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I read a study a few years back that found some women still had iron deficiency symptoms even as high as 60 on the ferritin test. Also was pointed out the "normal" scale for iron was devised the way most things were in the past - on healthy college age white males.

What is problematic about the ferritin test is it is treated like a yes/no rather than a continuum. Get 14 on the rest that where 10 is anemia and could be told it's not iron deficiency.

The best advice is likely "if you have the symptoms of iron deficiency, treat it".

It's definitely one of the most prevalent health problems affecting women globally.

It really is horrific just how many women suffer needlessly from it, when a pill and a vitamin C can work wonders.

How is that a flaw? 

The harms of it are well known and established. You can look them up.

It's beside the point however. Replace it with whatever cause you want - spreading democracy, ending the war on drugs, ending homelessness, making more efficient electrical devices. 

The argument is the path to the end is convoluted, not clear ahead of time. Although we can have guideposts and learn from history, the idea that today you can "optmize" on an unsolved problem can be faintly ridiculous. 

James Clear has zero idea of what is good or great and the idea that you can sit there and start crossing off "good" things in favor of "great" is also highly flawed. 

Hence the examples of reducing HIV infection rates and reducing health consequences of infection. Not an OR gate but an AND and the idea of opportunity cost doesn't really apply. 

Now let’s factor in two additional facts:

-- are these facts though?

I see this a bit on here, a kind of rapid fire and then and then, and this is a fact therefore... when perhaps slowing down and stopping on some of those points to break the cognitive cage being assembled is the move.

Such as opportunity cost. We can make clear examples of this, invest in stock A means you can't invest in stock B.

But in the world, there are plenty of examples that are not OR gates but AND gates. It's not an opportunity cost to choose between providing clean needles to homeless drug addicts to reduce HIV infections OR giving money/time/effort to better HIV treatment drugs.

That situation is an AND gate, not an OR. Both are needed. 

Calling it opportunity cost pits one thing against another when both made be needed, or neither, or a hundred things might be required. It restricts your thinking too. 

As for James Clear - he doesn't know what is good or great and it's arguable that he doesn't really know the answer here. That quote, which I've read before, sounds lovely but can also be trite and somewhat useless.

What is good, what is great? Can you know ahead of time? 

The story of the man who has the wild horse come to his farm comes to mind. What good luck, a new horse for free! They put a saddle on it and the son immediately breaks his leg getting thrown off. What bad luck that horse is! The army marches through town the next day taking young men off to war. What good luck that horse was!

You can keep that story going endlessly.

The idea of opportunity cost in social or scientific progress is itself a flawed one because it is based on knowing what is good, great, bad, etc, and many times that cannot be known, certainly not ahead of time and sometimes not even retrospectively.

It may apply for stock A vs stock B but in reality it doesn't to most things. People are fired from jobs and devastated and then because of their response or consequence of the firing, end up somewhere else in a far better position. Ahead of time they may have pondered the opportunity cost of taking that job, how they didn't do X. Later on they may have bitterly regretted it. Much later on their wedding day with the person they met at their new job, they may think that firing was the best thing that ever happened.

Here's another example: you want to end the prison industrial complex in the US. What should you do today? What is optimal? If you frame it in terms of opportunity cost, you needlessly harm yourself, judge yourself, and ultimately do worse work because you're beating yourself up or spending a lot of time and effort trying to "optimize". 

You can't know for example this path:

Some place bring in medical marijuana cards.

The regulation of them is a bit lax. Some doctors arguably commit a type of fraud by mass issuing of them but it slips on by for a while.

It becomes a bit of a social joke. It's for my glaucoma.

The "drugs are evil!" message is diluted.

Public attitudes change as a result. Comedians are making jokes about it, it appears in movies and tv. 

A state ends marijuana prohibition. Enormous sums of money are made for the state and business.

The public attitudes change even more over the years of all this money being made and no problems.

Pressure comes to bear as to why there are non-violent prisoners in jail for years on end for something that is completely legal now.

They are let out, records are expunged.

One of the key evils the private prison industry grew upon is systematically destroyed.


-- eventually you may see the private prison industry die and it all started from lax regulations over marijuana cards in some specific area. 

Where I am in Australia, we have medical marijuana but not legal. The system is a bit lax though. So if I want to end the pointless war on drugs, where should I optimize my time? Perhaps the best use is advocating for some state in the US to legalise, such that it spreads and eventually is exported here. Or maybe it's spreading how to get a card? Or writing another letter to the Prime Minister.

In this example, does the concept of opportunity cost even exist? If you were working on spreading the word of how easy it is to get a medical marijuana card vs protesting, which was the "optimal" move?

I would very strongly suggest that the idea of opportunity cost is broken in many ways and subsequent ideas that it grows with power are meaningless in many situations. 

"For example, every time you take a break, you let people die. You let many bad things happen and many problems pile up. Yet by resting adequately, you become able to tackle far bigger and harder problems. Both these things are true. Both are facts you need to grapple with if you want to become stronger and help save the world."

