes the locals unhappy (and could generate future tech blow back potentially), but being able to build more housing will eventually help. I could see traffic becoming an issue eventually, but right now there isn’t anywhere in the city that’s >30 drive away, which is mind blowing to me! Since it’s much easier to b... (read more)

I know, right?? laughs

Then someone pointed out that since we responded out loud, there may have been an anchoring effect here.

This is standard epistemic hygiene - have everyone come up with an answer quietly before saying it out loud. (I suspect our natural inclination against lying is enough to keep people honest.)

To continue with the bias theme, how about confirmation bias? They settled on the most available theory that fits all the facts, and then it becomes part of their identity, they begin to rally the soldiers. Is their delusion that they are Jesus really that much less sticky than someone's political party?

Seems unlikely. First, confirmation bias has its limits and normally is never capable beating direct observational evidence. Second, people basing their identity on their being Jesus sounds like a plausible idea, but identity based on the fact that my arm isn't paralysed not that much. Third, it takes some time to associate own identity and status feeling with an idea - one doesn't become political partisan overnight - while the anosognosic delusions emerge immediately after the brain is damaged (well, I suppose this is so, but I can easily be mistaken here).

TDCS isn't depolarizing neurons with magnetism, it doesn't disable brain regions at all. Instead it is running a direct current across them. This appears to permanently increase or decrease its level of excitability. o_O

Yvain, it seems like some of this is potentially answered by how this interacts with other cognitive biases present.

Re: specific delusions, when you have an entire class of equally-explanatory hypotheses, how do you choose between them? The availability heuristic! These hypotheses do have to come from somewhere inside the neural network after all. You could argue that availability is a form of "priors", but these "priors" are formed on the level of neurons themselves and not a specific brain region: some connection strengths are stronge... (read more)

I can give some personal anecdotes regarding salvia if you are interested. If I had to come up with a rationalist explanation to the experience, I would say that the affected consciousness accepts, without question, fantastically generated priors as absolute truth, and largely ignoring actual external sensory input, and even then modifying it to fit the delusion.
5Scott Alexander11y
Availability heuristic seems related, but still doesn't explain why delusions are so much more fixed than ordinary conclusions. I think dreams are also a good parallel for psychosis, but it's hard to tell how good without having been psychotic.

I had the exact same thought myself back in 2008, so I asked an experimental psych professor about this. At the same, he said that the TMS devices that we had are somewhat wide-area and also induce considerable muscle activation. This doesn't matter very much when studying the occipital lobe, but for the prefrontal cortex you basically start scrunching up the person's face, which is fairly distracting. Maybe worth trying anyway.

I've wanted to get my hands on a TMS device for years. Building one at home does not seem particularly feasible, and the magnetism involved is probably dangerous for nearby metal/electronics...

I had a very similar thought while reading this post. I have the Shakti system, maybe this weekend I'll target my RDPC with various frequencies and see what happens.

Building one at home does not seem particularly feasible, and the magnetism involved is probably dangerous for nearby metal/electronics...

A few minutes on Google makes this seem very unlikely.

I'm scared as hell to induce currents in my brain without knowing the neurobiology of it, but I do understand the electrical engineering half, so if you want an electromagnet and driver, I'll help you build one.

2Scott Alexander11y
I don't know the technical differences between TMS and TDCS, but looks promising.

EDIT: now you can get a free credit score from with no strings attached. Welcome to the future!

You can get a free credit report once/year here:

This will give you your full credit history, but not an actual FICO score.

You can get a free FICO score by signing up for this trial:

...and then printing up a copy and immediately cancelling it here:

In my own search, I used this free general rental application:

http://www.ezland... (read more)


Thanks for the excellent idea! I did in fact email Lukeprog personally to let him know. :)


"Applications for a contribution of pro bono professional services must be made by Deloitte personnel. To be considered for a pro bono engagement, a nonprofit organization (NPO) with a 501c3 tax status must have an existing relationship with Deloitte through financial support, volunteerism, Deloitte personnel serving on its Board of Directors or Trustees, or a partner, principal or director (PPD) sponsor (advocate for the duration of the engagement). External applications for this program are not accepted. Organizations that do not curre... (read more)

You might want to pm this directly to lukeprog to make sure that he sees this comment. Since you replied to Vaniver, he may have not seen it, and this seems important enough to merit the effort.

