Pitting national health care systems against one another 2017-10-24T21:34:27.961Z · score: 1 (1 votes)
Systemic review of antidepressants vs placebo commentary 2015-06-03T12:40:08.548Z · score: 0 (5 votes)
LW's take on nutrition? 2015-04-03T00:33:37.688Z · score: 4 (5 votes)
Plane crashes 2015-03-08T16:50:53.108Z · score: 1 (10 votes)
Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory 2015-02-17T15:36:26.697Z · score: 8 (11 votes)


Comment by michael_b on Pitting national health care systems against one another · 2017-10-29T03:54:14.879Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I appreciate your reply.

The government also makes cars have seatbelts and airbags; is this because seatbelt and airbag manufacturers lobbied the government? How dare they make you pay for features you don't want! If you think you're never going to need that airbag, why should you pay for it?

I was going to knee-jerk reply to this and say I'll gladly pay for that because all advanced nations agree that seatbelts and airbags should be standard, but I thought I'd look it up first. Apparently air bags aren't required by the European Commission!

Thanks for opening my eyes to the air bag conspiracy!!!!1

As a reader of this site, I feel like you should understand that humans are ery bad at evaluating small percentages. Under this lens, look at the risk of harm that the vaccination poses to your child, then look at the risk of harm that getting the disease may pose to your child.

As a reader of this site I expect you would pick up on the fact that I was outsourcing this to national health care systems because humans are bad at researching literature on a scientific field of study without coming to conclusions that support their preconceived notions. Even when they know they're susceptible to this kind of bias.

Comment by michael_b on Pitting national health care systems against one another · 2017-10-29T03:47:35.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

When it comes to needles to stick my new kiddo with, I'm not really being persuaded to do more than the intersection of vaccinations between similar nations."

You don't know enough to decide this. What is "similar" (climate, culture, disease spectrum?) Do you know the history of their immunization laws?

That's incorrect. I know that my generation was vaccinated against a more limited set of diseases and has survived pretty well.

It's not wrong to question US health orthodoxy when it's not at all a secret that pharma can influence US policy and other similar nations haven't followed these recommendations.

Seems to me you opened a bottle of righteous indignation for me that you had saved up for someone else..

Comment by michael_b on Pitting national health care systems against one another · 2017-10-29T03:23:15.219Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't digested your entire reply yet, but I'll respond to this part.

  1. Avoiding the fallacy of the one-sided wager. The post talks about cost-benefit analysis, but in a complete cost-benefit analysis one has to consider the risks of both choices under offer, not just one. The post takes specific notice of the default course of action's risks (money, tears, side effects) but focuses less on the risks of the alternative (e.g. toddlers winding up in the ER because they're shitting themselves half to death from rotavirus).


So we have a mundane explanation for most of the newly introduced vaccines for healthy young children; today's vaccines weren't ready before the '80s.

The unstated (but I thought implied, my mistake) other-side of the wager was: I got many fewer vaccines growing up, and I'm fine.

Less anecdotally, I haven't found a lot of evidence that adults are suffering horribly from diseases that children today are routinely vaccinated against. Is the cost-benefit of the added vaccines as good as the cost-benefit of the 80s era vaccines? Some arrows point to the US having a lower threshold for recommending them, given the variance between nations.

Comment by michael_b on Systemic review of antidepressants vs placebo commentary · 2015-06-03T20:31:18.552Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Upvote for interesting and relevant links, although this part made me want to shout at my screen.

(9). Therefore, we should give up on medication and use psychotherapy instead Makes sense right up until you run placebo-controlled trials of psychotherapy ... Another study by the same team finds psychotherapy has an effect size of 0.22 compared to antidepressants’ 0.3-0.5

Even if this is true I don't agree with the cost-benefit analysis. Psychotherapy costs time and money but probably won't cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction and crippling withdrawal if you miss a dose or need to cycle off of them.

EDIT: I guess he says as much in a different article. Hmph.

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T13:36:41.097Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Makes sense, thanks for the link and your summary.

