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Comment by chala on Rationality case study: How to evaluate untested medical procedures? · 2011-05-30T01:12:09.893Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is likely going to be a net negative for society as I doubt that any information of value can be derived from this sort of experiment in humans. There is still a lot of animal research that has to be done before human trials can bring anything useful to the table. To my knowledge, chronic renal failure isn't even close to being treatable usign stem cells in rats or any other model animal.

It is likely that the team of "scientists" in this case are a bunch of phonies with know comprehension of the basic science behind stem cells, or any serious training in research.

Comment by chala on Rationality case study: How to evaluate untested medical procedures? · 2011-05-30T01:08:36.926Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

In this case I'm beyond sceptical. Stem cells are often given to medical tourists as the very words conjure up the idea of miracle cures in peoples minds, when there really is no evidence to think it will be of any clinical benefit (and in fact there is often evidence that it will be harmful).

If we were at the stage in medical science where we could cure chronic renal failure by using stem cells we would have done so in rats, or some other model animal, already - and we haven't yet to my knowledge.

It is likely that the theam that is going to administer the stem cells has no idea of how proper research is conducted, no idea of the basic science of stem cell therapy and no concept of ethics.

For instance, I heard of a case some time ago in which a young child was taken to South America for stem cell treatment after many years of being in a near vegetative state following some sort of damage to his brain. The "scientists" and "doctors", at the clinical promised massive improvement, and every time they flew over to go to the clinic a brain scan would be done - and improvement would be proclaimed. Back in their native USA, however, one of the doctors that had been involved in the childs long term care convinced the family to have a scan done at home - and it was painfully obvious to anyone with any medical knowledge that the therapy had in fact caused massive irrepairable brain damage.

Stem cells aren't a valid experimental treatment for most conditions (if they were, they would actually be offered in first world patients) they are simply a scam.

Comment by chala on Auckland meetup, Thrusday May 26th · 2011-05-20T23:49:59.754Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I'll attend, cool :)

Comment by chala on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-20T02:35:45.269Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The peanut is an interesting example. I think projects are underway to produce modified varieties that lack the allergens which people tend to react to.

Comment by chala on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-20T02:33:15.137Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah but remember, there will always be a limit to the price they can charge for the GMO - and that will be determined by the cost of the wild type and the productivity different between the two. Thus Mosanto will only be able to sell it if it is worthwile for the farmers! Also, patents do expire eventually.

Comment by chala on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-20T02:31:36.508Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Lol, I'm still pretty sure it would be bad to put genes in to produce more of them though.

Comment by chala on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-20T02:25:58.612Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I am sorry but I have yet to hear of a GMO project that involved removing micronutrients! The only ones I've heard of have involved adding things, e.g. adding vitamin A to rice, adding virus compounds to potatos to act as a vaccine, adding resistance to parasites and viruses etc. Never, ever ever ever heard of a project to remove something.

Comment by chala on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-19T02:57:04.283Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Your final paragraph isn't really relevant, I mean look at golden rice for instance.

Comment by chala on Should I be afraid of GMOs? · 2011-05-19T02:48:00.250Z · score: 24 (24 votes) · LW · GW

GMOs can be safe, they can be unsafe. For instance, if you inserted a gene into a potato to produce poisonous cyanide compounds that would be unsafe. Engineering a rice variety to produce Vitamin A precursors, however, is not likely to be unsafe on a basic scientific level and once the crop has been tested and retested for toxicity and other concerns it is simply not plausible that it would be dangerous.

Other intentions of GMOs can be, for instance, to produce an organism which is naturally resistant to pests or which is better able to grow in a variety of climates. With regards to pest resistance the toxicity of the compound would, of course, have to be tested first - but artificial pesticides are regularly sprayed on crops anyway so I do not see how it is different.

With regards to increased proliferation or better adaptation to more climates, the fear that they will somehow destroy the ecosystem is quite unfounded - if a plant which was slightly better adapted could do this evolution would have assured mutual destruction by know already. Remember that modern varieties of crop plants are probably not well suited to growth outside of human cultivation, being bread to human needs which may be maladaptive in the wild. GMOs are no more capable of taking over the world than their wild type counterparts I assure you - we are years and years away from being able to design something so effectively!