Actually, if you're interested in improving your social skills, check out the rest of our website!

Click the "Social Effectiveness Book" on the top link to read our free book online.

Dear Cosmos Thank you for you answer. I'm not too shabby, that is I can easily turn a stranger into an acquaintance or lover. It's from acquaintance to friend, and finding acquaintances I'd like to be friends with that I could improve (which translates to chapters 4 and 5 of your book, which sadly are not available). Please do update when they are.

Oddly enough, I decided to read the book after I had already optimized my social skills. It was basically a recap of most of what I already had stumbled upon! I realized it would only take me several more hours to summarize what I had read, so decided to do it to provide value for others.

I read this on a mailing list, and unsurprisingly would like to read future developments on a mailing list. :)

Or at least, that's how I'm most likely to find out such a development would exist. In practice I think I would read it on either email or a webpage.

This seems like very little evidence as far as I am concerned.

It claims that eating a higher-fat diet increased cholesterol. This is what I would expect, and I am also entirely unconvinced that this is remotely harmful. They don't even break up "cholesterol" into the relevant subtypes! Was this an increase in HDL or triglycerides? They rely on a section of the paper to claim that the link between higher cholesterol and cardiovascular mortality is well-established... but then why didn't they make a study showing increased CVD or all-cause mortalit... (read more)

Thanks! I'll go ahead and not update. Unfortunately, I feel a little smug about not updating, and Eliezer has pointed out that, to avoid confirmation bias, you should only congratulate yourself when you do update your beliefs. So I'll try to have LW pick apart the next pro-Atkins study I see too.
This is also a huge epidemiological study that showed lower cholesterol INCREASED risk for death from cardiovascular disease in women. In men, cholesterol and death followed a U-shaped curve, so men with the highest and lowest cholesterol were at increased risk for death. Of course, with the caveat that this is also not a randomized trial and thus not quality evidence, it does call into question whether the increase in cholesterol seen in the 1st study was a good thing or a bad thing. We have higher quality data from randomized trials that show Statins, which lower cholesterol, don't reduce mortality when used for primary prevention.

I have also found Eat That Frog to be an unusually good collection of the major productivity techniques. Incidentally, I also heard about the book from Patri via Divia.

For a shorter and more rationality-friendly version of the book, I summarized it here:


The link didn't work for me today. Does it have a new home, by any chance?
I second that thank you! Usually self-help books are way too fluffy for me to end up finishing (much less implementing), hopefully some of this will stick. Looks good so far :D

Great summary; just read it and bookmarked it. Much thanks for writing this. I had thought I needed to reread Eat That Frog but had been reluctant to take the hours required; now I don't have to.

I meant humanity at large, and I expect the rationalist community to follow suit.

I have two couches, so you can crash at my place that weekend as well.

If anyone else is interested, I am sure other members of the community will step up to host. :)

Awesome, thanks!

What do you call someone who generates positive externalities?

A compromise might be to call people by a descriptive term, such as the ones DavidAgain suggests, describe their accomplishments and effect on the external world in detail (much as you have done in your original post), and leave it up to the reader to decide on the magnitude of their impact, and their virtue. The only downside to this approach is that it wouldn't make for such "good writing" to some. I guess what I'm really suggesting here is to tone down the rhetoric. I understand that some people might be impelled into action by it, but I think it's approaching Dark Arts territory.
Depends on the context: a chef, a doctor, an artist a lover, an author...