I've taken a keen interest in soylent but am happy to let others beta test long-term effects for me before I give it a shot :)

FWIW, the way soylent people describe their results is more or less how I describe what happened to me when I adopted a whole food plant-based diet (the "china study diet"): BF% dropped/I got leaner, various body odors improved, huge reduction in acne, became a morning person, was able to stop taking ADHD meds, and felt no negative effects at all. Except for maybe I now have so much energy I just had to pick up distance running and ultimately hurt my ankle. :P

Comment by michael_b on 16 types of useful predictions · 2015-04-10T12:07:54.252Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The more time I spend hanging out with rationalists the less comfortable I am making predictions about anything. It's kind of becoming a real problem?

"Do you think you'll be hungry later?" "Maybe"

: /

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T11:23:14.622Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Separate topic!

(FWIW, I spent about 5 years as a vegetarian, followed by 1.5 years doing the paleo thing, and now subsist entirely off DIY soylent, which combines the virtues of deriving all its protein from animal sources and being processed.)

What I find alarming about soylent-like diets is the idea that you can completely capture human nutritional needs as a table of micronutrients quantities to fill, and then go out and source those individual micronutrients, combine them, and drink.

Aren't you discounting the importance of the configuration of these micronutrients as they arrive in their natural packages? That is, you can certainly decompose an apple into fructose, fiber, vitamins, minerals and water (and etc), but I find it hard to accept that shopping for these individual components, blending, and pouring down your throat is just as good (or better) than eating the apple. Surely we do not completely understand everything nature has done in building us this apple.

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T07:23:36.997Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

D'oh! I thought it meant some kind of special honor. Does it at least mean "was granted tenure and was not fired"? That's not useless information, I guess.

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T07:14:43.409Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

They have very strong incentives (ie earning money and building a career and having patients) to pretend to be certain. People don't want to pay for honest but vague guesses.

I would expect consensus (or the lack thereof) is an important signaler for exposing this kind of bias?

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T07:10:04.008Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Lindeberg is a nutrition researcher (conducts studies, co-authors papers) coming from a medical background, which makes him just as much an expert as a nutrition researcher coming from a biochemistry background

Am I asking for too much by insisting on a nutrition researcher from a biochemistry background to refute Campbell? Or are you saying they can both be right within the framework of their fields?

To summarize: Lindeberg, like Campbell, is an experienced nutrition researcher with impressive and relevant credentials. Nutrition is a young and complex field, so there's no broad consensus about everything—although there is broad consensus about some things—but nutrition scientists are doing a decent enough job of figuring things out that I trust them to judge the literature properly.

I am moved enough by your insight and your persistence to give Lindeberg's book a read. :)

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T06:51:16.916Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've come across this quite often. This is written by an amateur whose authority stems from "I typically spend about five hours a day reading and writing about nutrition—voluntarily".

As a layperson myself I'd be a lot more moved if other nutrition scientists agreed with her. As it stands for me her input is basically +1 "non-nutrition scientists disagree' with Campbell".

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-10T06:43:35.310Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Based on what I know about the words "professor" and "emeritus" and "cornell", I assume this is written by an authority in the field of nutrition.

The value of being an authority in a field is that you can accurately convey the consensus within that field. Whenever consensus within a field does not exist, the ancient injunction against "argument from authority" remains true. The "authority" derives not from the authoritative individuals themselves, but the collective wisdom of the field to which they've been exposed.

Who says there is no consensus? Given that he's a nutrition science authority, and that other nutrition science authorities aren't refuting him, that's some small evidence that he's representing a consensus (there are other possible explanations as well, that I touched on in my OP).

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-05T11:18:44.906Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, as gwillen assumes below, that's my actual position proviso nobody explains to me why nutrition science is hopelessly broken and/or Campbell should be ignored. Which is what I was hoping to learn by posting this.

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-05T11:16:18.225Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(6.) The natural world can be complicated, and scientists have limited tools to investigate and a lot of incentive to oversell.

Agree that the world is complicated. Could you go into more detail about incentive to oversell? Do you mean they need to promise groundbreaking results to close funding?

Comment by michael_b on LW's take on nutrition? · 2015-04-05T11:05:40.181Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm specifically trying to avoid weighing the actual science or studies myself, because I don't think nutrition is linear enough for me to just dive in and read contradictory studies and start making informed decisions about my diet. So, all I'm really electing to do here is try to valuate experts. In that vein...

I produce for you a book written by a relevant expert

According to Wikipedia the author of that book, Staffan Lindeberg, is "M.D., Ph.D., (born 1950) is Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Department of Medicine, University of Lund, Sweden. He is a practicing GP at St Lars Primary Health Care Center, Lund, Sweden."

