Near-Term Risk: Killer Robots a Threat to Freedom and Democracy 2013-06-14T06:28:15.906Z
Poll - Is endless September a threat to LW and what should be done? 2012-12-08T23:42:14.949Z
Female Test Subject - Convince Me To Get Cryo 2012-09-30T05:13:00.302Z
Elitism isn't necessary for refining rationality. 2012-09-10T05:41:16.398Z
Call For Agreement: Should LessWrong have better protection against cultural collapse? 2012-09-03T05:35:38.144Z
Preventing discussion from being watered down by an "endless September" user influx. 2012-09-02T03:46:30.574Z
LessWrong could grow a lot, but we're doing it wrong. 2012-08-20T05:21:33.599Z
Enjoy solving "impossible" problems? Group project! 2012-08-18T00:20:07.779Z
Number of Members on LessWrong 2012-08-17T05:47:55.115Z


Comment by Epiphany on 2012 Survey Results · 2013-10-01T21:03:51.848Z · LW · GW

Ah! Good point! Karma for you! Now I will think about whether there is a way to figure out the truth despite this.


Comment by Epiphany on 2012 Survey Results · 2013-09-25T05:05:49.450Z · LW · GW

While mistakes can of course go in either direction, they don't actually go in either direction.

I intuit that this is likely to be a popular view among sceptics, but I do not recall ever being presented with research that supports this by anyone. To avoid the lure of "undiscriminating scepticism", I am requesting to see the evidence of this.

I agree that, for numerous reasons, self-reported IQ scores, SAT scores, ACT scores and any other scores are likely to have some amount of error, and I think it's likely for the room for error to be pretty big. On that we agree.

An average thirty points higher than normal seems to me to be quite a lot more than "pretty big". That's the difference between an IQ in the normal range and an IQ large enough to qualify for every definition of gifted. To use your metaphor, that's like having a 6-incher and saying it's 12. I can see guys unconsciously saying it's 7 if it's 6, or maybe even 8. But I have a hard time believing that most of these people have let their imaginations run so far away with them as to accidentally believe that they're Mensa level gifted when they're average. I'd bet that there was a significant amount of error, but not an average of 30 points.

If you agree with those two, then whether we agree over all just depends on what specific belief we're each supporting.

I think these beliefs are supported:

  • The SAT, ACT, self-reported IQ and / or scores found on the survey are not likely to be highly accurate.

  • Despite inaccuracies, it's very likely that the average LessWrong member has an IQ above average - in other words, I don't think that the scores reported on the survey are so inaccurate that I should believe that most LessWrongers actually have just an average IQ.

  • LessWrong is (considering a variety of pieces of evidence, not just the survey) likely to have more gifted people than you'd find by random chance.

Do we agree on those three beliefs?

If not, then please phrase the belief(s) you want to support.

Comment by Epiphany on 2012 Survey Results · 2013-09-22T01:30:14.591Z · LW · GW

Your unintentional lie explanation does not explain how the SAT scores ended up so closely synchronised to the IQ scores - as we know, one common sign of a lie is that the details do not add up. Synchronising one's SAT scores to the same level as one's IQ scores would most likely require conscious effort, making the discrepancy obvious to the LessWrong members who took the survey. If you would argue that they were likely to have chosen corresponding SAT scores in some way that did not require them to become consciously aware of discrepancies in order to synchronize the scores, how would you support the argument that they synched them on accident? If not, then would you support the argument that LessWrong members consciously lied about it?

Linda Silverman, a giftedness researcher, has observed that parents are actually pretty decent at assessing their child's intellectual abilities despite the obvious cause for bias.

"In this study, 84% of the children whose parents indicated that they fit three-fourths of the characteristics tested above 120 IQ. " (An unpublished study, unfortunately.)

This isn't exactly the same as managing knowledge of one's own intellectual abilities, but if it would seem to you that parents would most likely be hideously biased when assessing their children's intellectual abilities even though, according to a giftedness researcher, this is probably not the case, then should you probably also consider that your concern that most LessWrong members are likely to subconsciously falsify their own IQ scores by a whopping 30 points (if that is your perception) may be far less likely to be a problem than you thought?

Comment by Epiphany on 2012 Survey Results · 2013-09-22T01:11:12.884Z · LW · GW

This would be a good point in the event that we were not discussing IQ scores generated by an IQ test selected by Yvain, which many people took at the same time as filling out the survey. This method (and timing) rules out problems due to relying on estimates alone, most of the potential for mis-remembering, (neither of which should be assumed to be likely to result in an average score that's 30 points too high, as mistakes like these could go in either direction), and, assuming that the IQ test Yvain selected was pretty good, it also rules out the problem of the test being seriously skewed. If you would like to continue this line of argument, one effective method of producing doubt would be to go to the specific IQ test in question, fill out all of the answers randomly, and report the IQ that it produces. If you want to generate a full-on update regarding those particular test results, complete with Yvain being likely to refrain from recommending this source during his next survey, write a script that fills out the test randomly and reports the results so that multiple people can run it and see for themselves what average IQ the test produces after a large number of trials. You may want to check to see whether Yvain or Gwern or someone has already done this before going to the trouble.

Also, there really were people whose concern it was that people were lying on the survey. Your "lie is a strawman" perception appears to have been formed due to not having read the (admittedly massive number of) comments on this.

Comment by Epiphany on Rationalist sites worth archiving? · 2013-08-22T02:34:27.713Z · LW · GW

I did not intend to imply that you failed to back up your own data. That was intended as an amusing compliment.

Comment by Epiphany on Rationalist sites worth archiving? · 2013-08-21T08:29:43.893Z · LW · GW

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T08:21:07.655Z · LW · GW

Both of the citations I was given by you guys said clearly that they were uncertain about the connection between race and IQ. That is the reason I don't agree - because even your citations do not agree. I assume those are the best citations you have, so that your citations do not agree with you makes your belief look very bad indeed.

Also, by arguing that the reason I don't agree is because I am statistically innumerate and that the reason I don't agree is because I'm too inept to understand, you have made an ad hominem fallacy. Attacking the person does zilch to support your argument.

I can't believe I just saw an ad hominem attack on LessWrong. That is the the most obvious behavior that one avoids if one wants to have a rational debate.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T04:30:17.369Z · LW · GW

Well, seeing an unknown man approaching you at night

Actually, it is far more prudent to avoid a stranger approaching me at night, regardless of his race - depending on the environment I am in.

If he is approaching from a dark alley, I will head away from him, whatever his race. If he approaches me at a party full of friends, I will speak to him.

The crime statistics are not so incredibly different for blacks and whites that you can simply trust all of the whites.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T04:22:19.597Z · LW · GW

You can believe whatever you want to believe, it's just that such an attitude looks strange here.

That is not my attitude. I have been asking you for research. Did you see what I discovered about "The Bell Curve"? What do you say about that?