I agree that associating with PUA is distasteful and an immediate fail, and have removed the link from the post. The link is here:

Social phenomena exist like anything else and can be analyzed, but how it is discussed matters almost entirely. It is a high-status behavior to make observations about social phenomena, but analysis sends a bad signal.

I don't think it's bad to analyze social phenomena. I do think it's bad to engage in or endorse (unwanted) sexually manipulative behavior. I also think it's bad to equate distaste for unwanted sexually manipulative behavior with distaste for analysis.

Me + 1 coming in from NYC! :)

We were not sure how exactly to accomplish this, but if you could convince someone that the outcomes in their life were primarily a result of their effort (instead of being dictated by external circumstances), that could motivate them to try harder.

Ah, thanks. Though the flipside of that might be that it might convince them that past failures prove that they're a lost cause.

It doesn't sound like fun to you, which implies you didn't try it. FWIW, everyone who participated in the game thought that was one of the most fun meetups we have had to date. I greatly enjoyed the activity myself. The fast pace kept everyone fully engaged in the activity, and the rotating topic kept the conversation from getting bogged down. Cognitive biases are a topic of interest for our rationalist group, doing this alone instead of with a group of friends might indeed be less fun, but as you pointed out still quite useful.

Seconded - I was one of the participants and it was, indeed, fun. There were plenty of laughs, and even if there hadn't been, hanging out with good people and learning counts as fun in my book.

Do you mean to say that you became aware of biases, internalized your belief in their importance, gathered the relevant info, became familiar with LW norms about style and tone, and wrote the article, all in one hour?

Certainly there were a lot of prerequisites that went into being able to do this exercise, and I did not mean to imply that everything that went into writing the above article itself was only one hour in total. The people here in the LW community are highly likely to have the prerequisites to do this exercise without additional time invest... (read more)

FWIW, the LW NYC group holds regular game nights, and uses poker specifically as a rationality training ground. If you make the correct EV decisions, the pure statistics really will get you a long way. The rest, well...

In retrospect, I think there was quite a bit of this going on with regards to my play vis a vis Turkey.

Russia here.

This game was an interesting experience for me. I was completely unfamiliar with Diplomacy coming in, and it came at a point in my life when I was incredibly busy with other things. I didn't even realize the game was beginning until it was hours before the first turn was going to end. I exerted no effort whatsoever to learn the rules or any basic strategic considerations until several turns into the game! During that point my play was entirely experimental, playing around with different diplomatic styles, seeing how people would react to th... (read more)

In retrospect, I think there was quite a bit of this going on with regards to my play vis a vis Turkey.

From my reading of the anthropology literature, some cultures are sex-positive and some cultures are sex-negative. The first google hit for "anthropology sex positive" is an anthro textbook which lists a bunch of examples of different attitudes towards sexuality, including some where it is encouraged and considered odd if promiscuity is not pursued.

Thanks! :D Congratulations are very much in order. Life is good right now.

I have wondered about that drive myself actually. I have always been strongly internally motivated, as far back as I can remember, much moreso than any external force has ever applied to me. I feel a strong need to optimize within all of my constraints, of which I feel time is the most binding. I identify very strongly with this drive, it seems very useful, and I have made enormous improvements in my life over the last few years since discovering rationalism.

Having fun definite... (read more)

I am actually facing this same problem myself. My personal life also got very interesting, and incredibly enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that I really don't want to do anything other than just enjoy myself and have even more fun!

My motivation has shifted entirely from getting things done to having fun, and the thought of doing anything significant to further my long-run interests seems too hard to bother doing. For the first time I can think of, I am now suffering from meta-akrasia: I know there are techniques I could use that would increase my produ... (read more)

Heh. Personally, my inclination here is to say "congratulations!" I do understand that you're framing this as a problem, and I don't mean to dismiss that, but... well, I am curious about whence the "strong pressure to utilize every moment" that you feel, and why you choose to identify with/endorse it. Relatedly: you seem to imply that having fun isn't utilizing moments. I'm curious about where that idea comes from, as well.