I agree he's a health expert. I even agree he's more qualified to judge nutrition science than me. But shouldn't a nutrition scientist like Campbell be even more qualified to evaluate nutrition literature than a professor of Family Medicine?

He may be right, and Campbell completely wrong but I don't see a good way to figure this out for myself unless, say, someone can make an extremely good case that Campbell is either a rogue in nutrition science, or that nutrition science shouldn't be trusted. Getting to your next point...

So, to address your questions directly: you should believe that nutrition is a young and complex field, and therefore shouldn't have everything all figured out

Why wouldn't nutrition scientists studying nutrition come to a similar conclusion about how young, murky, and complicated nutrition is? Shouldn't they on average know this better than anyone and only make very careful and strongly supported recommendations?

If you can't trust nutrition scientists to judge the literature properly, why should you trust scientists outside of the field or layman attempting to dive into the field would be better?

Comment by michael_b on Plane crashes · 2015-03-09T00:30:45.178Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Close. If the accident is completely unexplained, as it often is immediately following an accident, shouldn't the risk be substantially higher immediately following the accident and then rapidly decay back to baseline as more information becomes available?

Comment by michael_b on Saving for the long term · 2015-03-02T21:18:58.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Permit me to ramble a bit.

So, I think I have a bias against startups for getting rich. I think it might be reasonable.

I'll relate my personal experience as well as the experiences of three close friends. Around eight years ago, four of us each joined different startups. I quit mine about 3 1/2 years in. They've remained at theirs. What's the current status?

me: I've learned that my equity in my startup, which I took at a substantial discount to my salary, is now worth low six figures.

friend 1: his startup has almost been acquired but the deal sunk in due dilligence. Not in danger of going out of business but not exactly striking gold either. At least not yet.

friend 2: recently had his startup acquired and he received a low six figure bonus on the condition he stay another two years to ease the transition. It seems like he was cut out of the upside somehow.

friend 3: nothing close to an exit in sight; the company isn't failing, but it doesn't seem like it's going to strike gold either. It's slowly growing.

The low six figures of equity I (now) have might be seen as a positive, but 8 years on and I still can't sell it, and I had to take low pay and do a ton of work to get it. This is better than most startups, but still not a success.

In the meantime after I quit my startup I joined an established company and made a high-normal salary + bonuses and am way ahead of the rest of my friends on net worth (we all basically started at zero).

Two of my friends are only finally now making normal job salaries, but they're basically burned out at their respective companies and can't bring themselves to quit because they signed deals where their equity evaporates if they walk away. This is probably the largest danger to joining a startup: what if it drags on forever, and it seems like you could get your payday if you keep hanging on for six more months and this goes on for years and years? Do you think you could just walk away? I think this is loss aversion bias at work.

Should people work at startups? Absolutely: the experience is outstanding. You will learn a lot, the energy is amazing, and there are seldom better opportunities to feel that you're making a real difference in the world (at least for awhile). Should people work at startups to get rich? I couldn't recommend it. It's probably going to fail, but worse, it might nearly fail and stumble along for years never amounting to anything but tricking you into riding it for longer than you should. Even worse still, it might succeed and you might not have been ninja enough about your contract to ensure you get a fair deal.

I'm glad I worked at one startup, but I definitely couldn't have stomached working for, say, 5 startups in a row. The emotional rollercoaster of just one startup was enough.

Comment by michael_b on Saving for the long term · 2015-02-24T15:34:13.322Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

(4) I work a normal-ish job, have a normal retirement plan, and save enough to retire at a normal age.

The point I want to make in this article is that 1, 2, 3 seem way more likely than 4. Which makes me think that long-term saving might not actually be such a good idea.

Are you sure? Take a look at

You plug in your nest egg size and expected cost of living and it will trial it against historical market performance. That is, if you retired the day before the Great Depression and similar events, would your portfolio keep you alive long enough?

It's clear if you plan to live a reasonably frugal lifestyle working a normal job you can save up a substantial nest-egg in 10-20 years to float you indefinitely if you're only a little bit lucky, probably requiring a lot less luck than hoping you strike gold on a startup.

Comment by michael_b on Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory · 2015-02-22T18:43:19.066Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Alright, let's say I agree that in the space of all possible activities there exist some pleasurable activities that have zero future utility.