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T04:15:44.556Z · LW · GW

Actually, the most useful application for individual businesses in this case would be (in the event that IQ tests are good at predicting who will be a good worker) to request IQ scores as part of a job application, not to discriminate based on race - this is not to say that it would be useful for society as a whole. I am not sure what it would do to society as a whole. On the one hand, if there's a correlation between race and IQ, more people of each race with a low IQ might find themselves worse off. However, if employers become more willing to hire black people after testing their IQs, it could be a great boon to blacks and actually serve as a way to encourage people to judge each person based on individual characteristics as opposed to rejecting them for being part of a group. Simply tossing away all of the people of whatever race because the others have a low IQ would probably, in practice, not work very well - this is because they're selecting from a pool of people who are qualified in the first place, and the process of becoming qualified acts as a filter. Most of the people they're interviewing who are qualified are probably also intelligent enough to do the job - so you'd have too man false negatives this way.

I would say also that if aptitude tests are restricted because of racist connotations, it's because people tied IQ to race.

Can you think of any applications for tying IQ to race that do not have the above issues?

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-21T03:55:36.700Z · LW · GW

Yes, I've read Ioannidis. However you're using this quote here as a rather blatant aid to your confirmation bias.

I think everyone should consider that published research findings are likely to be wrong each time they are seeking research findings. If you agree that we should be skeptical about research findings, why do you think that asking questions about whether the research controlled for multiple factors, was replicated etc. should be taken as evidence of confirmation bias? Maybe you disagree that we should be skeptical about research findings?

There have been many, many studies which all show the same thing.

Every single one? I would find that hard to believe for any topic, especially one as politically charged and controversial as this one, where both sides have a motive to bias research in their particular direction. If that is true, I would find it surprising. Assuming you were referring to the results of a meta-analysis, would you point to that meta-analysis please?

Precisely because these results are so controversial they have been the subject of very thorough checking, vetting, and multiple attempts to debunk them. The results survived all this. What, do you think that for the last 50 years no one really tried to find holes in the studies showing racial IQ differences? Many highly qualified people tried. The results still stand.

Are you saying that studies used for "The Bell Curve" did take into account the factors I mentioned, were replicated and / or may contain a meta-analysis that states that all the studies that could be found had similar findings?

If you aren't specific about what measures were taken to ensure quality in the information you're providing, I have no way to make the distinction between a matter of opinion and a matter of fact when you claim things like "The results survived all this." Please be specific about what particular quality features the data in The Bell Curve provides.

The Bell Curve

I started checking out this book because of your high praise and was surprised to find this:

On page 270, The Bell Curve clearly states: "The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved"

Can you explain why you seem to be disagreeing with me, when both myself and The Bell Curve agree that we don't have a good way to tell whether IQ differences are nature or nurture? (Note: In addition to that, my view is also influenced by skepticism about research in general and an understanding that although IQ tests are correlated with various things, they have some limitations.)

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-20T17:39:03.779Z · LW · GW

Ok thanks. However, I am aware that "most published research is wrong" (PLOS Medicine) and know that there are factors that need to be controlled for in studies on race and IQ (in the second numbered list). Do you also claim that these factors were controlled for, that the key study or studies have been replicated, and that this is quality data that generally avoids research pitfalls? That's what I am looking for.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-20T07:45:11.365Z · LW · GW

As the saying goes, "Life is an IQ test."

As a stand-alone statement, I would probably leave this alone. But as a response to "What about nurture", the first thing that comes to mind is:

Has Vaniver adequately corrected for the just world fallacy?

The predictive ability of IQ on income (and most other statistics of interest) is very similar for each race, which suggests that differences in measured IQ scores map onto differences in life outcomes.

Ok, that's interesting, but it does nothing to rule out nurture factors that would impact both IQ and income.

Many people have looked at it, and the consensus answer for individual IQ differences is "somewhere between 50% and 80% of it is genetic"

I agree that IQ is mostly genetic and that IQ does seem to correlate with a lot of factors. I'm not saying IQ does not exist. What I am saying is that, specifically when it comes to black people, there are other factors that are definitely influencing performance and IQ scores. Therefore I reject claims about IQ and race that haven't controlled for known factors.

Here's Jason Richwine explaining that all serious scientists have agreed on the basics of IQ for decades

Actually, when I read that section (it starts with "What scholars"), I parsed it like this:

Jason explicitly says that there's a scientific consensus on many issues that seem controversial to journalists.

Jason states that virtually all psychologists (not scientists) believe there is a general mental ability factor (That he's not saying is specifically connected to race).

Then, without qualifying these statements with anything along the lines of "most x believe", he states: "In terms of group differences, people of northeast Asian descent have higher average IQ scores than people of European lineage, who in turn have higher average scores than people of sub-Saharan African descent."

I will not assume that this sequence of claims means that the group differences statement is also something scientists have a consensus about. If I did, that would be a non-sequitur.

Also, below that, he writes:

"It is possible that genetic factors could influence IQ differences among ethnic groups, but many scientists are withholding judgment until DNA studies are able to link specific gene combinations with IQ."

This is where I stop reading the article because it is clear to me that it does not say "there's a scientific consensus that there's a link between race and IQ". If you have a credible source for that claim, I'll be curious about it. No more Politico articles please.

It seems pretty relevant to me

It might or might not have been an error. In any case, I'm not going to go digging for that right now because I still think knowing the percentage is irrelevant to the current point. Whether the figure is 50% or 25%, it is still true that a significant proportion of people will have an IQ above average and therefore it would be hasty generalization to assume that a person of a certain group was an idiot. That is one way in which the exact number is irrelevant. However, that point about hasty generalization is much more irrelevant at this particular moment because we haven't even decided on a prior, let alone have we got a decent posterior - so the step where we have a concern about making a hasty generalization based on our probabilities should be in this disagreement's future. If it becomes relevant, I will dig around, but not right now.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-20T06:00:05.244Z · LW · GW

When you're deciding what to replace X with in the following statement, it most certainly does matter:

"X have a lower IQ on average."

You can choose "People of African descent" or you can choose "People from poor backgrounds" or "People with serious health conditions" or "People with drug addictions" or any number of other things.

When attempting to determine how best to help a school in a black ghetto that is failing, and you're choosing between spending money on remedial courses or on a school nutrition program, you will most certainly benefit from having this knowledge.

Conversely, I can't think of any applications for which tying IQ to race is useful. Would you name three examples?

Also, I'm still interested in seeing the source that you believe is an accurate prior regarding race and IQ. Do you happen to have that information available?

Comment by Epiphany on Open thread, July 29-August 4, 2013 · 2013-08-20T03:37:07.204Z · LW · GW

Thank you for this, army1987. I am glad to know that others can see appreciation as being a good and necessary thing rather than treating it as spam, and am more glad to see that someone else is willing to show support for encouraging behaviors. +1 karma. The Power of Reinforcement, "What Works"

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-20T03:20:41.109Z · LW · GW

This reads like a classic case of motivated cognition.

Did you stop to make distinction between me being influenced by motivated cognition and alternate explanations like:

  1. Me seeing significant flaws in data that would otherwise support your conclusion. Part of this may be that I've spent a significant amount of time reading about IQ and giftedness and I have learned that there are a lot of pitfalls to doing IQ related research.

