Feature request: personal notes about other users 2021-01-02T14:54:05.998Z
Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? 2020-11-22T15:24:55.617Z
Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? 2020-10-14T19:04:09.749Z
Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? 2020-05-09T08:53:53.124Z
What's the expected QALY (quality-adjusted life years) loss per capita due to SARS-COV-2? QALY gain of increasing ICU capacity? Of buying new ventilators? 2020-04-01T05:42:53.881Z
How to study statistical/computer modelling of the current pandemic and its outcomes? 2020-03-29T08:40:17.244Z
[Question] Tracking accuracy of personal forecasts 2019-03-20T20:39:14.895Z


Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Gauging the conscious experience of LessWrong · 2020-12-20T19:06:39.519Z · LW · GW

Re. synaesthesia: I experienced it once in a floatation tank. When my session was coming to an end, a pre-programmed soft music played and I noticed some light patterns in front of my face. I assumed some light had been turned on and reflecting off the water surface. I distinctly remember thinking to myself that it was a pity that they had turned on the light and didn't allow me to enjoy the darkness some more. After few blinks I realised that I was still seeing those patterns even with my eyelids closed, and that the patterns were changing in sync with the music.

Re. thinking in words: I used to never think to myself in words, except when recalling or imagining a dialogue, a written piece, etc. For almost all of my life I assumed that was the case with everyone and I was sure that the meaning of 'internal monologue' was much less literal than it actually is. I realised my mistake just few years ago when a coworker asked me what languages my thoughts were in (I'm multilingual), which made absolutely no sense.

Since then, I have somehow trained myself to have verbal thoughts. I assumed this would be beneficial for self-awareness and indeed, I'm much more aware of my sentiments now that they quite often surface in the form of unspoken sentences, in addition to the regular feelings. I have no idea how I did that, though. It seems as though the mere intention was enough.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on The LessWrong 2018 Book is Available for Pre-order · 2020-12-02T13:23:55.273Z · LW · GW

Any chance for it to be also available in ePub format?

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-29T12:10:33.219Z · LW · GW

FWIW I don't mind, don't feel attacked, offended, etc.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-29T12:09:06.660Z · LW · GW

Valid point, thanks. Although I'm not very fond of this kind of calculations of utility, your point is well made.

In my case, I probably wouldn't give my life for less than lives of a billion strangers, so that ratio would have to be extremely high, to the point where it's probably incalculable.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-29T08:30:29.065Z · LW · GW

no evidence for long-term problems due to the vaccine,

If a vaccine was causing long-term problems, how would you expect the world to be different from what we have now?

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-29T07:49:17.096Z · LW · GW

Ha, I understand your laziness because I'm at least as lazy. Separating clickbait from quality information is too much work for my liking and so I'm crowdsourcing that classification here.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-29T07:33:11.911Z · LW · GW

And what other drugs do you believe have been in that reference class?

I don't know.

Without that, it doesn't tell you much.

I disagree. It allows me to shift those products from the category "drugs backed by the authority of academia and years of rigorous research" to "drugs that you take because important people and your echo chamber say that you should".

I must admit, I've had some lingering doubts about drug testing before. But I never investigated those because it would take me too much time to gather the necessary knowledge to even distinguish whom to trust (especially since I find biology completely uninteresting - my high school teacher made sure of that). But I'm certain that the incentives of researchers and administrative bodies are more aligned with telling the truth in the case of ordinary drugs, than they are in case of Covid vaccines.

Direct finanical motivations seems to be even less strong in this case.

Thank you. I do not believe the guy quoted in the article because I don't know his incentives, but that prompted me to look up the stock price of Pfizer and to my untrained eye it doesn't look like investors believe the company will reap great profits from this. This strikes out my concern about financial incentives. The other concerns (about political pressure and lowered scrutiny) remain.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T13:27:46.394Z · LW · GW

After reading the linked paper, I find it only mildly worrying:

Normal limitations pertaining to inferences about cause and effect from cross-sectional studies apply3,20. One might posit that people with lower cognitive ability have higher risk of catching the virus. We consider such a relationship plausible; however, it would not explain why the observed deficits varied in scale with respiratory symptom severity. We also note that the large and socioeconomically diverse nature of the cohort enabled us to include many potentially confounding variables in our analysis. Nonetheless, we emphasise that longitudinal research, including follow-up of this cohort, is required to further confirm the cognitive impact of COVID-19 infection and determine deficit longevity as a function of respiratory symptom severity, and other symptoms. It also is plausible that cognitive deficits associated with COVID-19 are no different to other respiratory illnesses. The observation of significant cognitive deficit associated with positive biological verification of having had COVID-19, i.e., relative to suspected COVID-19, goes some way to mitigate this possibility.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T12:23:57.938Z · LW · GW

Care to share some links? I did some quick Googling about SARS back in Spring but couldn't find anything that didn't look to me like clickbait and scare-mongering. But I only scratched the surface, so it's quite likely that I have missed quality information.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T12:20:57.282Z · LW · GW

I have absolutely no inside-understanding of how vaccines work, and I don't know whom I could trust right now, given how much political pressure, twisted incentives and increased polarization (due to the crazy anti-vaccine movement) there is. My risk model treats all the available vaccines as "drug that was developed under political and financial pressure and whose trials ended much sooner than is normally the case".