Couldn't we die at any minute? Given this, shouldn't we always do the pleasurable thing so long as there's no negative utility and no opportunity cost because there's a small chance it'll be the last thing we do?

Doesn't choosing the beautiful vacation that evaporates when it's over have the benefit that if we die in the middle of it, life was just that much more pleasant?

I guess I don't understand why someone would choose not to take the vacation.

Comment by michael_b on Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory · 2015-02-22T15:11:29.155Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Understood. In that case, I disagree on this point.

most of us choose to indulge in pleasures that have no future utility (and in some cases have negative future utility) all the time. We eat junk food, watch TV, waste time watching cat videos. Things that would not obviously be missed if they could not be got.

Are you sure there's no future utility? Doesn't resisting these useless but pleasurable activities deplete the ego? Doesn't depleted ego lead to bad decision-making?

This is not to say that every time a parole judges eat a brownie it's because they're trying to protect their ability to make sound decisions, merely that I don't agree that it's the same as taking a vacation that totally evaporates when it's over.

Comment by michael_b on Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory · 2015-02-20T10:01:58.000Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If I were Kahneman and I had posed that riddle, I would object that the entire point of the thought experiment is to consider the activity as being of no future utility whatsoever.

Sorry, I don't follow you. If you were Kahneman you would have posed the riddle differently? Or are you saying that I'm unfairly describing it?

Comment by michael_b on Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory · 2015-02-20T10:00:45.974Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW


  1. you can have an amazingly beautiful night that you don't remember the next day
  2. you can have a memory implanted that you had an amazingly beautiful night that never actually happened

which do you choose?

I like this because 1 has the benefit of being closer to the actual human experience.

Comment by michael_b on Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory · 2015-02-20T09:56:16.906Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes? What are the consequences of not letting the fork happen?

Comment by michael_b on Deconstructing the riddle of experience vs. memory · 2015-02-20T09:52:22.068Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Not if everything is reset back to the way it was!

He doesn't say that though. Perhaps he meant to imply that. Let's suppose he did, what does the experiencing vs remembering self model say about that?

You would start building memories. As you build them you're servicing the experiencing self, and over the course of the vacation your remembering self can recall the things you did earlier in the vacation. Finally the vacation ends and time resets to before the vacation and it's all gone, memories, sunburn. All of your new Facebook friends are strangers again.

If this is the problem he meant to specify then I'm still confused. Isn't this vacation model a microcosm of life? One day it ends, and everything is gone. Do you still bother living it? Is talking about a vacation that resets just less likely to trigger existential angst in the audience than asking people to think about why they bother living?

Comment by michael_b on Two Cult Koans · 2015-02-16T13:56:51.220Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When I read these I flip between understanding and confused like I'm staring at a Hollow-Mask Illusion.

Comment by michael_b on Open thread, Feb. 9 - Feb. 15, 2015 · 2015-02-15T10:02:07.158Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Try to hack your body into feeling more relaxed so your scholarly zeal calms down a bit and lets your mind rest.

I'll tell you what works for me.

  1. Start dimming the lights as you approach bed-time. You can buy electric tea candles (as you may have seen in restaurants) to provide low lighting so you can still get around your home. The candle-like flickering of the light is pretty calming.
  2. Install f.lux (or its ilk) on any PC or mobile device with a screen.
  3. If you listen to music, make sure it's relaxing. Playing nature sounds or whatever YT returns for "meditation music" works pretty well.
  4. Don't underestimate olfactory senses. Buy an aroma diffuser and pick up some essential oils. Grapefruit or ginger scented mist can be seriously relaxing.
  5. Keep some kind of whimsical treatise next to your bed so you have an outlet for what should now be sleepy intellectual curiosity: Godel-Escher-Bach is perfect for this.

Good luck! :)

EDIT: Oh, also what about psychoactive stuff like coffee and alcohol? Coffee in the afternoons can cause tossing and turning at night even though the wakefulness benefits are long gone. Alcohol is considered a CNS depressant but it can still lead to some difficulty sleeping because of other related effects.

Comment by michael_b on Have you changed your mind recently? · 2015-02-09T10:51:50.142Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

After initial success but then several bouts of plantar fascitis, new mystery leg pain and a heaping helping of denial I've finally given on up the minimal shoes thing.

I agree walking around in super comfortable shoes all the time probably makes us puny and weak, but I doubt paleolithic man walked and ran on hard city-grade pavement 50+ miles a week.