  2. Me simply being unaware of relevant data. (This might be the case in the event that the people who supplied my data were influenced by motivated cognition or confirmation bias.)

  3. You seeing motivated cognition in my words because of being influenced by motivated cognition yourself?

The reason I believe the connection between race and intelligence is not just because of the tests but because more or less every relevant aspect of reality (e.g., the statistic on race and crime, the nearly complete lack of blacks in intelligence intensive fields, e.g., math, programing, the state of majority black countries) looks the way one would expect it to look if the connection existed.

There is an alternate explanation for those which does not have the same issues that IQ tests and studies have: The effects of slavery and prejudice. We are certain that slavery and prejudice has influenced them, and that it has existed for a long time. To know this, one must only look at the KKK or investigate the history of black enslavement. Imagine a third world country. Imagine that an equal proportion of those inhabitants are removed and used as slaves. Imagine an equal proportion of them dying. Imagine that they're freed, but all of them - not some but all - are freed into a situation of extreme poverty where they don't even own a home or have the ability to read. Many still aren't being taught to read. Consider also that even though there have been advances in medicine, poverty means you can't afford health insurance or medical treatments. Don't think that disability and chronic illness are uncommon - they're not. Not even in America. They're probably especially common for the poor. Don't think that severe worker abuse ended with slavery, either - do some research on sweatshops in America sometime. Now take into account the effects of stress, and the human element - how those effects can compound into things like mental illnesses and drug addictions. Would you predict that the majority of these people who started out with literally nothing and without even the education to read would manage to avoid pitfalls like disability, mental illness, drug addiction and sweatshops and carve an opportunity to excel out of poverty and ignorance over the course of 150 years? I would not expect that. I would expect most of them to have fared poorly.

I don't see a good way to tell the difference between a low IQ score due to actually being less intelligent versus a low IQ score due to nurture-related reasons such as the following:

  1. Improper nutrition due to poverty.
  2. Lack of education.
  3. The effects of extreme stress (How are you supposed to focus on an IQ test when you've just been threatened by a gang?)
  4. Suffering from medical conditions (these can cause memory symptoms, brain fog, and fatigue), mental conditions or drug addictions.
  5. Having been parented by people that were mentally or physically ill, severely stressed, or addicted.
  6. Cultural differences that cause arbitrary communication issues during testing.
  7. The psychological effects of prejudice (may influence things like self-esteem and locus of control or result in learned helplessness, etc.)

If you want to attribute the IQ scores to race, not poverty or circumstances, then there needs to be a good way to distinguish between nurture and nature as a cause for low IQ scores. Do you have one?

Yes there is. You just don't want to believe it exists.

If it's true I want to believe it. However, it's hard to believe it exists without a citation. Do you have one?

Actually the chance of this particular black being above the African average is 50% (more if I condition on the fact that he is in the USA).

I respect you more for being able to say something that supports my view better than it does yours. +1 karma for that. I still think the number is 25%, however I do not view this as a key point in our disagreement, so I will leave it at that.

This is a general argument against using evidence of any kind.

You appear to have taken that statement as an argument regarding what to believe. It was not. I deliberately put that part after the section where I was discussing deciding what to believe, and put it under "if one wants to behave rationally".

Comment by Epiphany on Open thread, July 29-August 4, 2013 · 2013-08-20T01:35:55.156Z · LW · GW

Since we're supposed to use karma votes for weeding the garden, then I assume they are supposed to mean "you're acting like a weed". If you press the "you're acting like a weed" button for anything other than a weed-like act, then you're essentially crying wolf with the karma button which will result in people becoming indifferent just like they do when any other false alarm is raised often.

I like you Vladimir. I have observed that you've made an effort to be friendly and fair to me in the past. Since you have been honest with me, I'll be honest also: It's the fact that people use karma to express minor preferences like this one that keep me from taking most karma votes seriously.

I am also surprised to discover that people are communicating minor preferences using down votes. Look at it from my point of view: there are over 1000 people who regularly use this site. We don't even have a consensus on things like Newcomb's problem, free will or dust specks, let alone stylistic preferences. Were I to hypothesize about all the possible reasons why one of 1000+ people might down vote me that are not obvious in the way a Schelling point would be and calculate the probabilities of each, I would be spending an incredible amount of time just to figure out that you didn't like a particular turn of phrase.

This might be Expecting Short Inferential Distances. (I have this problem as well, though it comes out in different places.) I still like you, but I hope you will try not to communicate minor preferences to me via karma votes in the future.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-20T01:02:00.605Z · LW · GW

If you intend to use an African prejudgment heuristic like 1 (below) rather than reacting as if you've done an equation that takes into account other relevant data like 2 (below), then I think your probability equation needs an upgrade.

1) African prejudgment heuristic: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites, therefore this specific African individual is likely to be relatively stupid compared to my white friends."

2) Reasoning that Takes Relevant Data Into Account: "The IQ test(s) said African's IQs are lower than those of whites. However, there are known flaws with IQ tests such as cultural bias, so that figure might be wrong. Most published research findings are false (PLOS Medicine), so I should apply healthy skepticism to all the research I read. This is not likely to be an accurate piece of data to use as a Bayesian prior. Once I've decided on a prior to use, I should then adjust for other relevant data (things I know about the specific individual).

Then, if one wants to behave rationally after one has decided what to believe, I think one must continue by thinking something like this:

"Considering things like...

A. ...the fact my prior is likely to be inaccurate (there isn't an accurate one for this subject as far as I'm aware)...

B. ...the fact that even if the IQ study is correct and the IQ test it used was accurate, there's a decent chance (25%) that this specific individual has an IQ above the African average - meaning I need to avoid the logical fallacy called hasty generalization...

C. ...the risk of lost utility via damaging this individual's reputation, emotional health or opportunities for success by pre-judging them...

D. ...the risk that this makes for bad social signaling and witnesses may retaliate against me with one or more forms of social rejection if I pre-emptively treat an African like an idiot... I really want to treat this person as if they are less intelligent?"

I think you may have reacted to my "I hope it is false." statement or my "it's ethically wrong to prejudge individual Africans" statement - but that shouldn't matter to your probability calculation. What should matter is to get an accurate idea of reality. Along with saying other things, I also provided other factors which are relevant, as credible sources can confirm. If one wants to be a good Bayesian probabilist, after one specifies some prior probability, one must then update it in the light of new, relevant data. [1] This situation where you focused on one part of my comment and ignored the rest reminds me of those math problems where there's an irrelevant statement thrown in just to distract you. I of course did not intend to distract you, but since you seem to think that Bayesian reasoning in this case means ignoring all the other data I presented, it appears that you have skipped the parts of the process where you ensure an accurate prior and update your prior with new, relevant data.

Life is really, really complicated. I doubt it's ever wise to just grab a prior and run with it and I certainly hope that you do not reason this way.

