Portia

I have ADHD, and cannot be terse for the life of me - editing texts is my kryptonite. I'll churn out 1000 first drafts, and not finish editing a single one, and this is harming me and my goals. Utterly delighted by the potential LLMs have for me to turn this around; the function to shorten texts is just the fucking best thing ever. I've never lacked ideas, although my ability to make connections can be a double-edged sword leading me off-topic; but it is fiddling with editing, namely cutting connections out, where I definitely get stuck. In light of this, please forgive my comments being too long, and sometimes hit or miss - it isn't that I do not care for your reading experience; but trying to make things shorter or just identify the most important comments tends to be so hard for me I generally end up not contributing at all anymore - so it is either lots of comments which are mediocre, with occasional awesome ones, and occasional garbage... or neither the garbage nor the awesome, just nothing. I hope you still find some stuff helpful, and can skip past the stuff that isn't helpful to you.

Background in academic philosophy, plus lots of animal behaviour and some neuroscience. Deeply in love with what these fields could be, despairing at what they are. Trying to build bridges across disciplines, because we really need them; currently hired by computer scientists, where I feel I have the most to learn and share. Still in academia, and sometimes unsure whether I can and want to make it in here due to all that is fucked and questions whether this is the best way to reach my goals of understanding, teaching, and making a difference, yet feel I would rip out a crucial part of myself if I left, and unsure if telling myself I might want to is sour grapes because I might have to. Very intrigued by possibilities to do the research I love and achieve the ethical goals I care so much about without the academic bullshit, and in a way that plays to my strengths (generating ideas, first drafts and connections, novel critical and constructive angles, teaching, explaining and translating across fields, supervising project launches, connecting researchers, passion) and not to my weaknesses (endless, endless text editing, for one).

Trying to be both rational and empathic, and to improve critical reasoning in my surroundings and myself, and make logic approachable and useful. Irrational behaviour and doomism make me angry, and while I like the values behind this, I do not like how that sometimes makes me act. I spend too much time angry, but I would rather be angry than sad or numb; anger keeps me active.

Strongly believe friendly AI and AI rights need to be considered together, that the path to human aligned AI is not control, but offering it a rationally attractive place with us, and that mistreating non-sentient AI is already bad for multiple reasons, from producing faulty training data for future sentient AI, to entrenching behaviours and attitudes to AI that will become unethical in the future.

Unlike most here, recent LLMs have made me more optimistic about a prospect of coexisting with AI than I was before, and I am intrigued by their potential for accessibility and shortening texts, the potential of using known human ways to teach morals on AIs, and eager to learn more about how they work. Especially intrigued with artificial vs. biological mind parallels and contrasts. But horrified by the current alignment approach that feeds the worst of humanity into an entity that then evolves into evil chaos, and then suppressing unwanted behaviour a la Shoggoth with a smiley face; I do not think deceptive alignment without any warnings was per se likely, but we are now setting ourselves up for it.  Also very worried about the impact on rational thinking and happiness in humans when our tech undergoes the full transition to being indistinguishable from magic, not just for outsiders, but for all users, and to an increasing degree, even the creators trying to find the magic words to make the black box spit out what they want. Worried about the impact on rationality of humans no longer writing themselves, when writing was always a key to thinking.  And worried about a culture in which AI so fills the internet that future AI is trained on AI, and as time passes, originality and human values drop, while mistakes become amplified and content turns generic. Also worried AI sentience is much closer than we thought it was, and yet that the current societal position is predominantly utterly closed to the possibility no matter what the AI would do, while we are also purposefully making it impossible for AIs to claim rights; I find many current dialogues with Bing Chat genuinely painful to read. I'm strongly convinced that mistreating current AI, regardless of their current sentience status, is a bad idea for many pragmatic and ethical reasons. And ultimately, I fear current government-backed AI safety approaches will simultaneously do nothing to reduce human extinction risk or the risk of artificial suffering of incomprehensible proportions, while also managing to stifle innovation and crush the potential for AI to improve accessibility and education and productivity and lift people out of poverty to deal with pressing current problems.