Comment by michael_b on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2015-02-06T09:27:31.307Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Fair point.

Comment by michael_b on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2015-02-06T09:15:22.208Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry for the confusion. I'm picking authorities at random and asking why I should trust you over them, not vouching for any authority in particular. Perhaps I should have asked more bluntly: who are you and why are you qualified to give us health advice?

No offense. :)

I am having a hard time finding places I disagree significantly with them.

More a curiosity than anything: dairy isn't represented at all on the HSPH's "healthy eating plate" but is specifically highlighted in your section on nutrition. Why the discrepancy?

Comment by michael_b on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2015-02-03T23:33:56.078Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Noted. To be clear, the question I'm asking is why is OP a more worthy authority than the rest?

Why should we listen to OP and not follow, say, the UK's NHS healthy living guidelines? I hope the answer is better than "because nobody at the NHS is a member of LW"

Comment by michael_b on Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity · 2015-02-03T18:03:05.463Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why should we listen to you and not, say, the Harvard School of Public Health ?

That is, why do you think you did a better job of reading and interpreting the literature and publishing guidelines?

Comment by michael_b on The Importance of Sidekicks · 2015-02-03T11:02:47.159Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Kenzi said, approximately [I don't remember her exact words]: “What if your aura of destiny didn’t have to be those things? What if you could be like…Samwise, from Lord of the Rings? You’re competent, but most importantly, you’re loyal to Frodo. You’re the reason that the hero succeeds.”

In Australia, something about the way you interacted with people suggested to me that you help people in a completely free way, joyfully, because it fulfills you to serve those you care about, and not because you want something from them… I was able to relax around you, and ask for your support when I needed it while I worked on my classes. It was really lovely… The other surprising thing was that you seemed to act that way with everyone. You weren’t “on” all the time, but when you were, everybody around you got the benefit. I’d never recognized in anyone I’d met a more diffuse service impulse, like the whole human race might be your master. So I suddenly felt like I understood nurses and other people in similar service roles for the first time.

Project this idea to community scale and you have a gift economy.

If you're interested in seeing how 50,000+ people apply this for a week do look into Burning Man

Comment by michael_b on Earning to Give vs. Altruistic Career Choice Revisited · 2015-02-01T14:29:25.523Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's a bit of a false dichotomy here between 'earning to give' and 'altruistic career'. I'll talk about one of them which we'll need to go macro to see. I will also implicitly complain that 'earning to give' allows companies to deflect on charitable giving in a way that satisfies individual actors but may result in less charitable giving overall.

Working on Wall Street and practicing an 'earning to give' plan may not be a great way to maximize giving to high-ROI aligned charities.

I work at an HFT of order 1000 employees. The HFT itself makes no charitable donations. When employees ask about charity the HFT points at their large bonuses and says if a cause is important to you go ahead and donate your (huge) bonus to that cause. The HFT occasionally invites representatives from GiveWell and similar to come talk to us about pledging to donate a portion of our income to high-ROI charities. The bonuses can be big and if you do some multiplication you really can come away with the impression that you and your coworkers are collectively contributing enormous value to charity.

Is this a fantasy though? I can't know how everyone spends their bonuses but projecting from intimate discussions with my peer group has led me to believe that most employees, if they do donate, donate token amounts of $500-5000. Usually to more "name brand" causes like MSF or EFF. I'm aware of one person who donates their entire bonus to charity and a handful of others who have taken the GiveWell pledge.

(Don't take this as an endorsement of GiveWell or anything, I'm simply holding them up as a symbol of the idea)

I don't mean to overstate the progressiveness of the company either. There are also the more familiar Hollywood renditions of Wall Street employees who appear to spend their bonuses on sweet apartments and fancy cars before they've even been paid.

Obviously this is anecdotal. I'm only describing a practice inside of one Wall Street firm. This may not be an accurate picture; it's frowned upon to discuss compensation with one another so it's hard to know the amounts at stake. There could be a handful of extremely high earners that secretly plow all of their wealth into high-ROI charities, which would more than make up for all of the modest earners who save their bonuses or take very nice holidays in the tropics.

(btw, I'm not making an absolute value judgment on how people spend their bonuses, only speaking about how to maximize value to charity)

Wait, why are we talking about what the entire company does when we're trying to figure out what individual actors should do? Here's why.

