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It seems possible that the OpenWorm project to emulate the brain of a C. Elegans flatworm on a classical computer may yield results prior to the advent of experimental techniques capable of " probing the CNS at ... sub-picosecond timescales." Would you consider a successful emulation of worm behavior evidence against the need for quantum effects in neuronal function, or would you declare it the worm equivalent of a P-Zombie?


Capitol One offers savings accounts yielding 0.75% APY with no minimum deposit. I've used them for over 10 years with no hassles. Your general point about low yields still applies, though.

I would estimate an opportunity cost of 3 hours per year to set up the account, shuffle money around, periodically monitor the balance, and pay taxes on the interest. This opportunity cost will vary depending on how efficient one is with paperwork. Whether this is worthwhile depends on the size of the emergency fund and the alternative options for increasing marginal income via an equivalent time investment.


I would seriously not be surprised to find that fat people have starved to death without their fat cells releasing fat, and blinded by preconceptions, nobody managed to notice or note down when this occurred. But I would expect that to be rare - most people, if their body tells them they're starving to death, will eat. This gets cited as weakness of will.

What outcomes would this metabolic hypothesis predict for obese people who undergo gastric bypass surgeries which render them physically incapable of eating much? What percentage of these patients would be expected to die of malnutrition? What effect on their body composition would be expected?

After working out the predictions of this hypothesis, are they consistent with what actually happens?


Lots of people have system 1 processes governing calorie intake and expenditure that are maladaptive within their current environment. It's possible to overrule these maladaptive impulses with system 2, but that imposes lots of cognitive load so most people are only able to sustain such efforts for a short time before reverting.

The article describes the common experience of people who temporarily go on medically supervised diets. Once they are left to their own devices, bereft of the external support and close supervision, they rely entirely on ongoing effort from system 2 to regulate their intake and expenditure. This eventually fails when limited system 2 resources get allocated to other tasks leaving system 1 to prevail.

Wealthy people can reliably obtain good long-term outcomes by hiring a nutritionally savvy chef and a good personal trainer, thereby creating an durable external regulatory system that doesn't require ongoing conscious supervisory effort from their system 2.

Of course it is unfair that some people's system 1 drives are wildly maladaptive, while others' require only minor correction. File a support ticket to the Blind Idiot God. If you choose not to wait for the bug to be patched, however, then you must spend your system 2 effort wisely. Spend it upfront to impose prudent structure and routine around diet and exercise with the goal of minimizing the day-to-day, minute-to-minute supervisory effort required.


I find this claim surprising. It is not obvious what evidence or line of reasoning would lead to this conclusion.

On the population level, it is my understanding that people today (in industrialized western nations) have much higher likelihood of being overweight or obese at a given age than their very recent ancestors from 2-3 generations ago. Given the short time frame, this is likely due to changes in diet or activity level rather than inescapable genetic destiny.

Individual metabolisms will certainly differ. However, I believe that having a body composition at least as good as one's great-grandparents should be possible for most people. Is there evidence against this?


By the time you're diagnosed with Y it's way too late to do anything.

OK, that's probably true. It is also true in the case of deficiencies arising from a more conventional diet however. How frequently do micronutrient deficiencies occur under regular diets? How is the chance of timely detection and intervention affected by controlled intake in conjunction with deliberate ongoing monitoring versus an unmonitored ad libitum diet?

Let's consider two contrasting propositions regarding diet and nutrition: A) Consuming a varied diet of naturally occurring, unprocessed foods prevents micronutrient deficiencies. B) Deliberately engineered supplementation prevents micronutrient deficiencies.

Before reading on, take a moment to consider how much confidence you have in proposition A versus B.

Since you introduced the example of iodine deficiency, let's consider it in more depth. The Wikipedia page on iodine deficiency indicates: "According to World Health Organization, in 2007, nearly 2 billion individuals had insufficient iodine intake ..."

Furthermore, this deficiency appears to be common even in wealthy industrialized countries where a wide variety of food is readily available: "In a study of the United Kingdom published in 2011, almost 70% of test subjects were found to be iodine deficient."

The article proceeds to explain that iodine deficiency is addressed by deliberately and artificially introducing supplemental iodine into the food supply.

I'm shocked to learn just how widespread iodine deficiency is among people eating a "normal" diet (I would have guessed less than 10% prevalence). It seems like traditional diets do a startlingly poor job of avoiding this particular deficiency. I'm updating my beliefs in favor of proposition B over A in light of this data.