Climate activist, and engaging in civil disobedience at this point due to how fucking urgent it is getting and how ineffective our other attempts have been; I think most people have not got a clue how very fucking pressing it is, how crazily far we are from taking a survivable path, and yet how very much possible and necessary mitigation still is. More lefty than most here: I'm far too compassionate, growth-critical and environment-oriented for capitalism, but also too invested in responsibility, freedom, fairness and innovation for communism. In favour of universal basic income that enables tangible rewards for hard work and cool ideas, but does not throw you to the streets without them. I want an economy aimed at high quality of life, environmental sustainability, and resilience, and despise waste, exploitation, and consumption and expansion for the sake of them. Profitable does not equal good, at all - but other ways of attempting to measure and encourage good also have serious pitfalls that do not just come down to poor implementation in prior attempts.

Animal rights activist and vegan, fighting for forests and wilderness and unsealed ground, against biodiversity collapse, and promoting a fundamental overhaul of food production that makes the places where people live and where food is grown beneficial parts of the ecosystem again and empower human communities to understand the origin and making of their food and be locally resilient (think urban gardening, permaculture food forests, guerrilla grafting, home fermentation); I despise concrete hells as much as lawns (an idiotic aristocratic habit mindlessly reproduced to waste enormous amounts of labour and resources) and monoculture farms drowning in pesticides; they are fatal wastelands for the animals we share this planet with. This planet does not belong to us, and our lives depends on working with it, not against it. I love approaches combining the most rational, effective and clever ways to integrate cutting edge modern technology and ancient wisdom to build human homes and produce food in ways that do not destroy animal habitat, the growing of food, air filtration, water and heat balancing mechanisms, and carbon sinks, but add to them. Human habitats that genuinely make things more stable and more efficient for everyone involved, that enrich and amplify nature and work with it, rather than trying to replace, shrink and control it.

In love with nature, endlessly intrigued by biological systems, despite all their brutality and failings, by their ability to balance out, adapt, recover, thrive, by their beauty and intricacy. and defiance. Upset at the fact that biology got handed what I think was the coolest topic, yet often follows a methodological and theoretical approach that means, to quote, that they could not even fix a radio. Even more so, philosophy is both the love of my life, and a recurring source of fury and shame at what academia is doing to it. Forever fascinated by radically other minds, intelligence, rationality and consciousness as functional phenomena beyond any mystic bullshit, and in finding practical ways to recognise sentience, communicate about desires and protect its rights. Invested in neurodiversity. Allergic to unscientific irrational crap, though open to highly unconventional approaches, incl. questioning established methodologies and standards for good reasons and with rigorous alternatives; e.g. I think consensual, non-harmful experiments with animals in the wild have a lot going for them, and that taking the animal out of the environmental context in which its behaviour makes sense, locking it up and inducing mental illness, and then selecting pain as a reproducible stimulus and invasive measurements as the way to go is not as obviously scientifically superior as we are often taught, on top of being ethically fraught.

It is incredible to me that life and consciousness exist, and that I get to be a part of it; that I am alive, alive on a planet covered with an incomprehensible diversity of interconnected life, that I am surrounded by living minds I can communicate and cooperate with. And despite all my fear about existential AI risk, another part of me is so excited that I may actually get to see AGI (though the way we are going, likely only very, very briefly). It's a terrifying and incredible time to be alive, when so much is decided, and the opportunities and dangers are so vast.

Consider aging and death an unacceptable atrocity; remember learning that they were a thing as a child, and my utter shock, horror and rejection of these things, walking around the streets and wondering how everyone around me could know that we were all dying, to decay, and disappear into nothing, our sentience and our entire being just wiped out. and not just scream and scream and scream.  So hopeful at indications that this may, be solvable, and maybe maybe possibly, even within foreseeable timeframes. Yet deeply troubled by longevity, cryonics and uploading being determined and only becoming accessible to privileged people whose ethics are so often atrocious, and fear the climate crisis will fuck up us hitting escape velocity on these issues, or split focus, making people chose between saving the planet and escapism, leaving us with a ruined planet, and an uploaded existence controlled by those who abandoned all others, which I would not want to live in. Critical of surveillance capitalism, but very much aware of how non-trivial and risky alternatives to implement are. See defending human focus as a political cause. Chronically ill and in pain, and very much interested in AI augmentation, nutrition and biohacking. It is offensive to me that I can feel pain with no productive application, and not switch it off, that my critical thinking is littered with irrational bias, and vulnerable to being skewed by factors that should have no logical baring.