  1. Paulos, John Allen. The Mathematics of Changing Your Mind, New York Times (US). August 5, 2011; retrieved 2011-08-06
Comment by Epiphany on Open thread, July 29-August 4, 2013 · 2013-08-06T17:52:15.698Z · LW · GW

Thank you. +1 karma.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-06T17:51:55.371Z · LW · GW

There isn't prejudice against people with a high IQ.

Perhaps you intended that within a specific context from the comment above like "These introduction examples don't cause a problem because of prejudice, but because they sound like claims to superiority", in which case I'd agree with you. However, I disagree about whether there exists prejudice against people with high IQs in the broader context. If that's truly what you meant, I'd be happy to elaborate, but please specify so I am not accidentally arguing with a strawman.

And no, you can't state your IQ without claiming you're superior, since you can't escape the social context.

I am very interested in this concept of superiority, because "superiority" seems to be an important key here. What does it mean to you? If a person is superior, is it okay to treat them differently? What sort of differently and why? If someone makes a claim to superiority, how do you think people should react, and why?

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-04T03:44:03.696Z · LW · GW

if you're looking for a another milieu that tends to brand and shun obsessive pursuits ... you might look to the concept of sprezzatura among the sporting aristocracy.

Hmm... that's an interesting idea - that the existence of a mainstream sporting culture which shuns one of the traits that nerds have in common might have scared off a larger proportion of the people who are not gifted from the nerd subculture? Thanks for this idea. +1 karma.

I have never heard of this "sporting aristrocracy" - is that a term you made up on the spot for this context, or am I just unaware of this term?

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-04T03:24:13.857Z · LW · GW

It's pretty uncommon among industrialized countries to keep education (more or less) unified as late as 12th grade, and under these circumstances I can see intellectuality coming to be associated with a subcultural alignment; whereas under something like the German system, classes would end up being fragmented along giftedness lines before strong subcultural cliques form.

That's an interesting factor, but I question whether it is a cause, or a symptom (which potentially has effects similar to the original cause). I ask "Why did America choose to deny gifted and talented children a chance to develop their abilities to the fullest for longer than any other country?" (I'd love to see a citation for that by the way!)

I think the root cause might actually be the "immortal declaration" of Thomas Jefferson, located in the opening of the United States Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...

When a country's most important concept is human rights, and the most prominent argument in support of human rights is the belief that you are created equal, you're essentially in a situation where your country was founded on the belief that giftedness does not exist.

It seems to me that when people reject gifted identity claims, their true objection is not that it's arrogant to claim high status or that it's socially unacceptable to say good things about yourself but that they're interpreting "created equal" to mean something similar to "equal abilities" or "mentally equal" and experience conflict(s) along the lines of:

  1. If I some people are not equal, does that mean human rights don't exist?

  2. If I agree that this person is unequal and they're the better one, do I have to give up my rights to them or give them special treatment?

  3. If this person is claiming to be unequal, are they also trying to demand the right to take my rights away or extract something extra from me so they can have unequal rights?

  4. If I let myself believe that people aren't equals, is that morally wrong?

Even though I think the problem runs deeper than the theory you presented, I am glad to have it. If America is denying children the chance to develop to the fullest for longer than other countries, that's certainly going to have some kind of an effect and it's good additional information to have. Thank you; +1 karma.

* There are plenty of other status claims and good things you can say about yourself that don't provoke negative reactions - see the thought experiments in this thread.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-03T23:05:26.450Z · LW · GW

I am interested in finding out what the rest of the world does and how you found out about their reactions to intellectually gifted people. I'd also be interested in finding out why you think this happens in America but not everywhere else. Would you mind sharing?

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-03T22:46:29.256Z · LW · GW

... more objectivity than is warranted

Oh good point. Okay. I think that objectivity might be the problem with "Hi, I'm a genius." but I'm not sure that's the problem with "Hi, I'm gifted." I'll try another thought experiment on non-objective statements:

  1. "Hi, I'm nice."
  2. "Hi, I'm gifted."
  3. "Hi, I'm beautiful."
  4. "Hi, I'm awesome."
  5. "Hi, I'm wonderful."

Hmm, the problem with these is that nice, awesome, wonderful and beautiful all refer to traits that are too small in scope or too vague to make good identity claims. As such, my instinct is to question them with "Why are you saying this?" and the default motive that comes to mind is that the person is arrogant. However, being gifted is correlated with a lot of personality traits and neurological differences - so it is large enough in scope to be a key part of a person's identity. The reason I'm interested in this is because it appears to me that if a key part of your identity is that you are an artist, a dyslexic, or a Southerner, you can say so without being instantly rejected by most of the population for being "arrogant" while the closest you can get, it seems, to being able to make a claim having to do with a gifted identity (without being rejected for arrogance) is to say "Hi, I'm a nerd." - but that has the opposite problem. People reject it because nerdiness is automatically associated with being socially undesirable.

I want to try a different angle. Two questions:

  1. Do you think giftedness or high IQ are likely to play a large role in influencing a person's personality, views or lifestyle?

  2. Do you see any way to make a claim that giftedness or high IQ are a large part of one's identity without a high risk of rejection?

  3. If you do not see any way to make such a claim without a high risk, then why do you think that is?

I think what you're telling me in the last paragraph is "Making claims about your IQ makes you sound dodgy because people feel really skeptical about IQ scores." If that's it, that is a really good point, too. +1 Karma.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-03T22:19:16.222Z · LW · GW

Let's be clear. Racial groupings are really very significant pieces of evidence. There's huge amounts of genetics that correlates, huge amounts of culture that correlates, huge amounts of wider environment that correlates. It would be frankly astonishing if things like IQ, reaction time, hight, life expectancy, and rates of disease didn't also correlate.

Culture and environment are not race. Therefore, if you're studying race, those influences should be taken out of your scientific experiment. It's extremely difficult to remove things like culture and environment from a study on IQ. The fact that so much is correlated with it doesn't mean the results of studies intended to determine racial differences are significant so much as it means they're a tangled mess of cause and effect which we likely haven't sorted out adequately.

Why on earth do we want there to be no such correlation with IQ.

A. We don't want black people to suffer needlessly.

B. We don't want to encourage ourselves and others to be prejudiced against people when, regardless of what the average African's IQ is, it is still both logically incorrect (hasty generalization) and ethically wrong to prejudge individual Africans. However, knowing how humans behave, we figure that if people believe Africans have lower IQs, that will result in an increase in prejudice.

We're very happy to say there's a correlation between race and hight, between race and life expectancy, between race and disease, between race and income. Why not race and IQ? Why do we want that to be false?

Actually, I bet some people are not happy saying that there are correlations there. This is one of those notions you might want to double check.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-03T04:51:02.076Z · LW · GW

I don't think it's superiority. A counterpoint in thought experiment form:

  1. "Hi, I'm the president of the United States"
  2. "Hi, I run my own business."
  3. "Hi, I'm a model."
  4. "Hi, I'm Albert, the guy who came up with E equals MC squared."
  5. "Hi, I'm a genius."