I suspect most people considering Soylent aren't exactly eating like Michael Pollan in the first place. Anecdotally, I know several people who subsist on diets of fast-food takeout washed down by multiple liters of soda. It seems credible that Soylent might at least provide better nutrition than that. The scorn directed at Soylent by many of the Hacker News commenters strikes me as misdirected given the relatively poor quality diet of many Americans.

I have used other commercially available meal replacement shakes in the past - most don't even attempt to deliver complete nutrition beyond covering each of the major macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat). There seems to be room for improvement and innovation in this market.

The guinea pigs for Soylent aren't going to be on a multi-month voyage across the ocean or the antarctic tundra without access to other food. If they do encounter deficiency issues, they can simply reintroduce other foods without suffering catastrophic effects. It takes a special kind of stubborn to really deprive yourself to the point of serious deficiency.


I also think that the variant of the problem featuring an actual mugger is about scam recognition.

Suppose you get an unsolicited email claiming that a Nigerian prince wants to send you a Very Large Reward worth $Y. All you have to do is send him a cash advance of $5 first ...

I analyze this as a straightforward two-player game tree via the usual minimax procedure. Player one goes first, and can either pay $5 or not. If player one chooses to pay, then player two goes second, and can either pay Very Large Reward $Y to player one, or he can run away with the cash in hand. Under the usual minimax assumptions, player 2 is obviously not going to pay out! Crucially, this analysis does not depend on the value for Y.

The analysis for Pascal's mugger is equivalent. A decision procedure that needs to introduce ad hoc corrective factors based on the value of Y seems flawed to me. This type of situation should not require an unusual degree of mathematical sophistication to analyze.

When I list out the most relevant facts about this scenario, they include the following: (1) we received an unsolicited offer (2) from an unknown party from whom we won't be able to seek redress if anything goes wrong (3) who can take our money and run without giving us anything verifiable in return.

That's all we need to know. The value of Y doesn't matter. If the mugger performs a cool and impressive magic trick we may want to tip him for his skillful street performance. We still shouldn't expect him to payout Y.

I generally learn a lot from the posts here, but in this case I think the reasoning in the post confuses rather than enlightens. When I look back on my own life experiences, there are certainly times when I got scammed. I understand that some in the Less Wrong community may also have fallen victim to scams or fraud in the past. I expect that many of us will likely be subject to disingenuous offers by unFriendly parties in the future. I respectfully suggest that knowing about common scams is a helpful part of a rationalist's training. It may offer a large benefit relative to other investments.

If my analysis is flawed and/or I've missed the point of the exercise, I would appreciate learning why. Thanks!


Friendly neighborhood Matrix Lord checking in!

I'd like to apologize for the behavior of my friend in the hypothetical. He likes to make illusory promises. You should realize that regardless of what he may tell you, his choice of whether to hit the green button is independent of your choice of what to do with your $5. He may hit the green button and save 3↑↑↑3 lives, or he may not, at his whim. Your $5 can not be reliably expected to influence his decision in any way you can predict.

You are no doubt accustomed to thinking about enforceable contracts between parties, since those are a staple of your game theoretic literature as well as your storytelling traditions. Often, your literature omits the requisite preconditions for a binding contract since they are implicit or taken for granted in typical cases. Matrix Lords are highly atypical counterparties, however, and it would be a mistake to carry over those assumptions merely because his statements resemble the syntactic form of an offer between humans.

Did my Matrix Lord friend (who you just met a few minutes ago!) volunteer to have his green save-the-multitudes button and your $5 placed under the control of a mutually trustworthy third party escrow agent who will reliably uphold the stated bargain?

Alternately, if my Matrix Lord friend breaches his contract with you, is someone Even More Powerful standing by to forcibly remedy the non-performance?

Absent either of the above conditions, is my Matrix Lord friend participating in an iterated trading game wherein cheating on today's deal will subject him to less attractive terms on future deals, such that the net present value of his future earnings would be diminished by more than the amount he can steal from you today?

Since none of these three criteria seem to apply, there is no deal to be made here. The power asymmetry enables him to do whatever he feels like regardless of your actions, and he is just toying with you! Do you really think your $5 means anything to him? He'll spend it making 3↑↑↑3 paperclips for all you know.

Your $5 will not exert any predictable causal influence on the fate of the hypothetical 3↑↑↑3 Matrix Lord hostages. Decision theory doesn't even begin to apply.

You should stick to taking boxes from Omega; at least she has an established reputation for paying out as promised.

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