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T12:18:59.750Z · LW · GW

Note there is evidence of long term effects contrary to your claim

Got any links?

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T12:16:31.390Z · LW · GW

Findings  In this cohort study including 100 patients recently recovered from COVID-19 identified from a COVID-19 test center, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging revealed cardiac involvement in 78 patients (78%) and ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60 patients (60%), which was independent of preexisting conditions, severity and overall course of the acute illness, and the time from the original diagnosis.


What does that mean? I don't understand the meaning, severity or prognoses related to "cardiac involvement" and "ongoing myocardial inflammation". 

Given the studies that we have that do suggest long-term problems from COVID-19 and no evidence for long-term problems due to the vaccine,

Oh come on, I expect better from people on LW. There was no opportunity yet to produce evidence for long-term problems due to the vaccine.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T12:06:17.573Z · LW · GW

You are applying the incentive heuristic inconsistently. On the one hand you infer that if there was string evidence of long term effects, governments would be very vocal about it. But on the other hand, you ignore that these incentives would also apply to the Vitamin D effects that you cite. Governments would also surely have an interest to publicize an intervention that has  a 25 fold reduction in risk.  So the estimate is wrong or your conception of how governments work is wrong.  

I fail to see any contradiction. Care to elaborate?

I acknowledge that my model of how governments work is at least incomplete, thank you for pointing it out:

  • I believe that importance of Vitamin D, at least in prevention, is beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • I think the world's supply of vit. D is much lower than world's population would require as a covid-prevention measure (I think someone on LW said the supply was 0.5%, I can't bother to look it up right now)
  • I would predict that governments would not broadcast the importance of vit. D but rather would try to hoard as much as possible and distribute it at their discretion, like they did with PPE in the spring.
  • I'm not seeing soaring prices or shortages in pharmacies, so I don't believe this has happened.

Thanks a lot for the study! I was just about to book a trip to Sweden to take a break from the restrictions, and the abstract is scary enough that I might reconsider after reading it:

Significance statement There is evidence that COVID-19 may cause long term health changes past acute symptoms, termed ‘long COVID’. Our analyses of detailed cognitive assessment and questionnaire data from tens thousands of datasets, collected in collaboration with BBC2 Horizon, align with the view that there are chronic cognitive consequences of having COVID-19. Individuals who recovered from suspected or confirmed COVID-19 perform worse on cognitive tests in multiple domains than would be expected given their detailed age and demographic profiles. This deficit scales with symptom severity and is evident amongst those without hospital treatment. These results should act as a clarion call for more detailed research investigating the basis of cognitive deficits in people who have survived SARS-COV-2 infection.


On the other hand, you do not mention the strongest reason for supporting your view: the relatively underexplored long term effects of mRNA vaccines.

You might be right, the reason for that is that I have absolutely no inside-understanding of how vaccines work, and I don't know whom I could trust right now, given how much political pressure, twisted incentives and increased polarization (due to the crazy anti-vaccine movement) there is. My risk model treats all the available vaccines as "drug that was developed under political and financial pressure and whose trials ended much sooner than is normally the case".

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine? · 2020-11-28T11:49:07.913Z · LW · GW

One 35 year old friend of mine...

ąnecdotes from a stranger on the Internet.

There is evidence that...

[citation needed]

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-11-07T15:43:19.727Z · LW · GW

Thanks for pointing it out, and sorry for the fake quote in the first place. I did not intend to paste anything but quotes taken directly from Eliezer's posts.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-14T21:45:29.777Z · LW · GW

Thanks, you are right. I have posted an answer with direct quote

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-14T21:44:58.568Z · LW · GW

He still seems to believe that:

In response to:

"The same goes for obesity. The right message is not: 'They are simply unable to lose weight.' The right message is: 'The obese are totally able to be thin. They are making bad choices. They should make better choices.'"

he posted:

Oh, bloody nonsense. I lost 70 pounds... by choosing to spend 7 months of my productivity on protein-sparing modified fasting, consuming 800 calories per day to lose 2 pounds per week. I was not able to be productive at the same time. Plenty of people can't afford such things.


