I'm an aspiring EA / rationalist. My previous posts were intended in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way (but conveying ideas I take seriously) - future posts will endeavour to lay out my ideas more clearly/ in keeping with LW norms.

Wiki Contributions


Of course, but there reaches a level of sun exposure at which the marginal increased harm becomes negligible compared to other things that damage your skin (see this meta-analysis - photo-aging is just one component among many), and below that level you're probably actually getting suboptimal levels of UV exposure for skin health (see this article for benefits of UV - from Norway, aptly). 

I'd love to see someone try to measure and compare the specific trade-offs, but I strongly suspect that people at northern latitudes should just trust common sense - only wear sunscreen in summer months, and when you're actually exposed to the sun for extended periods. 

Answer by Dzoldzaya30

I know LW is US/ California heavy, but just as a counter to all the sunscreen advocates here, daily sunscreen use is probably unnecessary, and possibly actively harmful, in winter and/or at northern latitudes. 

There doesn't seem to be much data on using sunscreen when there's no real risk to skin, but you can find a modelling study here:

"There is little biological justification in terms of skin health for applying sunscreen over the 4–6 winter months at latitudes of 45° N and higher (most of Europe, Canada, Hokkaido, Inner Mongolia etc.) whereas year-round sunscreen is advised at latitudes of 30° N (e.g. Southern U.S., Shanghai, North Africa) and lower ... Using products containing UV filters over the winter months at more northerly latitudes could lead to a higher number of people with vitamin D deficiency."

Although most approved sunscreens are generally seen as safe, there are potential systemic health risks from a few products, some proven environmental harms, a potentially increased risk of vit-D deficiency, and some time/financial costs. 

There should be a question at the end: "After seeing your results, how many of the previous responses did you feel a strong desire to write a comment analyzing/refuting?" And that's the actual rationalist score...

But I'm interested that there might be a phenomenon here where the median LWer is more likely to score highly on this test, despite being less representative of LW culture, but core, more representative LWers are unlikely to score highly. 

Presumably there's some kind of power law with LW use (10000s of users who use LW for <1 hour a month, only 100s of users who use LW for 100+ hours a month). 

I predict that the 10000s of less active community members are probably more likely to give "typical" rationalist answers to these questions: "Yeah, (religious) people stupid, ghosts not real, technology good". The 100s of power users, who are actually more representative of a distinctly LW culture, are less likely to give these answers.

I got 9/24, by the way.


I think your intuitions are generally correct, and as I say, it's usually a good heuristic to avoid overly processed food. In the absence of other evidence, if you're in a food market where everything is edible, you should probably opt for the less processed option. I also don't disagree with it playing a role in national health guidelines.

But it's a very imprecise heuristic, and I think LessWrong-ers with aspirations to understand the world more accurately should feel a bit uncomfortable with it, especially when benign and beneficial processes are lumped together with those with much clearer mechanisms for harm. 


Thanks for this piece. I admit I have always had a bit of residual aversion to seed oils that I've struggled to shake.

Having said that, as you're pushing so strongly against seed oils in favour of "processing" as a mechanism for poor health, I think I need to push back a bit.

If you want to be healthier, we know ways you can change your diet that will help: Increase your overall diet “quality”. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed food. Especially avoid processed meats. 

"Avoid processed food" works very well as a heuristic - far better than anything like the "nutrition pyramid", avoiding saturated fats/sugars or calorie counting etc. But it also seems like something that should annoy people who like clear thinking and taxonomies. 

As you note, "processing" includes hundreds of processes, most of which have no plausible mechanism by which they might harm human health. Articles describing the ultra-processed taxonomy often just list a litany of bad-sounding things without an explanation why they're bad e.g. "mechanically separated meat", "chemical modifications" and "industrial techniques". Most of these are either benign when you think about it (we'd all prefer a strong man wearing a vest separating our meat with his bare hands, but come now...), or so vague as to be uninformative.   

If ultra-processed foods are bad because they contain "hydrogenated oil, modified starch, protein isolate, and high-fructose corn syrup" or "various cosmetic additives for flavour enhancement and colour", then it's these products that are bad, not some mysterious processing! 

If it is some technical part of the processing, like "hydrolysis, hydrogenation, extrusion, moulding, or pre-frying" that's bad, surely we should just identify that rather than lumping everything together? 

If it's some emergent outcome of all these processes, like "hyper-palatability" or "energy density", then that's the problem, not the fact of being "processed". If so we should all stop eating strawberries after they hit a certain deliciousness threshold, and avoid literally any edible oil (because all oil is identically energy-dense). 

But, having said that, I still use this heuristic, and I'm pretty glad I trained myself out of preferring highly-processed food when I was less analytical. 

Ah, thanks, okay, I get it now. That's a very different proposition! Updated my post.

MoviePass users are selected for seeing a lot of movies. If MoviePass makes a business plan that models users as average people, it will lose a lot of money. Conditional on someone wanting to buy MoviePass, MoviePass probably should not want them as a customer.

I'm going to nitpick here and note that the marginal cost to the cinema of allowing in an extra customer is often close to zero, seeing as most films don't sell out. It may even be positive, if they spend money on popcorn and drinks, and invite their friends who don't have a pass. 

It seems from that article that the failure in the business model was partly that MoviePass was just badly managed, partly that people were abusing the system in various ways by scalping/ selling tickets/ getting hundreds of people using the same service.  

I checked my local cinema chain and they started running an 'Unlimited' service over a decade ago, and it's still in use, so I think it remains a valid model. 

Correction: I understand the MoviePass model now and the adverse selection argument makes more sense. Cinemas with a subscription model can work even with a high proportion of power users, but that's because the externalities (popcorn, drinks, inviting friends) accrue to the cinema. 


I presume the stated goal of schooling your child in this way is to set the grown-up's mind at ease, rather than ensuring the child is left alone (which is probably the default outcome), and I expect both responses would suffice for this instrumental purpose.


Technically true, but it's a very unagentic way for a five-year old to respond to something they should have the capability to justify through argument. 

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