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Also, I wouldn’t ban orgies, that won’t work

I'm not sure on that point anymore. Monkeypox' spread seems so slow, and the fact that only men gets infected while the proportions of women who have sex with men having sex with men is not that narrow. I wonder if the spread of Monkeypox is not mostly driven by orgies/big events at the moment, and if it's not the best moment to do this. Though it might be a bit too late now, I think it'd have worked two-four weeks ago)

People can totally understand all of this, and also people mostly do understand most of this

On the other hand, the very fact that we say Monkeypox is spreading within the community of Men having Sex with Men is symbolic of the problem, to me. Being MSM and being in this monkeypox-spreading community is very correlated sure, but not synonymous, the cluster we're talking about is more specific: It's the cluster of people participating in orgies, have sex with other strangers several times a week, etc.

Seeing how we're still conflating the two in discussions I've seen, I can understand the worries that this will reflect on the non-straight community, though I do agree that this messaging makes little sense.


people mostly do understand most of this

I know four people who went to a sex-positive/kind of orgy event recently, this did not seem to be a concern to them (neither to the event itself, its safety consideration only included COVID). I also know someone who still had hookups two-three weeks ago.

It seems like the warning against monkeypox may be failing in the very community we're talking about.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if boiling the potatoes infused them with the peels and increased significantly the quantity of solanine I was consuming. An obvious confounder is that whole-boiled potatoes are less fun to eat than in more varied forms, so it doesn't discriminate with the "fun food" theory

Thanks a lot for the estimate, I'll look into recent studies of this to see what I find!

Isn't it common for people who fast for more than 3-5 days not to feel any hunger? I wonder if there's a similar mechanism here

very restrictive diets are very socially costly to follow. If you regularly eat from college dining halls, cafeterias at work, restaurants, other people's homes, etc. you'll have a very hard time following an all-potato diet.

To be fair to SMTM's potato diet, the idea is that it still works even if you cheat a lot.
That was somewhat my experience with the diet though, it makes social interaction a lot more awkward

semaglutide and tirzepatide alone would massively reduce obesity rates if they were more popular

I mean, the idea of a cheap, not very effortful and efficient life intervention still appeals to me. It might not be the most pressing problem, and it might not solve global obesity, but if it indeed does give a boost of energy in a safe and reliable way, that is already worth knowing.

"what would the cost/benefit analysis of address every single thing in this class of problems?",

I mean, that is why I included "More research to shrink our unknown unknowns" as a general category. I do not think the research needs to be thorough, 3-4 very broad general area would suffice, but even if that does not fit into the points you mention, a statement along the lines you mentioned could work. In general, I do not think that more than one-two hours should be spent on writing this warning.

As for "If at any point you get sick or begin having side effects, stop the diet immediately", that is indeed a good first step. My problem with it is that I am now understanding that you can develop side effects that indicate one should stop, that are not apparent unless you really track several variables intently. A general instruction to, in addition to doing one's own research, decide what to look for in advance could have worked.

You note that you felt obliged to keep going in order to provide better data

I want to note three things:

  • I did not feel pressured by SMTM either in their public or private communications at any point
  • That is not quite correct. I wanted to keep going for the data to be included as a data point, especially if the diet turned out not to work, which I thought it would not.
  • I had not noticed any side effects or problems at that point. I was tired of potatoes, but it was manageable.

Maybe I should better emphasize on what points I feel SMTM is responsible and on what points I do not. I do not feel that SMTM is responsible for my safety and what could have happened, or the impact of the diet on me. In fact, I do not believe SMTM to be responsible for anything me-related: I made my own choices, and the fact that I did not stop the diet sooner was my own mistake I am owning up to.

What I do feel is that SMTM had a very loose methodology in how they conducted their studies, were more trying to confirm their hypothesis than really challenge it, and as a result the data is quite muddled and probably not that useful.