Thanks to interstice who suggested I check Eliezer's twitter.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Has Eliezer ever retracted his statements about weight loss? · 2020-10-14T21:10:47.485Z · LW · GW

While it might seem otherwise, my purpose here is not to start a discussion on the merits of those statements or other theories regarding weight loss and obesity. I merely wanted to find out what is his most recent stance.

I have not received an answer but the comments from three different people suggest that there have been no significant changes. Thank you. That's all I wanted to know.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-27T14:32:20.599Z · LW · GW

English lessons have been obligatory in schools for decades here. I've heard (not sure how true that is) that this way the local dictator wanted to put some space between himself and the overlords in Moscow. AFAIK all the other communist countries were teaching Russian to their children.

Is it more spoken in Bucharest than in other large mainland European cities?

I got a strong impression that it is, although I haven't checked the statistics.

Also, I think that the impact of tourism on English fluency is very limited - only people working directly with the tourists would be affected (waiters, guides, hotel staff, taxi drivers), and even then to a limited degree (you might master the vocabulary and grammar necessary to wait tables, but be unable to discuss the dissertation that you are writing).

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-27T12:30:13.573Z · LW · GW

I'm not sure where you see the contradiction. Do you assume that ease of communicating in English should attract tourists, or that the main cause for English fluency is usually tourism?

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on The rationalist community's location problem · 2020-09-27T11:35:49.987Z · LW · GW

I recently spent a year travelling and deciding very carefully where to settle down. This is somewhat related to the question posed in the post, so I will briefly list what made me choose Bucharest in Romania.

  • English is (very) commonly spoken. Probably on par with Nordic countries.
  • Taxes - if you work as a contractor as I do, with the right legal structure you can bring your income tax rate (including obligatory social insurance, healthcare, etc.) down to 6%. Capital Gains Tax is only 10%.
  • Rule of law and civil liberties - those are pretty well established and respected.
  • Member of the EU - with all the convenience, efficiency and the extra protection of your freedoms and rights that a membership in EU brings.
  • Local population is extremely friendly towards foreigners.
  • Low crime rate
  • No tourists
  • The city is extremely walkable
  • Cheap (Uber here costs less than public transit in London or NYC)
  • Close proximity to mountains. 

No, I don't think that the LessWrong community should move here en masse. Just wanted to share my 2 bani's worth. 

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-06-02T19:44:18.865Z · LW · GW

Note to self. Even short mindfulness training improves Working Memory Capacity (WMC):

In both cases the (A)OSPAN task requires the subject to memorize a few letters while solving simple mathematical equations under time constraints.

TODO: How important is WMC? Are there studies showing meditation resulting in those benefits of improved WMC?

TODO: Are the improvements present also in people without deficiency?

TODO: Learn more about ANOVA/MANOVA (the statistical framework used in all the studies in the field) and figure out whether Zeidan, Fadel, et al. "Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental trainingq." (2010) contradicts the above results.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on What are your greatest one-shot life improvements? · 2020-05-19T15:27:53.146Z · LW · GW

Reading 'Say Goodnight to Insomnia'. I struggled with horrible insomnia, now I have a ridiculous control over my sleep.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-15T18:12:59.525Z · LW · GW

One more thing that I think I haven't voiced clearly enough: If you have your sources at your fingertips and want to share them in a comment, I will be grateful for that. It just might take me a while before I get to them.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-10T20:55:19.416Z · LW · GW
I'm not saying that it's wrong to ask for a more detailed analysis, but I suspect that you might not get very many answers.

I think your prediction is likely correct. My another motivation (which I didn't want to name, not to seem hostile), was precisely increasing the cost of posting an answer.

In my previous attempt at answering this question I found that there was a lot of people flooding me with large amounts of vague references. The cost of sifting through those outweighed the benefit (if any) of broadening my search space. To be honest, it was all noise and no signal. But then again, I wasn't posing the question to a rationalist community.

But most LW readers aren't experts at verifying the validity of psychological studies; I know that I'm not.

I'm not either. But the manipulations and shortcomings I've seen so far were painfully obvious. Maybe I missed some, but still I would rather trust my honest scrutiny, even if lacking expertise in the field, than the academics and journal editors in the field whose incentive system I don't understand.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-10T18:38:04.436Z · LW · GW

Thanks for a thoughtful and provoking comment. I wanted to elaborate on my methodology before I start my search, and your comment was an excellent prompt for that.

All of that is a long precursor to saying "Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation?" and "Are there good reasons for a typical reader of LessWrong to invest their time and effort into meditation practice?" are subtly different questions, so it would be wrong to literally equate them.