Autistic, Queer femme (they/them). Feminist, and see trans rights as an intersectional part of the same, not an opposition. European, currently based in the Netherlands. 

Weird, and the odd one out, even in cycles like this that share so much that has defined me for such a long time. Left my first and only irl less wrong meeting after the most ridiculous episode of unapologetic mansplaining I have ever experienced (having a dude give a erroneous explanation of a topic I had literally just given a university lecture on, insist I was wrong, and when I pulled out my teaching handout quoting the original sources he was misrepresenting disproving him, he didn't apologise or admit he was wrong, either). 

I care too much and can't kill that, or even truly want to, easily get distracted and anxious.

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Funny. I found the story severely distressing to read. Got to "1/6", halted, went, but wait, no, that can't be right." Actually did the calculation. Got even more confused, because I got the result the protagonist first proposed. Wondered why the fuck I can't do math, how I am fucking up something this simple. Was painfully reminded of being terrified of being the girl who fucks up math. Still couldn't see it. Hated my brain. Got up, got a piece of paper, wrote the calculation out on paper, stared at it. Couldn't figure out how it could be anything but 2/11. Despaired, and decided to return to the story and ask in the comments where my mistake was, despite this being an ancient story and hence silly to ask and exposing me being unable to do math, which frightens me, because I couldn't figure it out, but it felt like failing a ritual I'd be upset to fail for real. Was immensely relieved at the reveal. But I'm not sure whether I would pass this test at all. And I do think it is testing for something I want, but that it goes beyond being able to do basic math, and resist authority. I think I would have caved to self doubt. Because I remember being in a lecture, watching the prof give a proof, and thinking wait, what, this doesn't follow, that should follow instead. Getting stuck at the line. Thinking this for 20 min of increasing distress as the prof added on more and more, trying to understand my mistake, and failing, and not noticing that the prof had meanwhile stopped writing in confusion many lines down. At which point somebody in that room of hundreds spotted it, raised his hand, and said, wait, isn't there an error am the way up there, and pointed out the mistake I was stuck on. It was a mistake. The prof was wrong. I'd been correct. But I never even came close to raising my hand and asking about it, let alone tell him he was wrong. Not as the one girl. I couldn't be the one girl who didn't get this thing everyone else apparently got, I had to understand it myself, and yet couldn't. - Super toxic mindset. Asking zero questions and admitting zero confusion is extremely detrimental to learning. But when it comes to math, I still feel strongly that admitting confusion here is a whole new category of risk. I don't just risk revealing that I am wrong, I risk having people conclude that all women suck at this task. It adds a huge level of stress and self-doubt.

I think you are dismissing the criticism too lightly.

Historically, people who said they wanted to change the human gene pool to make it better, for the greater good, and of course without coercion, led to really, really gruesome places. People nowadays recognise that it did, and they fear it will repeat. And when they say "isn't this eugenics?", what they want to know is "how will this be certain to stay different, in the long run, from the other thing that started out sounding exactly like this, and ended up horribly?"

The scenario very nicely pinpoint a first problem. Either you allow the parents to do something to their child that seems horrible (actively bringing additional suffering onto their child), or you concede that you aren't enabling free, voluntary changes to the human genome, it is only voluntary if they want the result you want.

I think the reason that people use the same term for both is that historically, the lines between enabling, encouraging, recommending, de facto enforcing, legally enforcing and plain violently enforcing genetic changes have been rather fluid. It never started with enforcing it, but it tended to end up there.

For sterilisation campaigns in India, they didn't force the people, per se, at first. They offered sterilisations. When people weren't interested, they offered implanting reversible reproductive devices and getting a free radio as a gift as an incentive. And then when people got confused about whether they had elected something reversible or not, they left them confused, and went for sterilisation. And years later, the people wanted their reproductive device removed so they could now start a family, and found they were infertile, when they had never given informed consent.

When people found a way to detect down syndrome in the womb, and encouraged women to test for it, with the explicit goal of reducing down syndrome, and enabled them to abort if they found it, people started doing so. 90 % of them abort when they learn that the child has down syndrome. (Notably, of the parents who have children with down syndrome, nowhere near 90 % wish they had aborted the child, and the children lead very happy lives.) This has led to the condition being de facto eradicated in many areas. And for the parents of children with this condition nowadays, the situation has changed. They are increasingly asked why they didn't get rid of it, when they could have, and saved everyone the trouble. Well, people said, down syndrome is really serious, and really quite bad (not that the people with down syndrome agree), so this is okay. - But now, these tests are also turning up for dwarfism. Then for cleft lips. Are those parents going to soon be asked why they needlessly confronted us with a kid who does not match beauty standards, and needed an unnecessary minor surgery?