The safety part is related in the sense that:

  • It might be that many potato diet's benefits are actually just coming from malnutrition. But if there were evidences of safety, that would not turn up to be a problem
  • It is relevant about what kind of preemptive research they made to decide whether the potato diet was worth it
  • For me at least, it goes with the general notion that it was very unclear what they were looking for

it feels unfair judging them on your specific case because they did tell you not to do it

I notice I'm very confused. SMTM said not to do it because of bipolarity:

Yeah, we would actually recommend people with bipolar disorder not enroll, both because there might be interactions with medication (especially if we’re right about the lithium thing) and because the potato diet seems to sometimes trigger hypomania even in people without bipolar

(The reason I chose to do it is that I am not under medication and that I am type 2 bipolar, not type 1)

I did end up with more pronounced bipolar symptoms - which I included here to give an exhaustive list of effects the diet has had on me - and that was fine for me because I was warned of the risks and that I had done a risk analysis based on this.

My concerns about refeeding syndrome and physical weakness, as far as I know, have nothing to do with bipolarity. Also, as far as I know, no permanent or drastic damage has been effected in me by all this. I am not writing this so much to say "this went very poorly" but much more that "this could have gone way worse"

I want more experiments in general

Maybe I have not been explicit enough about this, but I do too. There is a reason I was excited to sign up, and I am still very enthusiastic about decentralized science. One of the concern I had in publishing this is that I do not want for the cost of such groups to run an experiment to be too high.

I want this data

(I am a little unsure how exploitable the data are at the moment, besides the weight loss. I think this is in big part because of the exploration/exploitation uncertainty mentioned above, and that had they gone in either direction more clearly, the data would have been a lot more useful)

But if we want this kind of data at all we either need to accept those costs, or become more willing to participate in experiments with accurate caveats.

So to be clear: If SMTM had written in big capital letters "we have not researched into any of the following:

  • The best practices to stop a diet
  • Whether potatoes are safe to consume in big quantities for an extended period of time
  • What kind of signs to look for that are clear indications you should stop
  • More research to shrink our unknown unknowns

If you sign up for this diet, you understand that we do not know anything and have no ideas about any of these points or any others that are not mentioned in our post."

Then I would have been completely fine with it. My issue is that there were little to no communication about either what was unsafe, or their level of knowledge about the safety of the diet.

Also, this would have been less problematic for me if they went fully into the "explore" route and were not doing this study as a mean of replication (no set period of time, full communication between participants, frequent updates about the diet, etc). This issue is more relevant for the "please sign up and fill this form" type of study

Right, I must have phrased it poorly.

What I mean is that if the goal was just to explore, and modifying the diet while doing it is not a problem, then it would have made more sense to have access to everyone's data as they were doing it (at least between participants). Also have more ways to communicate between participants to share our experience, tips and tricks, etc...

I feel that, while you went a level of meta up, this article really encapsulates why I am so hesitant about EA. I have several concerns about VNM utilitarianism applied to a global monolithic scope. My experience discussing them in the EA space is people looking at me funny and something along the lines of "How can you be against it though?"

By far the main problem I have, which I feel you pointed here elegantly, is how prone EA is to congratulate itself on being so willing to change its mind, without a broader interrogation of what that even means. (I remember Julia Galef saying something like "There was an EA forum post voicing criticism of the movement, to which others cheered on and said 'well said, here are some more criticisms'" which I do not think is a reaction of reception)

Another concern I have is that "Effective Altruism" is eating the memetic space of "doing altruism effectively". That is, there is more and more a conflation between the general idea of "let's do the most good" and the set of values and memespace EA has developped. I find it makes communicating about it a lot harder.

Thank you for writing this article, if there was an effective altruism movement receptive to it, I would feel less hesitation about the whole thing

I thought they were pretty upfront about how this was exploratory (trying to generate hypotheses and see if the effect is plausible, not confirm a hypothesis).

Also, yes, that was my impression as well and what I signed up for. It's just that a lot of features of the study directly clash with this exploration.

(I also disagree that their results are that remarkable.)

Edit: By remarkable, I mean "shows that it is specific to potatoes"

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