I agree those are different questions. My purpose in starting this post is gathering scientific data that helps answer the latter question. I admit there might be reasons to invest in meditation practice that are not based on scientifically proven benefits (e.g., curiosity, sense of novelty, sense of belonging to a community). At the same time, I hope that most LW readers attach very little weight to those non-evidence-based reasons to meditate, just like I do.

So I want to answer the first question. The second question reveals my motivation and limits the scope of the first question. For example, I'm not interested in such potential benefits like 'gaining enough willpower to voluntarily starve yourself to death or voluntarily set yourself aflame'.

The second is the answer we really care about, the first is one input which would, if available, fully resolve the question instead of leaving is in a state of uncertainty. You're entitled to arguments, but not (that particular) proof.

I'm glad that you raise this point because I wanted to comment today on my standards of proof anyway.

Let's start with the easy to verify claims that I generalise as: 'After only few weeks of regular practice, I sometimes notice impulses when they arise and simply let them fade away, instead of succumbing to them. Sure, often I still act like I used to, but I'm starting to see a change for the better.' This is very easy to verify. For such claims, I will treat an absence of a strong proof as a strong proof of absence. Here is a sample study protocol (for illustrative purposes only, I don't claim it's well thought-out):

1. Gather people who claim to spend too much time compulsively on social media (and in this day and age, who doesn't?)

2. Give them a smartphone app and a browser extension that tracks how much time they spend on social media.

3. Randomly instruct them to meditate for x minutes a day or lie down for a nap for x minutes a day.

4. Each day ask them on their smartphone whether they did their meditation session/nap time and give them a shame-free, nuisance-free option to answer 'yes' or 'no'.

5. Do some statistics juggling and publish.

There are of course those who claim that the benefits require more investment. For example, the Goenka's organisation is one of the leading schools of insight meditation and claims that one needs to finish their 10-day retreat and then meditate for a year, two hours a day, in order to reap benefits (or, more precisely, that this is the maximum investment needed before the benefits become apparent). This is still within reach of a sufficiently motivated person, but well beyond what can be tested through a random trial. In that case, a sample study that I would deem sufficient would be:

1. Gather people undertaking their 10-day retreat.

2. Before they start, measure the metrics of interest (more on that later)

3. After the retreat, poll them periodically (e.g., monthly or weekly) to see whether they maintain their 2 hours a day practice.

4. After a year measure again the metrics of interest.

5. Do some statistics juggling and publish.

If the benefits require even greater commitment, I would argue that any evidence of such benefits becomes irrelevant, thanks to the second question. Even if you promise me living the rest of my days in a state of never-ending orgasm, on the condition that I first spend a few years locked up in a monastery, I'm not going to do that.

In the case of meditation, people usually begin the practice to have mental well-being or greater happiness

Do you have some sources to back this up? I've heard many declared reasons why people begin their meditation practice, and it was quite a diverse set, none seemed dominant. But my sample was never representative. Until proven... er, until argumented otherwise, I reject this assumption.

which is among the outcomes least amenable to reliable objective observation.

As per Sandvik, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (1993). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures. Journal of Personality, 61(3), 317-342, there are other measures that are well correlated with subjective well-being under normal circumstances. For example, you can simply ask subject's friends and family how happy they seem. Or you can request the subject to recall negative and positive events from their life and see how many they come up with in a short amount of time.

(Side note: it would be fascinating to see whether those measures diverge more after a meditation training. That is, whether meditators report higher well-being but don't show the usual signs of it.)

(Confession: I have only skimmed through that paper, after finding it referenced in The Happiness Lab)

If it happens to also do something that could be reliably measured with a medical instrument, that would be a bit outside the point.

I don't buy this at all. If the only observable benefit of me meditating is that I used to self-report average well-being of 5.17 out of 10, and now I self-report 7.39 on average, but:

  • my measurable indicators of stress levels and anxiety remain unchanged
  • there is no significant change to my relationships
  • people around me don't see me being any happier
  • there is no change in my addictive/compulsive behaviours
  • the frequency of me using the word 'd**khead' in my tweets has not dropped


1. I don't find this change of self-reported well-being something that's worth pursuing at all.

2. Even if I wanted to pursue it, I can achieve it with less demanding training protocol: Install an app for spaced repetition and commit to memory: 'Whenever asked, claim that you are super happy'. I can achieve this lasting result in probably less than 5 minutes of total investment.