I think the numbers do make statements sound bad (I couldn't figure out a way to word the above using a number without making it sound like bragging) but that's irrelevant to the question I'm trying to answer, so it's essentially one of those factors that should be removed from an experiment. I added an additional statement in the same format (an introduction using an identity of some type) about intelligence which does not include a number so that we've got a comparable intelligence-related option.

Here's what my intuition says:

  1. No negative reaction (more likely a positive reaction like excitement).
  2. No negative reaction (admiration seems as likely as jealousy).
  3. Potentially some amount of negative feelings from jealous females, and some amount of excitement from males or lesbians.
  4. No negative reaction (more likely a positive reaction like excitement).
  5. Strong negative reaction.

What's interesting here is that 1 and 4 are not only some of the biggest claims of superiority that you can make, but have also referred to something verifiable, which should theoretically intensify the reaction. If making a claim of superiority was the problem, those should trigger much worse reactions.

I think the difference between the genius claim and the others in my thought experiment is that all the others are claiming to be doing something constructive. This makes the superiority less threatening. Another possibility is that the claims to genius and high IQ are not verifiable with LinkedIn or other research, so they're not as believable.

Here's a thought experiment on with some non-verifiable claims, where there are varying levels of superiority and threat:

  1. Hi, I'm a secret government agent.
  2. Hi, I'm very powerful.
  3. Hi, I'm an elite computer hacker.
  4. Hi, I'm highly gifted.

I think the reaction to 1-3 would be curiosity while the reaction to the fourth would be extreme dislike. I'm interested in other people's reactions because I think my own are too influenced by having thought about this previously. Interestingly:

  1. Secret agents are probably far less common than gifted people. If I remember right, the entire government is 3% of the population whereas gifted people are 2% and I doubt that 2/3 of the government consists of secret agents.

  2. Not all gifted people are powerful, as giftedness does not automatically lead to any type of success. Claiming to be gifted is not claiming as much power as "powerful" is.

My current idea is that if a person with a high IQ makes any type of claim to this, they are more likely to be accused of lying or regarded as a threat than is sensible, and that the negative reactions provoked are disproportionate when compared with reactions to other claims that are comparable but don't involve IQ / giftedness / genius.

I found your comment refreshing and thoughtful. +1 karma.

If you can think of any good counterpoints, I'd like to read them. (:

Comment by Epiphany on Open thread, July 29-August 4, 2013 · 2013-08-03T04:26:19.605Z · LW · GW

I'm looking for a reading recommendation on the topic of perverse incentives, especially incentives that cause people to do unethical things. Yes, I checked "The Best Textbooks on Every Subject" thread and have recorded all the economics recommendations of interest. However, as interested as I am in reading about economics in general, my specific focus is on perverse incentives, especially ones that cause people to do unethical things. I was wondering if anyone has explored this in depth or happens to know a term for "perverse incentives that cause people to do unethical things", (regardless of whether it's part of economics or some other subject), as I can't seem to find one.

Comment by Epiphany on Why Are Individual IQ Differences OK? · 2013-08-03T03:51:34.388Z · LW · GW

An unexpected point. Thank you.

Comment by Epiphany on [LINKS] Killer Robots and Theories of Truth · 2013-07-01T17:12:18.876Z · LW · GW

Why does this not apply to rifles? / Again, why isn't this isomorphic to "Human equipped with weapon X" versus "unarmed human"?

Killer robots pose a threat to democracy that rifles do not. Please see "Near-Term Risk: Killer Robots a Threat to Freedom and Democracy" and the TED Talk link therein "Daniel Suarez: The kill decision shouldn't belong to a robot". You might also like to check out his book "Daemon" and it's sequel.

Once more: Why are "Killer Robots" different from "machine guns" in this sentence?

Machine guns are wielded by humans, the humans can make better ethical decisions than robots currently can.

Comment by Epiphany on Bad Concepts Repository · 2013-07-01T17:02:22.283Z · LW · GW

Ok, I'll post about this in the open thread to gauge interest / see if anyone else knows of a pre-existing LW post on these specific obviousness problems.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-07-01T06:45:40.369Z · LW · GW

Ah, okay. I'll edit my comment then.

Comment by Epiphany on [LINKS] Killer Robots and Theories of Truth · 2013-07-01T06:44:17.969Z · LW · GW

Thanks for your comments, I'm inclined to basically agree with what you've said.

I am glad to know that my comments have made a difference and that they were welcome. I think LessWrong could benefit a lot from The Power of Reinforcement, so I am glad to see someone doing this.

the only solution is to make these autonomous technologies as absolutely safe as possible.

Actually, I don't think that approach will work in this scenario. When it comes to killer robots, the militaries will make them as dangerous as possible (but controllable, of course). However, the biggest problem isn't that they'll shoot innocent people - that's a problem, but there's a worse one. The worst one is that we may soon live in an age where anyone can decide to make themselves an army. Making killer robots safe is an oxymoron. There needs to be a solution that's really out of the box.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-07-01T06:26:55.047Z · LW · GW

It was written to Yvain. I was under the impression that Yvain was studying psychology, not medicine. Now that his website link has changed, I'm not sure there's a way for me to look this up.

Comment by Epiphany on [LINKS] Killer Robots and Theories of Truth · 2013-07-01T03:07:54.980Z · LW · GW

My purpose with this is not to argue, but to get people to really think about the measures he suggests because I think we can have a more realistic view than the one presented by Peter at the Conscious Entities blog.

P1 - Restricting killer robot production would come at great cost, would pose risks, and isn't likely to happen.

Great Cost:

To ban killer robots, you would also have to ban:

  • 3-D printers (If they can't make parts for killer robots now, they'll probably be able to make them later.)

  • Personal robots (If they can hold a gun then people could pull some Kevlar over them and make any modifications needed.)

  • Anything that can be controlled by a computer and also hold a deadly payload (toy and hobby items like airplanes and quad copters may be able to be fashioned into assassination tools with the addition of something like a spray bottle full of chemicals or dart shooter.)

  • Computer controlled vehicles. Seem unwieldy or expensive? Consider how many pounds of explosives they can conceal, how far they can go, and how much damage they could do for the price, and the possibility of choosing a cheap used vehicle to offset cost (and the used cars of the future may be computer capable).

The number of technologies that could potentially be used to make lethally autonomous "killer robot" weapons is limited only by our imaginations. Pretty much anything with the ability to see, process visual data, identify targets, and physically move could become deadly with modification. As technology progresses, it would become harder and harder to make anything new without it getting banned due to it's potential for lethal autonomy. The amount of future technologies we'd have to ban could become ridiculous.

Bans pose risks:

As is said about gun control: "If guns are illegal, only the criminals will have them" - Eliezer agrees with the spirit of this in the context of killer robots.

Consider these possibilities:

  1. People will be able to steal from these approved companies, they'll be able to bribe these companies, and organized crime groups like mafias and gangs will be able to use tactics like blackmail and intimidation to get 3-D printers and other technologies. Criminals will therefore still have access to those things.

  2. Anybody who wants to become a bloodthirsty dictator would only have to start the right kind of company. Then they'd have access to all the potential weapons they want, and assuming they could amass enough robots to take on an army (in some country, if not in their own)... they could fulfill that dream.