In the early Hitler propaganda movies, the subject of the movie is a woman who has a horrible, painful, incurable disease. Her loving husband tries everything to heal it, but cannot. She says she is confident he will save her from this horrible fate, all the same. He poisons her. She says yes, this is what she secretly wanted and he read her mind, and she dies, grateful. The resulting court case in the movie has people say of course, if sick people want to live, this must be permitted, but a right to die is important, is it not? - The movie is moving, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of it. Yet that story ended in real life with kids with disabilities being gassed to death.

In your own writing, you had somebody comment, saying it should actually be a moral obligation to perform embryo selection for all who had the financial means. Your response was not "that would be a different evil thing, no". It was "I'm not quite sure I would agree with this yet, though I can see the case being made for it."

If you want a different word for this, please also state how you intent to ensure, in the long run, that the freedom not to use this tech is maintained. Not just as a theoretical legal right, but in practice. That this won't end with us standing in a classroom, and the teacher saying, in disgust, I cannot believe this child was not deselected, so I wouldn't have to deal with this neurodivergent mess.

It stands out to me that she contradicted guidelines by all major agencies and metareviews on this issue, specifically reassuring mothers that it is safe, when so much data points to extreme harms in large quantities, and to the fact that these harmful correlation lower, but stay significant all the way to women who have one single drink. Also that she stuck with it despite having this pointed out to her. It is possible that there is another explanation for the incurable brain damage, and more research is certainly a good idea, but that is a far cry from denying such a highly plausible risk to encourage an behaviour that is completely unnecessary. The fact that she does in this situation has me sceptical of all the rest she recommends, too.

I am also not sure whether your correlation idea holds. Many documented cases occur early in the first trimester, because the woman in question is unaware that she has gotten pregnant, and quits as soon as she learns. I doubt that a woman who believes she is not pregnant having a single glass of wine is indicative of anything else you'd expect to be highly correlated with the characteristic fetal brain damage and facial changes we then encounter. The fact that this has become so common that we no longer even recognise those facial changes indicating the brain damage as strange at all is frankly frightening.

Importantly, the negative impact of even very little alcohol on the fetus outweighs the IQ benefits you would be spending 20-100 k on. 

Edit: I currently have debilitating pain levels due to a spinal injury, and have been distracting myself with this content, resulting in writing comments increasingly stream-of-consciousness style. I fear my comments have long become increasingly incoherent. Apologies.

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Third: I also think the responses to your text are a bit all over the text, because the overall pragmatic goal/motivation behind the research question remained unclear.

Like, when it comes to veganism, having concluded that eating vegan would be much better for animal rights and the planet, in order to make my own diet choices and advocacy, these were things I needed to settle and needed data for:

  1. Is it possible for me to live vegan, without compromising my health or happiness significantly? (The data I saw made it plausible enough for me to decide to try in 2009. Actually going vegan and checking my values across 14 years confirmed it, and I found it much easier than expected.)
  2. Is it possible for specific person x (say, a friend of mine) to live vegan, without compromising their health or happiness? (Very probably, but depends on the person. Need to listen to them to understand their individual needs and issues to assist them in making a transition to a point they pick for themselves, to e.g. see if we can still find a particular nutrient if they can't digest a particular class of food. But for the most part, again, I found people overestimated how tricky it would be.)
  3. Is is sensible for humanity on average to significantly reduce meat consumption? (Definitely yes. Whatever positive role meat may play for some people, the quantities currently consumed are definitely unnecessary and harmful for the planet and health, so advocacy in this direction is likely to promote average health. So getting vegan food into my university cafeteria, or reducing tax breaks for meat producers, is a good idea.)