Meditation shares with nutritional science (also a wrecked landscape of low-quality studies that fail to answer our real questions) that performing the study relies on the subjects to reliably do something with a huge, short-term cost and an uncertain, long-term benefit

I agree that nutritional science is a mess but I disagree with your diagnosis of why that is the case. There are several characteristics of nutrition and eating that make scientific scrutiny very difficult, and those characteristics are not shared with meditation:

  • What we eat is largely determined by the environment we find ourselves in (e.g, it's nearly impossible for me to have a fresh salad if I don't have a fridge in the office or an affordable store selling good quality salads nearby). On the other hand, most of us have the power to decide whether to meditate at some point during the day or not. (Ok, I guess parents of small children should be excluded from any meditation studies.)
  • We eat many times a day, almost always with different parameters. So accurate tracking is extremely tedious and would probably require carrying a scale with you at all times, and demanding detailed datasheets from all the restaurants you visit. On the other hand, we can reliably tell how much time we spend meditating. (Situation would be much more difficult if the meditation teachers suggested that for example we meditate for 30 seconds, within every 5-minute period. Luckily, meditation recommendations seem to focus on designated meditation sessions, with clear start and finish.) Also, society is not going to shame you for breathing without being aware of it, so you have less incentive to lie.
  • We have habits pertaining to eating. Some of those are even unconscious. Imposing changes on our eating habits might cause significant suffering that persists until the change is completely abandoned. You are not going to be grumpy for an entire day, feel pain in your stomach and fantasise about being un-mindful just because you promised a researcher to observe your breath for 20 minutes later today.

Another, smaller, point I'd like to make is that this post is attempting to perform its own meta-analysis, but with a higher quality bar than academic meta analyses. I don't think crowdsourcing the best studies of meditation is likely to work this way. If you are interested in running a project to identify the top studies of meditation, I think you would need to identify all the relevant studies, get individuals who are interested in your project to review them, then collate the results. Just asking "the crowd" for the best studies they happen to have on hand I think is likely to fail regardless of what the evidence is.

That's a valid point. Crowdsourcing meta-analysis would be great but that's not my intention. I expect this post to turn into my own notebook. I still expect that this will be beneficial to me because:

  • I hate writing, and in this format I can split a long meta-analysis article into smaller pieces, published as soon as they are ready, which makes it more bearable.
  • I still expect that some people will read what I write, and keep me in check if I write something stupid or biased.
  • While I don't expect to be flooded by high-quality studies, I do hope that people will suggest new ways of how I might find them.
  • The added motivation of a possible 'I told you so' at the end of this road.
  • Increased confidence in my findings, so that hopefully I don't revisit this subject for the third time in a few years.
Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-09T22:01:22.527Z · LW · GW

But then all the readers have to perform that work and duplicate each other's efforts, in addition to the commenter (answerer) doing it. And the answerer has to perform that work anyway, in order to establish whether the meta-analysis is comprised of decent quality publications.

This is especially true when the articles are paywalled and this verification costs not only time and effort, but also money (or at least more effort in circumventing the paywall).

There is also a pragmatic reason: When challenging people's beliefs and asking them for some evidence, they will often respond by throwing a lot of material at the wall and hoping that something sticks, or more likely that the sceptic gives up (e.g., 'see this 800-pages book for details' or 'look up research of Dr. Xyz' or 'follow the 57 references on this Wikipedia page'). Pointing at a meta-analysis that one hasn't verified is exactly that tactic. And if the answerer has verified the meta-analysis, then picking one of the studies is hardly any work.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Is there any scientific evidence for benefits of meditation? · 2020-05-09T20:42:54.272Z · LW · GW

First, a short backstory:

I looked through scientific research on meditation a few years ago, and much to my surprise and dismay found nothing to support the popular claims of its many benefits. Whenever a new study was touted in pop-science headlines, a tiniest amount of scrutiny would reveal methodological shortcomings at best, or blatant manipulation at worst. I have thus dismissed meditation as belonging to the realm of magical thinking, somewhere between Reiki and Eucharist.

A few facts have lead me to investigate the subject again:

  • LW community in general seems very positive about meditation. This is the most important consideration, as it means that either way I will improve my model of the world at the end of this research: Either meditation is helpful and I will gain a new tool in my toolbox, or it's not and I will learn to put less trust in the LW community.
  • When doing my literature review few years ago, I didn't know a rationalist community that could criticise my efforts and so I might have missed something. Hopefully, once I start posting here, this question will gain enough attention for people to point out my omissions.
  • Sam Harris believes in benefits of meditation and I trust that guy. However, I won't be surprised if that's explained away by him having a blind spot here.

What made me restart this investigation now in particular is a brief discussion that I had with another LW reader under Kaj_sotala's recent post A non-mystical explanation of insight meditation and the three characteristics of existence: introduction and preamble, as well as the warm reception that the post has received (and for good reasons, I think it's valuable regardless of which way this investigation will go).