Look at what the basic science of genetic modification is - inserting a known gene or known series of genes into an organisms code under the control of specific gene switches in order to get a desired phenotype. Its not that scary really, an additional gene or an additional few genes added to what is no doubt already thousands. It is merely an accelerated and highly specific form of artificial selection which has been going on for centuries. The exact function of the genes being inserted will no doubt have been ascertained precisely before getting anywhere near the stage of producing a GMO. The only potential risk I can think of is unexpected interactions between metabolites in other biochemical pathways - but this would be picked up on pre release testing and possibly even in silico modelling, and thus can be easily managed.

The fear over GMOs is quite out of control, for instance I have in the past worked with GMOs in a lab setting. This were genetically modified fruit flies (which had the reporter gene Lac-Z added next to genes of interest in order to permit visualisation of gene expression) and Chinese hamster ovary cells which had the cannabinoid receptor artificially added to their repertoire. With both the control were laughably excessive, the fruit flies are no different than their wild type counterparts in terms of any threat of danger and the CHO cells like to die even when good care is taken of them in highly controlled conditions (trust me, they wouldn't last a day if they got out of the lab). Yet still, we had to put up with the highest level restrictions and procedures when working with these in order to absolutely rule out environmental contamination - including intrusive inspections by government staff.

Comment by chala on Beyond Smart and Stupid · 2011-05-18T12:40:31.730Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Um... what so you'd rather have diagnoses that are not based upon data? Or a diagnosis which is made up versus no diagnosis? I don't quite understand what you mean. Illnesses in the human body cannot be solved in the same way as an engineering problem, particularly at the margins. Most of the medical knowledge that could be derived without careful and large clinical trials is already known - I'm not sure what you expect a single doctor to do.

Furthermore, note that most patients will not die undiagnosed - bar situations, such as in geriatric patients, where many things are so suboptimal that you just can't sort out what is killing them and what is just background noise. It is very rare that "creative debugging" would be of any use at all.

Secondly, many patients in a terminal situation often what more medicine. They feel that not treating with aggressive chemotherapy or some such treatment is giving up. This is not always the case, it is often in terminal illnesses that palliative care is the best option and avoiding aggressive treatment will in fact lead to a longer life. No amount of debugging will change that.

Let me stress once again that it is not often a patient will die where a diagnosis has not been achieved where the correct diagnosis would have materially changed the outcome.

Comment by chala on Beyond Smart and Stupid · 2011-05-17T07:34:04.153Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

I think your comments on medical doctors go some what too far. Doctors who approach medicine with an engineering perspective of "how can I fix this" are stupid - the effects of most interventions are subtle or counter-intuitive and thus can only be reliably determined by quality clinical trials.

Much of being a doctor comes down to pattern recognition - what you have consciously decided to memorise is only part of the story and lays only the foundations for future learning. For instance, even with the textbook in front of you I doubt most could competently perform a clinical examination - it is often difficult to tell the difference between normal variation and a pathological sign.

Performing a procedure is also not a simple as being a gigantic look up table, also you neglect that many medical doctors will be involved with research at some point in their careers as research plays a huge part of this profession.

Medical doctors must also apply their EQ to treat well, which is not not wrote learned. I do agree however that having a large knowledge base is a key part of the profession, more so than for engineers and such.

Regarding thinking outside of the box I do not think it would be anti-correlated with memory at all, in fact the opposite. True thinking out of the box doesn't happen by magic, it involves thinking about a problem and getting to know it totally intimately from there you can start to see new solutions. Additionally I think I have read that memory correlates strongly with problem solving and other forms of intelligence, and it may be that memory and cognition are really applications of the same fundamental thing - I've not completed by studies of cognitive science yet but it seems that information storage and computation aren't truely separate in neural networks.

Comment by chala on Why is my sister related to me only 50%? · 2011-05-07T02:24:07.114Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

You share 50% of the variable genes.