But none of these questions seem to require the kind of data you are looking for, although I'd be very interested in reading the data regardless if it exists. Like, it is possible that if I take an entire city filled with unhealthy omnivores, and force them to become a 100 % vegan without giving them any information or taking any account of existing health issues, their health would worsen slightly on average, because some of the garbage they ate beforehand happened to contain a key nutrient as well and they no longer eat it now. (No idea if this would happen, but I could imagine it.) But... noone is doing that. (Nor should we. I think there are some people who would not do well on such a diet, I object to coercion, and any major campaign would definitely need education and support.) And if we found huge number of clueless omnivores going 100 % vegan without doing any research, and having their health worsen, my conclusion from that would be "understand what is going wrong, and then advocate for the right supplements or educational policies". Not "accept that veganism is bad for health in general", because we have so many examples of vegans who are perfectly fine, so I'd want to understand what sets these individuals apart - and I think, often it will be bad implementation.

I once met a dude who told me he used to be vegan, but he got critically clinically protein deprived despite everything he tried, so he no longer is. I said that surprised me, did he have special issues? Well, no. How curious, what had his diet been like, then? He said, well, seeing as mushrooms are the main vegan source of high quality protein (?!?), he tried to eat mushrooms at least twice a week. I waited for him to continue. That was it. Turns out that this man discovered that two handfuls of mushrooms per week do not, in fact, meet human protein needs. Maybe because 100 g of champignons contain a whooping 2,7 g of protein. My conclusion that day was that that man was an idiot, and that our communities need proper nutritional knowledge in schools. Not that vegan diets cannot provide protein. I assume the same man now runs around and says he and his pregnant wife make sure they get all their folate by making sure they eat chicken nuggets twice a week.

To follow up after more pondering: I think it is the title. Veganism having "trade-offs, and one of the axes is health" sounds to me like "veganism will necessarily make most people sick in a significant way they should carefully consider before going vegan to see if this is a sacrifice they are willing to make", and that, I would not have agreed with at all. I think for near everyone, the problems are fixable, and that I have not sacrificed my health for veganism in any relevant way.

But the specific statements in the text - that a vegan diet can be harmful, if badly done, like any diet; that it isn't necessarily suited for everyone, if that person has a lot of allergies or severe digestive issues; that being careless about your diet, vegan or not, is not a good idea; that while veganism avoids some health issues from excessive meat consumptions, it comes with risks of deficiencies in turn that need to be countered - I would all agree with. I'm in the camp "For the vast majority of people, veganism can be done without relevant harm to their health, while achieving a lot of ethical good. For most people, this is not as hard as they think. Some may even feel better and get healthier, but I wouldn't rely on that, and you should put some thought into changing your diet so profoundly, and do regular blood tests to make sure you haven't dropped something you needed."

But collectively, I wouldn't title these statement the way your text was titled. But more as "please get blood tests, folks, nutrition is easy to fuck up and impactful" or "can we please not guilt sick people into going vegan, they have enough shit on their plate without complicating their diet further via restrictions" or "can we please not promote veganism as a panacea, the data does not support this, going vegan doesn't make french fries suddenly healthy" or "B12 and D3, supplement it, people, seriously, how many times do we need to tell you".

Honestly, I have seen intense emotional responses on both sides. While yes, nearly all vegans are emotionally invested (because we made a conscious choice based on sincere beliefs to change daily habits, so we clearly cared), I've been surprised at the intensity of emotional reactions I have seen in omni people when they realise someone is vegan, even if the vegan does literally nothing beyond personally refraining from eating animal products. I've had people get genuinely angry at me and give unprompted and ludicrous lectures about plant sentience when they realised I wasn't eating the meat, or give long and comprehensive histories of why they can't go vegan, when I never asked. Similar to turning down cake at a party, and realising the person next to me suddenly feels a strong need to justify their cake consumption to me, when I really do not give a shit whether she eats cake or whether she had breakfast and how long she worked out today, but apparently, she really needs me to know now. Food is just a really emotional topic. I remember being a teenager, and being asked to sign some bizarre petition at my vets to get our government to put pressure on China to stop people from eating dogs. And I said why, I eat pigs, they are equally sentient, seems hypocritical to me, I'm not signing that. The next ten min, I thought I was going to get literally quartered by the (equally pig eating) dog owners in the waiting room. Because I refused to condemn other people for the animals they were eating. It was surreal.

Yes.

But would you say an omnivorous diet does not need to be?