I'm going to purposefully keep to myself my personal history with meditation (or lack thereof), and any ideological bias that I might have against or in favour of meditation. All of that information is irrelevant in the context of this question, and would only serve to clog judgement.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Tips/tricks/notes on optimizing investments · 2020-05-08T07:59:09.629Z · LW · GW

Looks like all/most of those answers are for US residents?

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on What would you do differently if you were less concerned with looking weird? · 2020-05-08T06:48:52.554Z · LW · GW

I would wear skirts in the summer.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on A non-mystical explanation of insight meditation and the three characteristics of existence: introduction and preamble · 2020-05-07T17:59:04.074Z · LW · GW
is there anything that might change your mind? Scientific papers? Meta-analysis studies?

Yes, studies with good methodologies and decent sample sizes would make me question my stance. If they were replicated, that would completely change my mind. As I mentioned in my other comments, I have arrived at my present beliefs by doing a literature review few years ago.

I'm a bit more sceptical about meta-analyses since a lot of papers published on the subject are of terribly low quality (or at least were, when I looked into it).

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on A non-mystical explanation of insight meditation and the three characteristics of existence: introduction and preamble · 2020-05-07T16:36:21.432Z · LW · GW

Great post. I can't wait to read the subsequent parts.

I proceed from the assumption that regardless of whether the original frameworks are true or false, they do systematically produce similar effects and insights in the minds of the people following them, and that is an observation which needs to be explained.

Any particular reason to believe that? It's true that when googling for reports of meditators, many results seem consistent with each other. However, there are at least two strong biases at play:

  • Confirmation bias - because the meditator doesn't want to admit that they have wasted their investment and did not experience what was supposed to be the result of the practice.
  • Selection bias - because reports diverging from the common theme don't get as much attention.
Comment by cheerfulwarrior on A non-mystical explanation of insight meditation and the three characteristics of existence: introduction and preamble · 2020-05-07T12:21:00.853Z · LW · GW

Judging by the abstract, that paper is irrelevant:

  • It is about metta meditation, not insight meditation (or at least some other popular kind of meditation)
  • The supposed benefits are to the society and not to the individual undertaking the practice.
  • "Most control groups were wait-list or no-treatment"
Comment by cheerfulwarrior on A non-mystical explanation of insight meditation and the three characteristics of existence: introduction and preamble · 2020-05-07T11:18:14.672Z · LW · GW
What are the key differences between "deep meditation vs. plain old meditation" in your "model"?

I agree with your request for a definition of the terms used.

Would you agree that someone who consistently runs for 10 minutes, three times a week, is going to realize greater long-term health benefits than someone who only run-walks one marathon a year?

I see no reason to assume a priori that a runner's training schedule says anything about optimal schedule for meditation.

your notion of the time required for "deep" meditation is curiously out of step with what leading meditation instructors advocate.

How do you select among meditation instructors those that are leading? If it's their popularity, then clearly their instruction as an aggregate will be biased towards what's appealing to the mass public, rather than what is effective (whatever the word 'effective' might mean in this context).

Or does this whole idea of "deep vs. shallow" only apply to meditation and not to aerobic sports, weightlifting, or other activities?

I don't know what the OP means by those terms but two related points I want to raise from my own perspective:

  • as an avid reader and programmer, I definitely experience some of my reading/programming sessions as deep, and some as shallow. I suspect this distinction is valid for all mental activities.
  • I know of at least one meditative tradition (Theravada) that distinguishes different depths of meditation. Those are called jhanas, there is 4 or 8 of them, depending on the specific school, and the transition into them or between them is a discreet event. They also specify more gradual transition of mental states before entering the first jhana.
Joseph Goldstein is one of the first American vipassana teachers. He's led meditation retreats worldwide since 1974. He is a co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (est. 1975). Joseph has conducted and produced countless short meditation sessions. Do you take the position that he's effectively wasting (quite a lot of) people's time with his "softcore" approach to meditation?

I'm not an OP but I do suspect that an individual who fits this bio would be wasting a lot of time for a lot of people. Or rather, provides no more benefit than any other religious program would provide. Can't speak specifically about Mr. Goldstein because I don't know how accurate this bio is.

Perhaps we could build an "enlightenment machine."

That's an interesting point that I've thought about many times. If the supposed benefits of meditation were available without all the sacrifices, for example by taking a pill, I wonder how many meditators would decide to do that.

Something akin to one of those Electrical Muscle Stimulation devices for people who want to short circuit a proper weightlifting routine. Who needs sex when you can have an Autoblow 2?

Many people are in fact choosing to not have sex with humans, instead simulating interaction with a human while self-stimulating. If your criticism here is based on an assumption that such choice is somehow invalid or worse, it would be great if you could support that. Otherwise, it would be great if you can clarify this part for me.