MKP's public image is determined almost entirely by their detractors, as they have no publicity team to put a more positive image out there or respond to these incidents. That incident in particular was about a business owner forcing his employees to join, I don't think that reflects on MKP itself. There have been other high-profile incidents in the news as well, I am sure you can Google them easily enough.

My experience with them has been positive, everything is voluntary and opting out is completely respected. They certainly don't take a rationalist ap... (read more)

I haven't done much with it yet. One of my CrossFit coaches was a Z-Health expert, his warmups often involved developing our kinesthetic senses and seemed helpful in developing movement patterns.

Hire PJEby to teach you guys emotional awareness/control. The Mankind Project uses some similar psychological techniques, which has helped me actually put what I read from PJ into practice, but is male-only and not rational in its approach.

Another kinesthetic practice to consider is Z-Health.

There are tons of PUA instructors, but that is an expensive route. Maybe some of the more successful in the community can volunteer some training. Is there an mPUA in the house?

Zvi thinks very highly of hypnosis as a psychological tool, I would consider that as well.

I've spoken with Eby. Would love to run a retreat with him eventually, possibly with other partners but would need to take some more time to work out details.
Wait. Isn't The Mankind Project the one that has been at the center of the... controversy surrounding the lawyer and the forced retreat? The articles I read on the issue made it sound like they used cult tactics and were variously disreputable. Would you care to share your experience?
Have you done anything with Z Health yourself? It looks promising.

My schedule is basically once daily eating with substantial randomness. Usually I have a large dinner in the evening, with snacking as desired until bedtime, so a ~4 hour daily feeding window. The size of the meal varies quite a bit, some days are in the calorie restriction zone. The content varies too, sometimes I have a low-protein day. Sometimes I eat both lunch and dinner, sometimes I fast the entire day. I have not yet fasted longer than two days, but I plan to try an extended 4+ day fast eventually.

I have been eating a high-fat paleo+dairy diet with intermittent fasting, and doing high-intensity interval training. This diet/exercise combination has drastically increased my energy level. I'm also very committed to getting >8 hours of sleep/night.

Unfortunately no standing desk at work, but I want one. I have felt for a long time I think and converse better when walking around.

Can you describe your fasting schedule?
Just buy two footstools, place both on your desk and put your monitor on one and your mouse and keyboard on the other, or use piles of wide books to transform your ordinary desk into a standing desk.

In my experience there tend to be several quiet members of a group, who don't speak much in the group setting but will talk in one-on-one settings. It could be a fun exercise to break up into pairs, and have each pair chat individually for a period of time, before rejoining the group conversation.

This would be useful just to build stronger connections between individual members of the group, but it is especially useful if you're trying to have a focused discussion. Usually a few voices end up dominating, and if that occurs from the very beginning only a few ideas get discussed.

We are doing quite well as a community, but we didn't actually start living together. That is another level of immersion entirely.

I tried and failed to start a rationality lair in NYC. Too many people wanted their own apartment, and could not agree on a single location, even within one city. But I remain hopeful.

That's a shame, I'd heard it was going well.

My all-absorbing narrow interest is optimization.

No, they tell you to do this, and to stop doing that. You don't need the theory, you need instruction, and then you'll internalize high-status behaviors. (Although we did talk very briefly about theory - tribal mentality, alpha males, status.)

It is explicit about status being a variable, though, if that's what you're asking. For example, one of the exercises was role-play: we got assigned high- or low-status and had to act out a scene.

Pickup 101

Edit: they offer more than one, I took Art of Attraction.

Your'e saying that one talks about it specifically in terms of the impact of social cues on status signals, and how to classify various cues as revealing high or low status?

You're not the first person to ask me this, but there are obvious difficulties in conveying exactly what is going on when I do this.

The first step is becoming consciously aware of the phenomenon. Once this occurs, I begin to recognize it immediately when I do it. I then think to myself how I should have responded instead. Over multiple iterations of the above, I begin to internalize this conscious correction as a new habit.