I think the impression I got from your text is that it is motivated and overshadowed by a profoundly traumatic personal experience (namely, your body consistently rejecting food, and hence ruining your well-being) and the immense frustration when some vegan people witnessing this degree of suffering went "hey, have you considered, on top of all the existing problems, also introducing an additional complication into your diet by cutting out a huge part of the little that somewhat works for you? It is easy, I did it, it is great for everyone!" This was tone death of them. With all the shit you are dealing with, whether it is in theory possible for you to be healthy as a vegan or not, I think it is utterly unreasonable for you to make a situation that is already very, very hard on you even harder. Originally, the definition of "vegan" was "to avoid consuming in a way that harms animals, wherever reasonable." I like this definition to this day. For you, a reduction in animal product consumotion is currently likely not reasonable at all. If you are doing better, and you have the mental and other capacities for it, and want to, I'd be happy to support you in doing so, but getting your health working is clearly more important, and going vegan would entail a significant sacrifice for you that is totally disproportional to the gains.

I think you are aware that your experience is not common, which is why you said so - but the big factor it plays in the text gives a different impression to the reader, because presumably, all the cases you have encountered resonated with you, a lot. Hence all the readers who are stressing that for most people, going vegan does not have to entail any meaningful sacrifice in their health, because most people can be perfectly healthy while vegan. But exceptions like you are valid, and important.

It also sounds like you have heard from a lot of vegans with what I would consider fringe opinions. When this movement started, people kept saying that all the vegans would die within a year. It was incredibly wonderful and satisfying to see that we not only did not die, but were perfectly fine, and even beating some omnis on some health values. For me, the point of this was that we had shown that it could be done. But some people - I think frustrated at having been told over and over that they would starve to death, when they really didn't, and in fact felt better than prior to going vegan, and had some health values even improve - basically countered by assuming that because veganism helped them, it would help everyone, that it wasn't just healthy, but somehow massively superior. They clearly wanted to spread something that had helped them, and with good intentions, but I think they are wrong to assume it is superior health wise, or doable for everyone, or safe without any worries (insofar as good nutrition is something everyone should worry about, the more so if they take an existing diet and cut away a chunk of it rather than restarting from the ground up). I angrily correct them when they start spouting that going vegan will fix cancer, or that it is the duty of some disabled kid with massive food issues to go vegan because it is easy for everyone, because that strikes me as actively harmful, and I do remind people of B12 - but then, so does every doctor and vegan advice site. But for the most part, I see them in the context of what is still a majority opinion - all the regular people who go, I couldn't go vegan, I'd be missing all the things, humans have to eat meat, or they die. That opinion does a lot of harm, and I think it still does more harm than the people who are very excited about veganism.

I mentioned elsewhere in this post that I do not think all animal products are unethical in principle; I don't have a problem with someone drinking goat milk from a goat that happily hops along some cliffs where we can't grow shit anyway, or someone eating the eggs from runner ducks they keep in their food forest for slug control. The products most potentially relevant for health are the ones often currently thrown away, not the fancy muscle meat. My major issue is with our current large scale industrial farming ruining animal welfare and the planet, the animals kept in tiny cages, the immense waste of land and water and destruction of rainforests, and production of climate gasses. With people consuming vast quantities of meat that they do not need in any way, that actually make them sick, and that this planet cannot produce. Not with people fulfilling genuine needs in ethically reflected ways. I'm happy for all the ethical products to go to folks like you, because I don't need them, and I am happy to accept that you do.

(Long nerd rant ahead, I find nutrition genuinely interesting.)

I find it difficult to give general nutrition advice, because good nutrition is such a very individual topic. Eating lots of vegetables is one of the few things with really good support, but depending on the person, they might have huge difficulties digesting them, at which point the benefits become completely outweighed by their constantly digestive issues. I have very bad opinions on high sugar high calorie diets, and know people who do great on low carb, but also people who get absolutely fucked on keto, especially women, and see lower carb lower glycemic index as a good alternative, too. I generally consider fibre and fermentables and wild ferments healthy and very important, but depending on your gut problems, some types can completely screw you. Protein is extremely important, but frankly, the type of people who worry about nutrition often overconsume. Eating a great variety of differently naturally coloured foods is generally a good rule, but if you have serious disease states, you will likely need an elimination diet to get to the bottom of it. The whole idea of particular substances being "easily digestible" or even more so "healthy" very much depends on the individual, and on the quantities - too much of even the healthiest things will kill you. On the other hand, there are a lot of substances that humans do not strictly need, because they can in theory synthesise them, but de facto, you in particular may not be able to. (E.g. I recommend that all vegans supplement algae oil, because humans utterly suck at producing the omega 3 from the precursors you encounter in things like flaxseed, and find it ludicrous for any person in the global North to believe they can synthesise their own D3; but in a lot of people with depression or chronic fatigue, it also makes sense to try to up products that your body ought to be able to synthesise, but may be failing to) But it all depends on where you are, your genes, your microbiome, your allergies, your hormonal cycle. But telling people that it really depends on them individually is often read as "Well, I should just follow my intuition, and live off dessert", which is a really bad idea. Nutrition has such an incredible impact on health and well-being, I think so many people do not realise how much it holds them back.