Your focus on "results" and notions of "return on investment" and gamification of meditation by hacking the "algorithm" is profoundly antithetical to the practice

There are certainly some schools of meditation that criticise focusing on the outcome. But those are not the only ones, right?

"Ten minutes a day toward Enlightenment" is the sort of slogan that has inspired the current generation to unimaginably large numbers of part-time meditators. I think this is something that should be celebrated

Why should it? Having looked through the studies on the supposed benefits of meditation (quite thoroughly, although a few years ago), I believe this is mostly a waste of time. Although I think it's harmless because that time would otherwise be wasted in some other way.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on A non-mystical explanation of insight meditation and the three characteristics of existence: introduction and preamble · 2020-05-07T07:58:54.139Z · LW · GW
Are you aware of the many benefits supported the scientific literature?

Could you please elaborate? The last time I checked (quite thoroughly, but it was few years ago), the only confirmed benefit of meditation was in treating chronic anxiety. But even then, it was not more beneficial than other treatments.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Peter's COVID Consolidated Brief - 29 Apr · 2020-04-30T14:21:37.390Z · LW · GW

Thank you so much for this summary!

I don't like in Rob Wiblin's post that it presumes that the <5% forecasts of serious pandemic were wrong, and his forecast of ~80% was correct. (And I'm writing it here rather than on the original post because it seems wrong to visit a FB page of a guy I've never heard about just to criticise him.)

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on My experience with the "rationalist uncanny valley" · 2020-04-27T18:08:51.387Z · LW · GW

One thing I really don't like about this post is that it presumes the reader knows what 'rationalist uncanny valley' means. Without that context, the post is really chaotic.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on What are some fun ways to spend $100,000? · 2020-04-21T21:37:12.535Z · LW · GW

What a fascinating question. As a self-proclaimed hedonist and an egoist, I feel compelled to throw in my two cents.

First of all, it's crucial not to spend this money recklessly. If you do, and you end up regretting this waste of money for significant time, the anguish will outweigh the fun. You are better off if you never had the money to begin with.

That means you need to know reasonably well what will bring you fun before you pay a lot for it. Significant portion of the 100k budget should be distributed over many smaller experiments that might bring you fun. If you expect to have similar fun budget in the future, perhaps even entire 100k should be spent that way. And even if you have clear idea of what brings you fun, it's still worth to drop a few k every now and then into new ventures, to see if they might increase your fun. This is quite tricky: things that at first seem to deliver a lot of fun might habituate easily, so repeated experiments might be in order.

I would also recommend that this budget is spent over some time rather than in a single shot. I know that in my pursuit of fun, more often than not the anticipation was more enjoyable than the thing itself. Also, when I knew that my purchase of fun was time-limited (e.g., it was a short trip), I was pressuring myself to make the most out of it and thus significantly diminishing the fun I was experiencing. I now make it a point to keep myself perpetually in a state of anticipation of near-future pursuits.

Now, some specific ways that may or may not bring you fun:

  • Gifts for people you care about.
  • Travel. Try doing it solo and with a friend, see what works better.
  • Vanity: Getting professional haircut, grooming and style advice.
  • Prostitution (if it's legal and not coerced in your area).
  • Signalling wealth (expensive watch, jewellery).
  • Prestige (get recognized for making a substantial donation to some org).
  • Activism (you can get a lot more done in an NGO if you don't need to look for funding).
  • Vengeance (no specific ideas here; I do like The Count of Monte Cristo, though).
  • Home upgrade (easiest way: stay in a lot of AirBnBs, see what you like, be extremely picky based on those criteria when searching for future homes). <- This advice is HUGE and possibly the greatest contributor to my enjoyment of life.
  • Professional equipment for any hobbies you have.
  • Eliminating un-fun (get a maid, order food delivery instead of cooking, use Uber instead of public transit).
  • Like-minded people (if you think that you would enjoy the company of LessWrongers, move to the Bay Area, perhaps only for a short period of time at first to try it).
  • Time (quit your job, or at least get unpaid time off; or switch to working part-time).

It's time to go to bed here in Europe. I will probably add some more tomorrow.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Jimrandomh's Shortform · 2020-04-19T06:01:07.441Z · LW · GW

If it was a lab-escape and the CCP knew early enough, they could simply manufacture the data to point at the market as the origin.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Are there any active play-money prediction markets online? · 2020-04-11T18:43:04.172Z · LW · GW

Only remotely related to your question: When I was studying poker, the common wisdom I read everywhere was to never play without real money being involved. The justification for that was that people behave completely differently when no real money is involved, and so skill in play-money games does not translate at all to real poker. Apparently even stakes as low as $0.02 (translating to maximum loss for an entire game being about $5) make a difference.