Such as this - I see it as an incorrect conclusion of highly flawed premises. Taking a break may result in people living because your efforts are pushing in the wrong direction. You cannot know and may never know.

As for far bigger and harder problems - I'd dispute that you can know this in many cases. You can construct arbitrary "great" and "good" for problems but you can be flat-out wrong. Great - we cure HIV. Good - we reduce it and delay it long enough that it's effectively a cure. So are we sure that's not two "greats" right there? Perhaps the only great is the long term delay for the seventy years it takes for technology to eventually provide a cure? Who are any of us to tell ahead of time?

I dispute that either of these things are true. They're not facts, and you certainly don't need to grapple with them. 

Building a cognitive cage is easy to do and even easier to hand it to someone else. 

What if the model is that 1000 switches need to be flicked? We know some of them but not others. We can't know sometimes how many switches we will flick with our efforts. You cannot know for example that the most effective thing you ever do in your entire life is a drunken reddit rant at 1am next year because of the downstream impact it has on others.

All your optimizing and suffering and grappling and really the game was flick switches, or cause others to flick switches, or to talk or to listen or to participate in the great swell of water much the way an individual droplet of water is part of a wave. 

There are models for how progress is made - organizing, spreading ideas, debating them, ways of thinking, and so on and of course persistent effort in a direction does appear to give results mostly. 

But massively flawed concepts such as opportunity cost, which come from one discipline and then get shoved into another just turns thinking off, produces a kind of frantic worrying and delays action. 

The other side of opportunity cost is the person who endlessly researches every option possible and cannot make a first step on any of them because they become hopelessly paralyzed.

Sometimes, rather than endlessly researching all the types of flour, it's better to get out the bowl, put the flour, egg and milk in it and start mixing. Opportunity cost doesn't apply there and even later if you retrospectively try to fit it, you can still be wrong because you can't know the long-term future.

The entirety of Less Wrong, every post, every comment, everything that has come from it my end up being a single comment on one post two years from now that the GPT-6 researcher reads and makes them realize something. Everything else was meaningless except for that one comment.

How can you define opportunity cost in this? 

Animals can suffer - duty to prevent animal suffering - stop that lion hunting that gazelle - lion suffering increase - work out how to feed lions - conclude predators and prey exist - conclude humans are just very smart predators - eating meat ok.

I'd contend that some positions are taken very seriously but what the next perceived logical step for people is varies. An animal activist might be pro the world becoming vegetarian. A non-animal activist is pro strong animal welfare laws to prevent needless suffering.

Trying to resolve "humans are just smart predators so we can eat prey animals" vs "humans have moved beyond the need to behave as predator animals" is unlikely to be resolved by suggesting any parties don't take their ideas seriously.

Otherwise you end up in all sorts of quagmires. Food security is a big problem. Ok, go start a farm then. No, I'm going to write letters to politicians. You're not taking the idea seriously.

Where can that go?

I mean, this forum talks often about existential AI risk. The climate catastrophe is known and real and here now. So... are people not taking it seriously because they're highly concerned about AI?

It does open up the possibility of other people writing any comic that has existed. More Snoopy. More Calvin & Hobbes. 

1st panel: John cooking lasagna, garfield watching. 

2nd panel: garfield tangling in john's legs, lasagna going flying

3rd panel garfield eating lasagna from the floor, happy.

No words, copy style, short comic. 

Wow, this is going to explode picture books and book covers.

Hiring an illustrator for a picture book costs a lot, as it should given it's bespoke art.

Now publishers will have an editor type in page descriptions, curate the best and off they go. I can easily imagine a model improvement to remember the boy drawn or steampunk bear etc.

Book cover designers are in trouble too. A wizard with lighting in hands while mountain explodes behind him - this can generate multiple options.

It's going to get really wild when A/B split testing is involved. As you mention regarding ads you'd give the system the power to make whatever images it wanted and then split test. Letting it write headlines would work too.

Perhaps a full animated movie down the line. There are already programs that fill in gaps for animation poses. Boy running across field chased by robot penguins - animated, eight seconds. And so on. At that point it's like Pixar in a box. We'll see an explosion of directors who work alone, typing descriptions, testing camera angles, altering scenes on the fly. Do that again but more violent. Do that again but with more blood splatter.

Animation in the style of Family Guy seems a natural first step there. Solid colours, less variation, not messing with light rippling etc.

There's a service authors use of illustrated chapter breaks, a black and white dragon snoozing, roses around knives, that sort of thing. No need to hire an illustrator now.

Conversion of all fiction novels to graphic novel format. At first it'll be laborious, typing in scene descriptions but graphic novel art is really expensive now. I can see a publisher hiring a freelancer to produce fifty graphic novels from existing titles.

With a bit of memory, so once I choose the image of each character I want, this is an amazing game changer for publishing.

Storyboarding requires no drawing skill now. Couple sprinting down dark alley chased by robots.