  3. If we did ban them for the average person but let companies have them, we'd be upgrading those companies to an empowered class of potential warlords. Imagine if companies today - the same ones that are pulling various forms of B.S. (like the banks and the recession) also had enough firepower to kill you.

Isn't likely to happen:

I don't think we're likely to ban all 3-D printers, personal robots, computer-controlled cars, computer-controlled toys / electronics and everything else that could possibly be used as a lethally autonomous weapon. Such widespread bans would have a major impact on economic growth. Consider how much we feel a need to compete with other countries - and other countries may not have bans. Especially consider the relationship between our economic growth and our military power - we can't defend ourselves against other countries without funding our military, and we can't fund our military without taxes, and without sufficient economic growth, we won't be able to collect sufficient taxes. If any other countries do not also have such bans, and any of those ban-less countries might in the future decide to make war against us, we'd be sitting ducks if we let such bans slow economic growth.

Even if we did ban possession of these items for the average person (which would seriously impact economic growth, seeing as how the average person's purchases are a large part of that, and those purchases can be taxed), we'd probably not ban them for manufacturers and other professionals else technological progress may be seriously crippled. If we do not ban them for companies, this means that the risk was not eliminated (see "bans pose risks" above).

If the people realize how these technologies could cause the power balances to shift - and Daniel Suarez is working on getting them to realize that - they may begin to demand to be allowed 3-D printers and personal robots and so on as an extension of their right to bear arms. They may realistically need to have defenses against the gangs, wayward companies and would-be dictators of the future, and if they're concerned about it, they'll be looking to get a hold of those weapons in whatever way possible. If the people believe that they have a right to, or a need for 3-D printers and robot body-guards, then a ban on these types of technologies would be about as effective as prohibition.

P2. - Ensuring hypothetical human soldiers will not protect democracy.

If sufficient killer robots exist to match or overpower human soldiers, then at that point, the government can do what it likes because nobody will be able to fight back. This means the checks and balances on the government's power are gone. No checks and balances means that the government does not even have to follow it's own rules - nobody is powerful enough to enforce them. (Imagine the supreme court screaming at the executive branch in front of the executive branch's killer robot army. Not practical.) If that happens, you'll be at the mercy of those in power and will just have to cross your fingers that every single president you elect until the end of time (don't forget the one in office at the time) chooses not to be a dictator for life. Game over. We fail.

P3. - Avoiding unpredictable circumstances is not possible.

A. If unpredictable circumstances are a killer robot army's weakness, the enemy of said killer robot army will most certainly realize that this can be exploited. If any types of unpredictable circumstances at all are useful, the enemy will likely be forced to exploit them in order to survive.

B. Since when is regular life predictable, let alone a situation as chaotic as war? Sorry, ensuring a predictable circumstance in the event of war is not possible.

P4. - Restricting killer robot abilities may prove anti-strategic and therefore deemed lame.

Since war is an unpredictable and chaotic situation in which your enemy - who is a conscious, thinking entity - will probably get creative and throw at you exactly what you did not plan for, versatility is a must. It may be that failing to arm the robot in every way possible makes it totally ineffective, meaning that if people choose to fight with them at all, they will view it as an absolute necessity to arm all killer robots to the teeth, and will justify that with "Well you want to survive the war, don't you?"

P4. - Adding remote shut down isn't practical.

A. Imagine how a remote shut down situation would actually play out in reality. Your robots are fighting. Oops there's a bug. There are enemies everywhere. You shut them down. The enemy goes "WOOT FREE KILLER ROBOTS!" takes them to their base, hacks them. and reverse engineers them. Not only did you just lose your killer robot army, your enemy just gained a killer robot army, and will be able to make better weapons from now on. When is remote shut down ever going to actually be used on a killer robot army during combat? I think the answer to that is: If the person controlling the robots has half a brain, never. They will never use this feature outside of a test environment, and if their computer security expert has half a brain, the remote shut down feature will be removed from them after they leave the test environment (See B).

B. Successful offense is easier than successful defense - this also applies to the computer hacking world. This is why there are so many police stations and government offices that do not connect computers with sensitive data to the internet or don't have the internet at all! They can't be certain of preventing their computers from being hacked. If you put remote shut down into the killer robot armies, that's just a super sweet target for your enemy's hackers. In order to be hacker-proof, they'll have to make these robots truly autonomous - meaning no remote control whatsoever, and no special button or voice command or sequence that shuts them down, period. If their computer security expert has half a brain, killer robots will not be made with the remote shutdown "feature". Well, okay, I suppose the government could put in a remote shut down feature they want to send them to shoot at people in developing countries with no hackers - but the remote shutdown feature would be a serious flaw against a technologically advanced enemy. Actually, scratch that. There are a lot of criminal hacking organizations out there and technology companies that may be interested in hacking the remote shutdown feature in order to usurp their very own robot army. Creating an army of killer robots with a shutdown feature in a world where there are multiple parties that may be interested in usurping this army could be an extremely poor decision, even if your original intention was to expose that robot army only to third-world combatants.

machine ethics is going to become especially important very soon

Thank you very much for taking time to talk about this issue. I'm very glad to see that people are taking it seriously and are talking about it. I hope you do not take offense at my comment, as my purpose with this is not to make you feel argued with but to encourage people to think realistically about these dangers.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-07-01T01:36:45.529Z · LW · GW

I'm torn here. Do I tell you that's a good point because combination strategies can be much more effective at preventing pregnancy, or do I let you know that the efficacy rate for STIs are subject to the same forces as the efficacy rates for pregnancy?

I guess I can do both. You'll decide what risk to take in any case.

The amount of protection that you can get from a condom against STIs is not as good as the amount of protection you get against pregnancy. Not everyone can give you an STI (about 20% of the population) whereas most straight couplings can lead to pregnancy (about 90% of people of childbearing age are fertile). So that increases your odds of a good outcome. Some people are honest about their STI status, and that also increases your odds of a good outcome - but don't forget that some people do not even know that they have an STI, and others may be in denial or crazy or sociopathic - and if you're having casual sex, you really can't be sure about a person's moral character and sanity level.

Your chance of getting an STI while using a condom would be a lot higher than 50% if you had a partner with a disease for the rest of your life. If you have random partners, and 1/20 people has an STI and some of them don't know it, and some of them aren't honest... I'm not sure what your chances are, but if you're successful with finding partners, it could be substantially worse than a 2% lifetime risk.

You may want to try looking up rates of STI among people who have non-relationship sex.

Another possibility is to find a special friend and get tested together.

If that won't work, a combination strategy (like condoms with spermicide) could be a significant improvement. You may want to research nonoxynol-9 before using it. I've heard that it increases the chance of disease transmission.

Comment by Epiphany on Bad Concepts Repository · 2013-07-01T00:46:24.837Z · LW · GW

I'm glad you seem to be aware of this problem. Unfortunately, I don't think the rest of the world is aware of this. The dictionary currently defines obvious as meaning "easily seen" and "evident", unfortunately.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-07-01T00:37:48.240Z · LW · GW

Thanks for taking a moment to let me know that my comment is appreciated and that this information makes a difference for you. I find that, like Luke says in The Power of Reinforcement, knowing that a behavior of mine has made a difference and is wanted "increases the probability that the behavior will occur again".