I first used this technique when I took a course on cognition in college and learned about cognitive biases. The availability heuristic was the first to go - I knew when I didn't have actual data on a phenomenon, making it ridiculously easy to spot.

Tentatively-- once you decide what you want to change, you put your focus on the change, and check for the outcome after you've taken action. I begin to suspect that one of my problems is assuming I know how a change will feel, and giving up on a change if I don't get the feeling.

I did not find reading websites particularly helpful in this regard. I have always been very "book smart" and I love to theorize about things, but I am coming to realize that implicit experiential knowledge is key for success in this world. It's easy to know what high/low status signals are, but it's much harder to become aware of them and know what to do to correct them. Yet it only took a couple hours of in-person training at the seminar to fix the majority of the bad signals.

Despite that nitpick I definitely agree with your point. I needed to construct a mental model of social interaction, and now I can ruthlessly optimize over that as well. I am greatly looking forward to it.

I came to the conclusion that I have autistic tendencies a long time ago - lack of understanding of social cues, constant pattern recognition, stuttering, habitual actions... Given the high autism rates in Silicon Valley, it seems likely to me that there is indeed a genetic component, and "high-functioning" autistics have a heterozygous genotype. (Although I don't think it's yet ruled out that it could be caused by some type of improper socialization.)

However, I seem to have an uncommon level of ability to self-modify (from my discussions with ... (read more)

What seminar? I had gone to a few of one particular PUA in person, and, though he was clearly very good, he was completely unable to articulate what it is he does, especially to autistic spectrum people. (Fortunately, he was understanding, and refunded everything.)
Can you describe the procedure you use when you self-modify?
This was also my experience; taking a seminar/reading websites on explicit theories of social interaction does make a very large difference. I think it is because once the AS person has a model to work within, they can bring in their strong systematizing ability, and even outperform the innate social instincts of NT people.

1) I can't work and starve at the same time.

That assumes you're starving during intermittent fasting. Many practitioners actually find that they are much more clear-headed when they have not eaten recently.

My guess is that you're equating hypoglycemia with hunger. I eat a paleo diet, which has low levels of dietary carbohydrates. This forces the body to use gluconeogenesis to meet its glucose needs. Because you're producing it endogenously, your blood sugar remains completely steady. You only suffer from hypoglycemia when you're dependent upon exogenous sources of glucose, forcing you to eat every few hours. I much prefer the freedom to eat whenever I want.

I just wanted to add myself as another data point: I have been low-carb for three months and I can vouch for this. (I also lost 10 kg) If only I had known this when I was a kid. So many mid-mornings at school, hungry (and suddenly sleepy) because of "healthy" breakast cereals!
There's prior discussion on this subject that you haven't read -- in particular, this.
I find that I'm more light-headed when I haven't eaten enough, but it's not the same as clear-headed.

I definitely agree that a forum would allow for more discussion, particularly of the less-momentous but still-beneficial topics. In particular, I think that discussions of actual strategies people have tried, what has worked and not worked, could actually be highly beneficial. I see them as data we need to collect in order to begin forming some kind of method for actually helping rationalists win in real world situations.

Even a general forum would be great - I wouldn't mind finding out what books and movies the rest of LW enjoys; this place is what turned me onto Torchwood. Though I could understand worries that it might distract from the core purpose of this site.

Learning from the mistakes of others.

Interestingly enough, Schumpeter essentially makes this argument in his Theory of Economic Development. He is against the view that humans have intrinsic discount rates, an innate time preference, which was one of the Austrian school's axioms. He thinks that interest is a phenomenon of economic development - resources need to be withdrawn from their customary usage, to allow entrepreneurs to find new combinations of things, and that requires compensation. Once this alternative use of resources is available, however, it becomes an opportunity cost for all other possible actions, which is the foundation of discount rates.

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