Game companies can use it to rapid prototype looks and styles. They can do all that background art by typing descriptions and saving the best.

We're going to end up with people who are famous illustrator who can't draw but have created amazing styles using this and then made books.

Thanks so much for this post. This is wild astonishing stuff. As an author who is about to throw large sums of money at cover design, it's incredible to think a commercial version of this could do it for a fraction of the price.

edit: just going to add some more

App design that requires art. For example many multiple choice story apps that are costly to make due to art cost.

Split-tested covers designs for pretty much anything - books, music, albums, posters. Generate, ad campaign, test clicks. An ad business will be able to throw up a 1000 completely different variations in a day.

All catalogs/brochures that currently use stock art. While choosing stock art to make things works it also sucks and is annoying with the limited range. I'm imagining a stock art company could radically expand their selection to keep people buying from them. All those searches that people have typed in are now prompts.

Illustrating wikipedia. Many articles need images to demonstrate a point and rely on contributors making them. This could open up improvements in the volume of images and quality.

Graphic novels/comic books - writers who don't need artists essentially. To start it will be describing single panels and manually adding speech text but that's still faster and cheaper than hiring an artist. For publishers - why pick and choose what becomes a graphic novel when you can just make every title into a graphic novel.

Youtube/video interstitial art. No more stock photos.

Licensed characters (think Paw Patrol, Disney, Dreamworks) - creation of endless poses, scenes. No more waiting for Dreamworks to produce 64 pieces of black and white line art when it may be able to take the movie frames and create images from that.

Adaptations - the 24-page storybook of Finding Nemo. The 24-page storybook of Pinocchio. The picture book of Fast and The Furious.

Looking further ahead we might even see a drop-down option of existing comics, graphic novels but in a different art style. Reading the same Spiderman story but illustrated by someone else.

Character design - for games, licensing, children's animation. This radically expands the volume of characters that can be designed, selected and then chosen for future scenes.

With some sort of "keep this style", "save that character" method, it really would be possible to generate a 24-page picture book in an incredibly short amount of time.

Quite frankly, knowing how it works, I'd write a picture book of a kid going through different art styles in their adventure. Chasing their puppy through the art museum and the dog runs into a painting. First Van Gogh, then Da Vinci and so on. The kid changes appearance due to the model but that works for the story.

As a commercial produce, this system would be incredible. I expect we'll see an explosion in the number of picture books, graphic novels, posters, art designs, etsy prints, downloadable files and so on. Publishers with huge backlists would be a prime customer.

Allow it to display info on a screen. Set up a simple poleroid camera that takes a phone every X seconds.

Ask the question, take physical photos of the screen remotely.

View the photos.

Large transmission of information in analog format.

Sell 180 visas per day over 6 hours between 9am-3pm for 361 days of the year. A new auction every two minutes of one visa. Final day of the year sell remainder of visas and take four days off until new year.

Start Jan 1 and say Google bids $10000 x 10 visas. They win the first ten auctions over the first 20 minutes. The reference price is set at $10,000 for auction #11.

But $10,000 is too high for the next bidder who wants to pay $9000. No sale on auction #11.

Auction #12 starts with 2 visas for sale. You decrease the reference price by 2/180. 

So new min reference price is $9888 and there are two visas for sale. If no sale we move to 3/180 decrease for next round. 

Down to $9724 and three visas for sale. Keep repeating this decrease until the price reaches the next highest bid. 

As prices decrease with each unsold round buyers who are looking for, say, six visas for the year would see prices that are perhaps higher than they'd like but they can get all six visas bought in one lot. 

If a sale occurs of any number then the next round doesn't decrease in price. 

Bidders can bid for any number of visas at any price at any time of the year. There are always 180 new visas up for sale every day. If some big company wants 1000 visas and is willing to pay then the first 1000 auctions go to them at their price point. 

By only decreasing the price by the percentage of unsold, it stops large price drops. You can set a minimum figure it never goes below.

Big businesses might want 200, 500, 1000 visas and be willing to play the auction to see if they can get a good price. So if they log in on day 50 of the year and see 140 visas for sale at $5000 each, they might buy all of them just to guarantee they at least get 140. 

Then two minutes later there is 1 visa for sale at $5000 and the bidding keeps going.

Carryover any unsold and add it to the total. If 30 carry over then the next day has 210 visas for sale. First auction of the say is 30 unsold + 1 new. If no sale the new cost cut is 31/210 x reference price. 

If the first 10 visas went for $10K each and then there was no sale until auction number twenty, you'd see the price drop to $7363 at ten visas for sale. 

If a single business just wants one, they have an opportunity to buy at $7363. Or they can toss their bid in at $5000 and let it simmer to see if the reference price ever drops to $5000. 

~ I have zero idea what these visas go for by the way so plug in whatever figure is closer to reality. If the gov wants $20K min then that's the min price. Jan 1st 9am the auction opens, you'd see the price rise to $32K and sold. Then $33K sold. Then no sale, drop of 2/180 x reference price and so on.