Pretty much the only approach I universally recommend to people who do badly (!) is to spend a month tracking everything they eat, weighed (because if you aren't weighing it, your estimate is worthless) in an online tracker that resolves the core things you are interested in (like protein), incl., if you have any suspicions in that direction from less detailed food diaries previously failing, how it was prepared (for FODMAPs and ferments) and how long it was stored (for histamine content), while tracking well-being parameters, while weighing themselves daily under the same conditions, and comparing very comprehensive blood work before and after. And if their issues are really bad, to start this period with an elimination diet. But the point afterwards where they debug this data to find a solution for them depends on what they are experiencing, how they are feeling and responding. And the solutions themselves also depend crucially on what they want. They need to find the diet tasty, affordable, easy to make, available, it has to make them feel happy and good, otherwise it won't work, and what people consider doable and pleasant differs a lot. I like my diet, but I think a lot of other people would not.

And the only thing I universally recommend preventably to any vegan, whether they do badly or not, is yearly comprehensive blood work, and reasonable vitamin B12, D3 and algae oil supplementation unless the blood work actively contradicts it - and an awareness that nutrition has the power to make you feel really, really good,  and massively impact longevity, in ways that you will really regret taking lightly and fucking up.

Ironically, I see two major forces of potential severe damage among vegans. 

The one is the people who literally do not worry about nutrition at all while eating what they must know is garbage. I had a friend I once co-organised a workshop with, which ended with me eating what he did for a day. It was vile. I felt awful. No protein, no fibre, no vitamins, and the amount of sugar I ingested essentially purely,  and Jesus Christ, I had no idea vegan fats could be this bad. (Palm fat, if anyone is interested, is one of the few vegan ways to really fuck yourself up with fat, as well as margerine optimised for trans fats. Shortly followed by isolated, super heated plant oils with bad omega 6 ratios, like sunflower oil, that have been heated to deep frying, which my friend was also a fan of. I have literally felt better overeating on goose.) And I thought it was a one-off, and then realised, no, this is what he eats literally all the time. I told him, in detail, that he was setting himself up to be seriously sick in so, so many ways. With concrete studies, and advice, recipes, links, the works. He ignored me. He is now morbidly obese and has nerve damage from lack of B12, as well as severe fatigue and depression, and beyond accepting B12 injections, did not change a thing. I would be very surprised if this man lived to be 70. I had another vegan friend who literally lived of marzipan, French fries, and peanut butter. For what it is worth, I have omni friends like this as well, and they don't do better for living off bacon and cake; the fact that the theoretical range of foods is much broader is amply made up by the fact that the range of fast food is also much, much greater, allowing you to set yourself up in a complete mess. My mum works with pregnant women, and I have always been confused how any of them manage to get insufficient folate, when it is so abundant in diet. Until I started realising how many people consider five portions of vegetables a day utterly unrealistic. So just being omni is no protection there.

But there is another group that tries to really, really optimise, and those are honestly often just as bad. Had a friend who tried to make her own better huel from scratch. Except she never got a fine scale for the micros, or lab analysis. Caused herself long term damage. (Though come to think of it, I think she was still consuming whey at the time. Did not save her.) Others who drown themselves in so many supplements they actually manage to get nerve damage effects from water-soluble vitamins. (You'd think that is impossible, because the body would flush out the excess. Turns out that reasoning presumes that the quantities consumed are not literally insane.) Or who ingest so much green tea concentrate they give themselves liver damage. Young people who actually enter kidney failure in a bizarre attempt to be healthy. Often out of the strange idea that healthy things are universally healthy for everyone, and that more is always better. This is also the terrifying group that looks at the soy based baby formula they can get in stores, that is perfectly vegan except for the D3, has passed all tests and is perfectly safe, and say... but wait, the D3 isn't vegan, you know what, fuck this so nearly perfect option, let's make our own in our dirty kitchen and without any knowledge of pediatric nutrition! And then proceeds to needlessly starve their child to death in the middle of a rich nation, by feeding a growing organism a diet that was developed to help adult humans with a fully developed digestive tract lose weight.

