mattnewport

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How I Lost 100 Pounds Using TDT

I simply say to them "Er, human technology has progressed to the point where I can have, say, a sweet breakfast without consuming any sugar, and I'm going to do so. Cheating has nothing to do with it."

It's true that artificial sweeteners mean you can get a sweet taste without consuming calories. Beware the conclusion that they therefore don't cause you to gain weight or have other negative health effects though. There's plenty of evidence to the contrary.

I agree that eating healthily doesn't mean having to deprive yourself of all delicious foods. Sadly artificial sweeteners seem to be quite problematic, though some types may be less bad than others.

Time and Effort Discounting

I'm not sure you need uncertainty to discount at all - in finance exponential discounting comes from interest rates which are predicated on an assumption of somewhat stable economic growth rather than deriving from uncertainty.

As you point out, hyperbolic discounting can come from combining exponential discounting with an uncertain hazard rate. It seems many of the studies on hyperbolic discounting assume they are measuring a utility function directly when they may in fact be measuring the combination of a utility function with reasonable assumptions about the uncertainty of claiming a reward. It's not clear to me that they have actually shown that humans have time inconsistent preferences rather than just establishing that people don't separate the utility they attach to a reward from their expectation of actually receiving it in their responses to these kinds of studies.

Time and Effort Discounting

Do any of the studies on hyperbolic discounting attempt to show that it is not just a consequence of combining uncertainty with something like a standard exponential discounting function? That's always seemed the most plausible explanation of hyperbolic discounting to me and it meshes with what seems to be going on when I introspect on these kinds of choices.

Most of the discussions of hyperbolic discounting I see don't even consider how increasing uncertainty for more distant rewards should factor into preferences. Ignoring uncertainty seems like it would be a sub-optimal strategy for agents making decisions in the real world.

New Year's Predictions Thread

There's room for debate whether we saw a true currency crisis in the Euro but 'this prediction has failed utterly' is overstating it. We saw unusually dramatic short term moves in the Euro in May and there was widespread talk about the future of the Euro being uncertain. Questions about the long term viability of the Euro continue to be raised.

I'd argue that charting any of the major currencies against gold indicates an ongoing loss of confidence in all of them - from this perspective the dollar and the euro have both declined in absolute value over the year while trading places in terms of relative value in response to changing perceptions of which one faces the biggest problems.

'Currency crisis' was in retrospect a somewhat ambiguous prediction to make since there is no clear criteria for establishing what constitutes one. I'd argue that the euro underwent the beginnings of a currency crisis in May but that the unprecedented intervention by the ECB forestalled a full blown currency crisis.

The Sacred Mundane

According to this article a sense of vibration and rapid acceleration of the body are fairly commonly reported (I don't recall experiencing these symptoms myself). That article and the Wikipedia entry both mention some of the mythology and folklore surrounding the experience from different cultures.

Dealing with the high quantity of scientific error in medicine

Paleo diets generally consider corn a grain so you might want to avoid that. Some paleo variants (like the one I'm currently following) are ok with cheese and yogurt in moderation (and butter).

Dealing with the high quantity of scientific error in medicine

I would guess this is not true in general since many things do not want to be eaten and so evolve various defense mechanisms. In turn the organisms that eat them may develop counter-measures that enable them to safely digest their meal despite the defense mechanisms but this will depend on the complex evolutionary history of both organisms. Ruminants are adapted to a quite different diet than humans for example.

Dealing with the high quantity of scientific error in medicine

I wonder why an apple should be healthy. Wouldn't any animal be satisfied with a fruit that just had calories? Enough, in any case, to come back for more and scatter the seeds? Why should an apple -- or anything 'natural' -- be so especially healthy for humans?

You're missing the other side of the story. Humans evolved to obtain their nutritional needs from those foods that were available in the EEA and this effect is probably more significant than the selection pressure in the other direction (on fruits to be nutritionally beneficial to animals that eat them). Humans are adapted to a diet that includes things that were available to them during the long pre-agricultural evolutionary period.

Love and Rationality: Less Wrongers on OKCupid

You're probably right but ironically I've ignored much of the standard advice on employment and it's worked out just fine for me so this example doesn't resonate very well for me. I've never worn a suit to a job interview for example.

Love and Rationality: Less Wrongers on OKCupid

I assumed he was saying something like "the majority of women prefer a man more 'masculine' than the median man". By analogy, if it is true that "the majority of men prefer a woman who is slimmer than the median woman" it should be obvious that being overweight will make it harder for a woman to find a match even if there are men who prefer less slim women. Saying "men prefer slim women" is a slightly sloppy generalization but not an unreasonable one in this example.

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