All-in, if you can't make a more valuable altruistic career choice it's not strictly true that earning to give on Wall Street is the only reasonable alternative. If you could find an organization whose policy is to donate, say, 10% of all profits to charity, that number may be much larger than the discretionary charitable gifts made by employees at an equivalently sized Wall Street firm. If you're concerned that the company with the 10% policy is donating to the wrong charities, you could consider joining that firm and campaigning to allocate more of the firm's giving to charities aligned with GiveWell.

Comment by michael_b on Is there a rationalist skill tree yet? · 2015-01-31T10:29:54.139Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Great request. Along a similar line, what about a decision tree for evaluating claims?

  1. Are you being asked to think about past decisions, prior beliefs, or intent? Take steps to rule out hindsight bias.

  2. Does the claim challenge prevailing beliefs, possibly alleging conspiracy? Consider confirmation bias.


(sorry if this is a FAQ)

Comment by michael_b on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-01-29T22:51:34.876Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm skeptical this is a great strategy for topics in general.

Nutrition, for example, doesn't appear to be the kind of topic where you can just learn its axioms and build up an optimal human diet from first principles. It's far too complicated.

Instead you need substantial education, training, experience and access, as well as a community that can help you support and refine your ideas. You need to gather evidence, you need to learn how to determine the quality of the evidence you've gathered, and you need to propose reasonable stories that fit the evidence.

Since I haven't made health and nutrition my career most of these things will be hard or even impossible for me to come by. As such, my confidence in the quality of any amateur conclusions I come to must necessarily be low.

So, the most reasonable thing for me to do is trust authorities when it comes to nutrition.

Comment by michael_b on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-01-29T17:08:22.947Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Comment by michael_b on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-01-29T16:58:42.177Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. I spent a lot of time reviewing critiques of The China Study (TCS), including Minger's. At the end of it I came to the following conclusions.

  1. Nutrition science is extraordinarily nonlinear
  2. I'm definitely not qualified to deconstruct claims made about nutrition
  3. TCS critics don't seem very qualified either, especially when compared to the qualifications of the people advancing TCS
  4. There's no larger group of qualified people advancing a radically different approach

So, those are my reasons. I admit they're not very satisfying. I'm spoiled by fields where, once you grok the formal proof you can be highly confident that the claim is correct.

No such luck with something as squishy as nutrition, it would seem.

Comment by michael_b on Your intuitions are not magic · 2015-01-29T13:02:15.917Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The immediately available example supporting your article for me is the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. There's high general confusion around this health claim.

What no doubt compounds the confusion on the issue is that intuitively you might infer that eating zero cholesterol should lower blood cholesterol, or that eating high cholesterol should raise blood cholesterol. Evidence shows this often happens, but not always. There are enough notable outliers that the claim has been defeated in the general mind because it doesn't support the intuitive story.

That is, vegans who eat almost no cholesterol containing foods, can have high blood cholesterol. On the flip side, surely everyone has heard of that friend of a friend who eats inf eggs a day and has low blood cholesterol.

There's a reasonably interesting story that fits the evidence for the claim that if dietary cholesterol then blood cholesterol, but the nonlinearity of the relationship and also the incidence of intuition defeating cases cloud the issue.

Comment by michael_b on Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014) · 2015-01-29T12:37:29.573Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I discovered because someone left a printout of an article on the elliptical machine in my gym. I started reading it and have become hooked.

I'm a formally uneducated computer expert. The lack of formal education makes me a bit insecure, so I obsess over improving my thinking through literature on cognitive dissonance and biases, such as books from the library and also sites like this.

Nowadays I get paid to be a middle-manager at technology companies. Most of my career has been in Linux system administration as well as functional programming.

I'm a bit of a health nut. I adopted a whole-food plant-based diet (the "China Study" diet) because it seems most well supported in the literature, although a broad consensus on the topic has not emerged. I base this decision in part on my trust of experts with titles after their names, since I'm too out of my element to read and interpret most of the literature on my own. At the same time I have a personal anecdote that this works well, so those two are enough to convince me for now.

There are times when I find reading about rational thinking rather sobering. It's clear that we were born with an irrational, "defective", brain and that we would be so lucky if we could even make a small dent in improving our decision making. Improvements seem very hard to come by, I worry that all I'm really doing is learning to distrust my beliefs.

So that's a nutshell full. How's everyone else? :)