I think the regulator issues could be easily overcome with bitcoin and TOR. I would be actually surprised if there was no betting exchange or sports betting site there, and those typically allow you to also bet on some non-sports events (elections, etc.).

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on What is the impact of varying infectious dose of COVID-19? · 2020-04-09T20:18:51.487Z · LW · GW

I would ask about testing: if there were any tests, when were the samples gathered, what were the results, what kind of test was used (RNA/antibodies), which country/institution performed the test (that last one might help infer what kind of test was used)

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on What's the expected QALY (quality-adjusted life years) loss per capita due to SARS-COV-2? QALY gain of increasing ICU capacity? Of buying new ventilators? · 2020-04-02T13:42:37.849Z · LW · GW

Thank you so much for this! This not only helps answer my question but is an important datapoint while I'm deciding whether to increase my risk of infection.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on April Coronavirus Open Thread · 2020-04-02T13:05:53.364Z · LW · GW

My response here is pretty useless but I have relevant personal experience and not many human interactions recently so I might as well...

I'm an EU citizen and as such I benefit from almost 30 sovereign countries competing over my presence (I could also move to a non-EU country but staying within EU is much easier). This has been my perspective for quite a few years. I have recently moved to a new country mostly because it offers low taxation for high-income individuals and the bureaucracy is generally friendly towards expat entrepreneurs and freelancers. I keep my investments/savings and even current accounts in more dependable countries.

Following reports of how different countries respond to the pandemic, I've been also considering moving to another EU country for a month or two and staying there in an AirBnB. The primary criteria would be the political response to the crisis (the more rational the better; the less constraining individual freedom the better) and expected quality of healthcare, should I require it. (Another factor is possible barriers when I try to come back to my country of residence.) The one thing stopping me from doing that is lack of reliable data that would help me estimate the risks.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Hanson vs Mowshowitz LiveStream Debate: "Should we expose the youth to coronavirus?" (Mar 29th) · 2020-03-29T20:16:56.097Z · LW · GW

As an authoritarian country with not much consideration for medical ethics, China probably is able to try the deliberate infection route. They also have plenty of medical expertise so this idea was probably considered. Furthermore, if it was successful, I would expect them to announce that, or at least for the information to be leaked. How come we haven't heard about it yet?

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-11T14:41:52.614Z · LW · GW

Thank you, you are right re. condensers. I confused them with ventilators. Re-reading this thread, it's great to see that condensers alone greatly increase the chance of survival.

maybe if I can make it more probable in some way.

In that case I won't assist you. I appreciate your honesty, though.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-10T21:57:12.127Z · LW · GW

(EDIT: ignore this paragraph, it's not true) I've seen this discussed on another forum. Apparently, medical grade condensers require the patient to be put in a pharmacological coma so that their body doesn't fight all that air being shoved down their lungs. Makes sense since usually only stuff that's potentially harmful requires prescription.

Also, I've seen open discussions in at least one democratic country of confiscating privately owned condensers for the public healthcare. So if you end up buying some equipment, you will want to keep your mouth shut and perhaps use cash if possible.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-08T23:22:17.072Z · LW · GW

If you have long(-ish) hair, wear something that will keep your hair off your face.

Rationale: I'm training myself not to touch my face, and more often than not, I want to do so to get my hair out of the way.

Also, I touch my hair very often (to fix its position) but I wash my hair much less than I wash my hands, so if my hair regularly touches my face, it's plausible that I'm at greater risk of catching the virus through my hair rather than through my hands.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on Coronavirus: Justified Practical Advice Thread · 2020-03-08T09:55:31.628Z · LW · GW

Re. potassium, I buy a low-sodium salt because it's usually high in potassium.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on A Framework for Internal Debugging · 2019-04-25T09:12:57.344Z · LW · GW

Thank you for this! I was just searching LW for some info on CBT, aiming to fix a pattern that has been hunting me for many years.

The step-by-step approach is very useful for someone like me, who is new to this school of self-help.

I have searched for one of the techniques you mention (Murphyjitsu), and Google produced quite a few descriptions. I'm not sure how consistent they are with each other and with what you had in mind. So there is a risk of some ambiguity with this and other techniques.

Comment by cheerfulwarrior on What are effective strategies for mitigating the impact of acute sleep deprivation on cognition? · 2019-04-02T07:13:34.420Z · LW · GW
skeptical that it's placebo-like, as you seem to be indicating

Just to clarify my point: I was suggesting it was more like a confirmation bias than placebo. In my case at least, I used to think that sleep deprivation lowered my performance, and then started believing there was no correlation at all (although lack of sleep still affected my mood, so it was undesirable). However, I have little confidence in that belief, and even if I was more certain about it, it's just an anecdote.