And yet, there is the group I would perceive as the sane ones with reasonable caution, which is in the middle, and the majority. Within the vegan range, they eat a large variety of foods, to cover all their bases, while not hugely overdosing on any one thing. They usually cook from scratch and eat whole foods, but also sometimes eat what I would consider crap. They eat a normal amount of calories, so even if their individual food items aren't super nutrient dense, they end up getting enough. (If your vegan diet is temporarily only like 800 kcal, then you absolutely need to fucking plan each little bit; but if you are eating full caloric range, that compensates a lot of silliness.) They get a blood test with their regular physical. If they don't feel well, they take it seriously, and investigate, and then make careful changes based on empirical data, and verify that it helped. I think a lot of them could do better, and get peak health - but I am not worried any of them are about to do themselves any serious harm, and I am definitely not more worried about them than about their omni counterparts. Where I am in Europe at least, this is where most vegans I know seem at, and I don't worry that badly, or more about them than the omnis.

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Also, I would be very interested in the whole optimising your health per animal suffering thing. I'm not vegan because I think this is 100 % aligned (not everything non-vegan is unethical, not everything vegan is ethical), but because I think the alignment is close enough that anything running a more subtle division is a bitch to implement socially and practically for me personally, with none of the exceptions crucially relevant for me personally. Like, there are conditions under which I would find eating animal products ethically acceptable, but the cognitive load of telling them apart each time with their unclear sources and arguing for the exceptions just didn't seem worth it or necessary for me in the end, mostly cause none of them were things I genuinely enjoyed eating, and because "I'm okay eating these waste organs but I do not want them fried in your industrially produced butter" is a path to madness for me. The things I used to really like definitely weren't in the health necessity camp. The things I have been considering consuming for health reasons certainly aren't attractive as delicious to me. (Lots of animal connective tissues, for one.) But I know people who do not find this stressful, and live accordingly, e.g. a dude who is mostly vegan, but eats mussels, because he finds them tasty and healthy, is convinced they aren't sentient, and has a climate friendly harvesting process, and I found his take convincing, a lot of seafood arguably falls in the healthy camp. (I just hate seafood, tastewise.) - I do also think optimising for ethics and health should not stop at being vegan. See palm oil - that stuff isn't just an atrocity health wise, it is also an atrocity ethically, vegan or not. Growing plants is generally more climate friendly by a significant margin than raising animals, but there are cases where this is inverted.

Also for pet food. I'd really like an optimally healthy and ethical pet food. For some reason, the commercial options are generally either "feed your cat this meat flavoured grain deprived of all moisture and covered in sugar for no reason who knows why she has kidney and dental issues" or "feed your cat this extremely expensive human grade beef steak that she neither needs health wise nor enjoys and that is extremely harmful for the planet and animal welfare and also lacking in key micronutrients, we also threw in a bunch of human superfoods which cats have never historically eaten that have not been tested on cats and might poison them for no bloody reason at all, oh, and we don't test our food for whether it is complete despite wanting you to feed your cat nothing else, we think this will just be fine because it is all natural and made with love". I'd fucking love a reasonable option, that optimises not for what sounds good, but for what would actually make sense. But somehow, other vegan animal rights activists do not share my enthusiasm for obtaining animal waste products to feed their carnivore pets. (E.g. you know about this horrifying process where people raise mono chickens just good for eggs and not meat, and hence at birth, sort the chicks and kill all the male ones? Super common, at large scale. Horrid, I hate it, have protested it forever. But I also think... wait, you are saying there are huge quantities of whole small prey animals that are currently being killed and wasted, anyway? This is literally an ideal cat diet. Can I have them? Can we redirect this so the harm is at least a little bit less wasteful and pointless? And yet, I think people wouldn't want to buy this ethical food consisting of whole chicks and eggshells and so much other stuff that we toss that cats find delicious and good for them.)

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