I think LessWrong could really use more positive reinforcement, so I hereby positively reinforce you for showing the humility to positively reinforce.

Comment by Epiphany on Bad Concepts Repository · 2013-07-01T00:19:40.658Z · LW · GW

Hahahah! Oh, that's terrible. Now I just realized that my meaning was not entirely explicit. I edited my statement to add the part about not supporting points.

Comment by Epiphany on Bad Concepts Repository · 2013-07-01T00:13:57.717Z · LW · GW

Good link. I like that Grognor mentions that obviousness is just a matter of perception and people's ideas about what's obvious will vary, so we shouldn't assume other people know "obvious" things. However, I think that it's really important for us to be aware that if you think something is obvious, you stop questioning, and you're then left with what is essentially a first impression - but I don't see Grognor mention that semantic stop sign like effect in the post, nor do I see anything about people using obviousness as a way to falsely support points.

Do you think Grognor would be interested in updating the article to include additional negative effects of obviousness? Then again putting too many points into an article makes articles confusing and less fun to read. Maybe I should write one. Do you know if anyone has written an article yet on obviousness as a meta semantic stop sign, or obviousness as a false supportive argument? If not, I'll do it.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-30T23:51:04.527Z · LW · GW

The guy you're linking to seems sketchy as hell.

I agree. The reason I chose that specific page is because I did not find an adequate alternative list. I tried Googling "symptoms of MTHFR" and "symptoms of MTHFR" and only one result comes up - but it's specifically for homocysteinemia. That one result is reputable ( but I know that it does not contain a full list of symptoms. It has left out important symptoms like depression and fatigue, which I know to be associated with MTHFR because I know people with the condition whose medical professionals have said that those symptoms can be caused by MTHFR and whose fatigue and/or depression symptoms were helped immensely by MTHFR treatment, and because I saw research on PubMed (searched it again since I have no idea where it is) linking MTHFR with depression and finding that using methyfolate as part of the treatment has an effect on depression. I could go with the shorter symptom list for homocysteinemia, but since I know that it is inadequate, I figured the longer symptom list would likely result in more people getting MTHFR tests and useful treatment.

There's an elephant in the room here: why doesn't there seem to be a good symptom list? If the fact that there are 5073 results for MTHFR on PubMed means anything at all, MTHFR is probably a real mutation with the potential to cause health effects. I suspect that it's because we discovered MTHFR fairly recently and research results can be confusing because most of them are wrong, so perhaps the credible sources don't want to take the chance on listing symptoms that they're not completely certain are associated with MTHFR. This of course would not mean that people are not sick. It would just mean that the only people who have the guts to try to give people some idea of what MTHFR does to you are people who don't have that kind of credibility to lose.

Perhaps your point here is to give me a heads-up along the lines of "people might get confused and think you are recommending the this guy". That would be a good heads-up if so. Since it has occurred to me, I decided to add a disclaimer to my P/S/A comment.

if you have MTHFR, taking more folic acid...

As a non-medical doctor having a discussion with a psychiatrist to humor curiosities:

My understanding is that if you have MTHFR, you've got a reduced ability to process folic acid into methylfolate, and methylfolate is the usable version. Therefore taking additional folic acid isn't necessarilly going to result in you utilizing the folic acid. Additionally, if you cannot process the folic acid, it sits around in your system waiting for you to clean it out. If your folic acid is synthetic as opposed to food-based, there can be issues with the synthetic folic acid sitting around not being utilized. The claim I heard was that it's this unutilized synthetic folic acid that causes autism.

the implication being that in countries with folic acid supplementation

That's interesting. Have you taken an interest in MTHFR or were your perspectives formed based on research you did after reading this PSA? I'm asking you because if it turns out that you've got a significant interest in MTHFR, I'd be interested in hearing what else you know about it. If not, I should probably regard your forays into MTHFR research as being about as useful as mine since, without reading a ton of research, any perspectives we build are going to be suceptible to the "most published research findings are false" problem.

sign up for 23andMe and get all your common mutations sequenced in one go for $99

I chose not to recommend that for the following reasons:

A. (As a non-lawyer) I believe that it is now illegal for U.S. health insurance companies to discriminate against you based on the results of genetic testing, but there may be no protection in other countries that LessWrong readers are from (and 50% of them visit from outside the U.S.).

B. (As a non-lawyer) I believe that it is still legal for U.S. life insurance and disability insurance companies to discriminate against you on the basis of genetic testing.

C. If I remember correctly, the 23 and me test is is not an official medical test. I was told by a doctor that when comparing the 23 and me results to a different test that uses blood instead of saliva and does qualify as a medical test, that the results are very close. I was also told a lot of things about it by a person with a biology degree that made me realize how complicated genetic testing is. I'm not sure whether 23 and me should be recommended in place of a medical test.

D. I was initially very squicked by 23 and me because the only PDF of theirs that I could find that has an accuracy citation produces a 404 error when you click it. I have since gotten citations from them, after bugging the heck out of customer service and explaining what "real citation" means. Upon reviewing the citations, I realized that I was in over my head because I didn't know a lot of the terms they were using. I am no longer squicked, but it's mostly because a few people I think are probably trustworthy told me that 23 and me is useful. I still wonder whether I should consider them dodgy due to the failure to provide a real accuracy citation in their PDF.

In any case, you can supplement with MTHF if you want

Self-treating with methylfolate may not be a good idea. Here's why.

The only exception is that if your psychiatrist recommends it for depression, you will need the MTHF version since the normal version can't directly enter the brain.

I see now that actually did not list depression as a symptom by itself. They've got depression in post-menopausal women and "Infant depression via epigenetic processes caused by maternal depression" but not plain "depression". Is your take on it that MTHFR can cause depression and/or that methylfolate can be useful for treating depression?

As far as I know, the MTHF you can get off Amazon for $15 works exactly as well.

I have checked out dozens and dozens of supplement review results on, perhaps over a hundred. My findings are that many of the brands tested were shown to offer one or more supplements that contain lead, spoiled ingredients, or they did not contain the amount of the substance(s) advertized. I would not go get a random cheap one on Instead, I would find one of these brands:

Brands with 30 reviews each and a perfect record on consumerlab as of June 2013:

  • Solgar

  • Puritan's Pride

  • Vitamin World

  • Nature's Bounty

Brands with an acceptable record as of June 2013:

  • Jarrow (17 reviews, all passed except one with a labeling issue)

Note: Puritan's Pride, Vitamin World and Nature's Bounty are all related. I think they're all owned by the same company.

I plan to start a blog containing my supplement research and other life optimizing research at some point in the future (or perhaps find a relevant one to post on, since LessWrong is about rationality, not optimizing one's life). I can update you when my supplement data is posted if you'd like.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T19:50:08.971Z · LW · GW

Here's how 2% per incident is different:

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that the average number of uses per year is 100.