Comment by chala on Avoiding Factual Muggings · 2011-05-01T10:57:42.974Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sigh, I got sort of mugged yesterday (only one thing got taken, got to keep my phone/wallet). I guess another thing is don't be a skinny young man ;)

Comment by chala on Auckland meet up Saturday Nov 28th · 2011-04-29T00:12:41.449Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh yeah I did that last year ;)

Comment by chala on Auckland meet up Saturday Nov 28th · 2011-04-28T11:44:41.610Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Not this semester, as I didn't decide what I was going to do until a month in ;) I'll be doing compsci 101 next semester though.

Comment by chala on Auckland meet up Saturday Nov 28th · 2011-04-07T22:39:54.683Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Oh thanks for clearing that up

Comment by chala on Auckland meet up Saturday Nov 28th · 2011-04-07T12:18:31.463Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah I realise its a year old, but its also the first thread that shows up when searching for "Auckland" so it seems reasonable that it may get the occasional traffic ;). Also, its my understanding that the OP would have gotten a notification that I commented on this post.

Comment by chala on Auckland meet up Saturday Nov 28th · 2011-04-07T03:44:41.259Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm interested in future Auckland meet ups :)

Comment by chala on Just Try It: Quantity Trumps Quality · 2011-04-05T09:17:40.175Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It is stil frustrating to be ignored for a position which you would be more than adequate for, and which you are confident that you would be harder working at and more dilligent in than the hired help.

I guess thats one of the things that bothers me, having to jump through arbitrary hoops in a pointless process that fails to relate to reality. Also I probably just don't need/want a job that much ;)

Comment by chala on Just Try It: Quantity Trumps Quality · 2011-04-05T09:13:56.675Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I have a degree in biomedical science, aka a totally useless degree. I'm going back to uni and am just looking for part time work in the mean time to make my time - since I'm finally at the stage of actually really needing the money.

Also I'm going back to uni to do computer science and become a programmer. I guess everyone on the internets realise is in that profession ;).

Regarding social interactions, I am actually (and unusually for less wrong) a very social and extroverted person. I spend much of my time at the moment socialising - ergo my need for money. Socialising is expensive.

However I am also one who has be conditioned to not try, my upbringing was such that any failure was focused on and any triumph taken for granted. Which is no excuse, but still I tend to avoid situations where I am tested at least when I am not guaranteed to triumph (e.g. I am totally 100% ok in academic assessments).

Comment by chala on Just Try It: Quantity Trumps Quality · 2011-04-04T09:50:13.237Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Fear of failure is a big problem in my life right now. Its why I don't have a job, since I'm silly and am afraid of being rejected. This reframed something I think I already knew, but I'm sure it will help anyway. Time to really get on to things now.

Comment by chala on Case study: Console Insurance · 2011-03-22T23:33:15.848Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I write in response to your introductory paragraphs.

Interestingly, most insurance companies give out more money in claims than they take in in premiums - this being a cost of doing business that must be paid for the privilege of holding the "float", being the money held by the insurer which has not yet been paid out as claims. This money is held in some form of investment, often dominated by government bonds, which produce a yield small relative to the float - but large compared to the capital invested in the company as the float should be much greater.

Thus, for an average cost which is slightly less than the yield one would get on their invested premiums the risks of a catastrophe are sold. I would generally refer to that as "fair" as you put it, though I would prefer to avoid the pitfalls of such a subjective term, and I would agree that extended warranties are an "unfair" method of abusing consumer ignorance.

Comment by chala on What is wrong with mathematics education? · 2011-03-20T23:55:21.007Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The biggest barrier for me personally in my mathematics education was that it was supposed to be boring, it was supposed to be hard and thirdly you were forced to do an inordinate number of repititions of the same problem untill it nearly killed your brain. Nevermind that spaced repitition would be far more effective.

Before you even debate what to teach you'd better decide how to teach or you're just wasting your time.

Though I suppose my experience may not have been representative, so lesswrong was your mathematics education effective at teaching you what it was trying to teach you?

Comment by chala on The Lens That Sees Its Flaws · 2011-03-14T21:07:08.840Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

What the heck, Humans who lived past infancy lived far longer than 16 years in the Ancestral environment - just very poor infant mortality brought down the average life expectancy.

"The typical human tribe" would not have gone around murdering whole other tribes... there is no evidence for that and that is not what modern isolated hunter gatherers do either.