A 2% per incident risk will add up to a yearly 50% risk for the average user.*

A 2% per year risk already included 100 uses, so it is still 2% per year.

A 2% per year risk would add up to a 70% chance over the 35 or so years women are fertile and active and a 2% per incident risk would add up to a much, much higher risk, likely resulting in multiple pregnancies.*

* This is only if pure math reflects reality, which it probably doesn't because there are other factors here like people forgetting important parts of the instructions over time, people getting better at using them over time, or people becoming sloppy about applying them because they're tired of them or have developed a sense of over-confidence.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T19:39:36.718Z · LW · GW

what does 2% failure rate per year even mean when it's presented independent of a number of uses per year

This is a good observation. You can look up what the average number of uses per year is. If I remember right, I've seen some condom efficacy studies include that information.

I feel like I'm missing something basic here that would let me see why it's a useful piece of information on its own.

You're not missing anything basic, you're correctly perceiving ambiguity where ambiguity does exist. Even when information is really important, I've found that it's often been omitted simply because products are marketed to the average person, not to nerdy people like me, and most people don't want to think as much as I do. For this reason, I've found it's very important to be careful not to assume that the world is doing sensible things or giving me all the information. They're not just leaving information out, they're also not being held accountable by a world full of people who think as much as I do. Therefore, they can get away with slapping various nonsense marketing claims and out-of-context data on their boxes without people questioning them.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T19:29:52.076Z · LW · GW

Yes, unfortunately, a large number of the people I've talked to do interpret it as 2% per lifetime.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T10:45:13.401Z · LW · GW

Okay, I understand your alarm - you're probably thinking something along the lines of WTF, you're saying condoms aren't effective, why are you contradicting sex ed? If you want one quick reference to show you why you should be concerned about this, the Journal of Family Practice published a research survey that revealed the aftermath of these condom myths. I added it to the comment you were responding to. As for why I said what I said in the last comment: I tried finding a condom study that ran for longer than a year. I couldn't find one anywhere. The one year studies gave failure rates that ranged between 2% and 15%. Those figures can be found at Pubmed if you search for condom efficacy.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T10:20:20.969Z · LW · GW

Caution is warranted for a few reasons:

  1. I've been told that the liver uses methylfolate for detoxification. If you take too much too soon, or ramp up too quickly, you will end up really feeling like hell because of the detoxification process. This may be more of a problem for people who have toxins built up in their system due to inefficient detoxification.

  2. I've been told that methylfolate can increase your blood pressure. Your doctor may need to be monitoring this.

  3. I've been told that if you do need all three of methylfolate, methylcobalamin and a homocysteine regulator but do not get all three, or if you get them in the wrong amounts, treatment can be ineffective (the risk here is that you will become disheartened and give up on a treatment that could have changed your life).

  4. I've been told that if your digestive system is a mess, you may need to fix it up before the treatment will work. Once again, the risk is becoming disheartened and missing out on a useful treatment.

  5. Other reasons I may not know about because I am not a medical professional.

You have to remember, everything is connected - your body is a system. A very, very complicated system. Change one thing over here, and there can be unforeseen consequences over there.

Unfortunately, doctors are tasked with the unrealistic expectation of learning about thousands of diseases and thousands of symptoms and trying to match each disease to each symptom... and, on top of that, all of them are complicated to treat... to be really honest, I don't think it is possible for any human to do a good job of diagnosing every disease, or treating every problem. From what I've seen, when people use the "throw a doctor at it" approach, it can fail pretty hard pretty often. What you want is the "find the exact right doctor for this specific problem" approach. Don't expect a GP to solve everything you bring to them. Instead, find someone who specializes in your set of symptoms or diagnosis and has lots of experience with it. That's much more likely to get you a functional treatment plan.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T10:11:41.425Z · LW · GW

Hmm. Good question. I think they'd have to test for the methylated versions, not the regular versions, and I do not know whether the standard procedure is to test for the methylated versions - but this is just me reasoning it out, not medical advice. To my knowledge, if MTHFR is suspected, they generally test for the MTHFR mutation itself.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T09:27:52.303Z · LW · GW

There are a lot of people who want to believe that anyone can do anything, that we're all equals in every way. One can sometimes run into really nasty attitudes when talking about intellectual differences, clear examples of fluff like "we're all gifted" and myths like "giftedness goes away when children grow up". Granted, it would be kind of weird to see that on LessWrong because these guys seem pretty in touch with reality when it comes to acknowledging that intellectual differences exist. Perhaps it is, instead, mind projection fallacy. Most of these guys can program, so maybe they figure most other people can learn to program the same way they did. I've noticed that a lot of gifted people have this problem - they have an ability, think of it as normal, and they assume average people will be able to do it.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T09:06:11.718Z · LW · GW

In IT, if people don't use your software correctly, it's called "Bad user interface design." In business, if people don't like your product enough to actually use it, it's considered your responsibility to make a better product next time. Most people are blaming the condom users, but I think we can take the outside perspective instead. Instead of "shoulding" the condom users, let's criticize the product:

  • You have to remember the product when? This is kinda bad timing to remember stuff, you know?

  • They have to carefully concentrate and use agile finger motions at that time? Maybe they are so excited that fine motor skills like putting on a condom become really hard due to shaking fingers, or concentration becomes a problem due to distraction, and they put it on wrong.

  • They have to use impulse control then? Maybe their neuro-chemistry is all bent out of shape and impulse control is low. This is kinda a bad time to expect excellent impulse control, seriously.

  • Maybe they spent a lot of time getting themselves or their partners ready to go, and they know that a delay can deflate the mood, so they feel conflicted about doing things like reading the instructions, taking their time putting it on, or just getting the thing out.

Please do not confuse this message for "don't use condoms". My message is actually "We need something better than just condoms." (Even if condoms were a joy to use, their effectiveness is still too low.) More importantly:

Please consider also that if there's any trait at all that makes using condoms less likely to succeed (lower impulse control, less agile fingers, memory issues) those traits may have a genetic advantage for as long as condoms are a primary method of contraception. Example: If you keep forgetting to use your condoms, you're more likely to get someone pregnant, and if the memory issue is genetic, you've just put one more copy of that gene into the world.

To prevent their companies from having a negative impact on the gene pool, and because the consequences for their customers can be so dire (moreso for a pro-life couple who isn't ready for a baby), I think contraceptive makers should take more responsibility here.

IT people do it. Other business people do it. They can do it, too.

Comment by Epiphany on Bad Concepts Repository · 2013-06-28T08:31:55.004Z · LW · GW

That's not quite what I meant, but that's a good article.

What I meant is more along the lines of... two people are trying to figure out the same thing together, one jumps to a conclusion and the other one does not. It's that distance between the first observation and the truth I am referring to, not the distance between one person's perspective and another's.

Reads that article again. I think this is my third time.

Comment by Epiphany on Public Service Announcement Collection · 2013-06-28T08:21:39.796Z · LW · GW

Re: B12 - Actually, new PSA.