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Intelligence Amplification Open Thread

46 Post author: Will_Newsome 15 September 2010 08:39AM

A place to discuss potentially promising methods of intelligence amplification in the broad sense of general methods, tools, diets, regimens, or substances that boost cognition (memory, creativity, focus, etc.): anything from SuperMemo to Piracetam to regular exercise to eating lots of animal fat to binaural beats, whether it works or not. Where's the highest expected value? What's easiest to make part of your daily routine? Hopefully discussion here will lead to concise top level posts describing what works for a more self-improvement-savvy Less Wrong.

Lists of potential interventions are great, but even better would be a thorough analysis of a single intervention: costs, benefits, ease, et cetera. This way the comment threads will be more structured and organized. Less Wrong is pretty confused about IA, so even if you're not an expert, a quick analysis or link to a metastudy about e.g. exercise could be very helpful.

Added: Adam Atlas is now hosting an IA wiki: BetterBrains! Bookmark it, add to it, make it awesome.

Comments (338)

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 03:23:43AM 23 points [-]

Not only are we reinventing the wheel here we are doing so as a community relatively poorly equipped to do so.

The guys at the Immortality Institute forums are reasonably like minded to lesswrong participants but many of them are obsessed with the kind of subject we discuss here and have done excessive amounts of investigation into both studies and typical experiences of self-experimenters.

We would in most cases be best off just reading through the best of the threads there and following their findings.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 16 September 2010 05:32:20AM 6 points [-]

Which are the best threads? Fora do not seem optimal for synthesizing an answer. My impression is that they know a lot more than wikipedia. Why haven't they filled it out? Would they be interested in ata's wiki?

Comment author: sketerpot 16 September 2010 07:12:16AM *  10 points [-]

At the top of the Nootropics forum is a sticky which indexes the best threads by subject. It looks like exactly what you're looking for.

This one in particular looks like a great getting-started guide.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 08:45:46AM 2 points [-]

It would certainly be useful if the information was collected in wiki format. As you say, forums are far from optimal for collecting a concise synthesis of information! It would be a service to the universe if ata's wiki was filled out comprehensively.

Comment author: jimmy 15 September 2010 08:36:20PM *  20 points [-]

Psychedelics can have cognitive benefits. It's not what you'd chose if you need to concentrate on something, but if the problem requires a creative solution and you're stuck, it might be the way to go.

"What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR? I don't know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it." -Kary Mullis

I have a friend who came to a pretty big personal revelation about reductionism/human behavior when under the influence of DMT.

Another friend took a threshold dose of LSD and said something along the lines of "I've always known intellectually that aging is bad, but it finally hit me- at an emotional level. These [old] people are everywhere. They're falling apart right in front of us and we act as if its normal and okay! This is not okay!!!"

The interesting thing about this is that a full "tripping" dose is not necessary. The latter friend was on a dose low enough that neither he nor anyone else could notice the effects- other than the slightly changed thought processes, of course.

Comment author: Kevin 16 September 2010 07:19:26AM 7 points [-]

Also note that cannabis is a psychedelic and has caused similar insights in all sorts of people, including myself.

Comment author: kodos96 16 September 2010 07:36:52AM 6 points [-]

Only some people experience psychedelic effects from marijuana, and then usually only some of the time.... and when you do get psychedelic effects, they're nowhere near as intense as they are for "traditional" psychedelics.... still it's enough to get some of the positive effects being talked about here.

It's a real shame that its become rather hard to get ahold of "real" psychedelics these days.

Comment author: Kevin 16 September 2010 07:52:26AM *  13 points [-]

Psychedelic means something that causes a profound change in thought patterns. In anything beyond a mild dose, cannabis induces profound changes in thought patterns.

There are plenty of legal plants that contain illegal psychedelics. These plants are legal to buy, grow, and sell, but they become illegal if you possess them with the knowledge of their use. It is an actual thoughtcrime (in the USA).

  • Peruvian torch cactus contains mescaline.
  • Mimosa hostilis root contains DMT.
  • Dried poppy pods contain the opium blend of alkaloids.
  • Morning glory seeds contain LSA. They are coated in poison if you buy them at flower shops or a place like Wal-Mart, but are safe when bought from specialty stores online.

All can be purchased online by searching Google.

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 03:24:21PM 5 points [-]

A lot of places avoid the "thought crime" problem by making the live plants legal but their products illegal. For example, in places where psychedelic mushrooms grow naturally, it is often legal to have them fresh but illegal to have them dried, as one would only dry them in order to use them but you wouldn't want to arrest an old lady for having a lawn.

Comment author: ratdreams 28 September 2010 08:39:03PM 1 point [-]

I hear that the experience of marijuana changes after you've tried LSD or mushrooms. The marijuana gets more "trippy." Do you think that is the case? And if so, why would that be?

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 08:09:51AM *  12 points [-]

"We report that when C57BL/6 mice are maintained on an intermittent fasting (alternate-day fasting) dietary-restriction regimen their overall food intake is not decreased and their body weight is maintained. Nevertheless, intermittent fasting resulted in beneficial effects that met or exceeded those of caloric restriction including reduced serum glucose and insulin levels and increased resistance of neurons in the brain to excitotoxic stress."

"Since May 2003 we have experimented with alternate day calorie restriction, one day consuming 20-50% of estimated daily caloric requirement and the next day ad lib eating, and have observed health benefits starting in as little as two weeks, in insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, infectious diseases of viral, bacterial and fungal origin (viral URI, recurrent bacterial tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease), autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, symptoms due to CNS inflammatory lesions (Tourette's, Meniere's) cardiac arrhythmias (PVCs, atrial fibrillation), menopause related hot flashes. We hypothesize that other many conditions would be delayed, prevented or improved, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, brain injury due to thrombotic stroke atherosclerosis, NIDDM, congestive heart failure."

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 07:19:08AM 9 points [-]
Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 10:11:15PM 7 points [-]

I'm considering writing a post on meditation if there is enough interest (see my comment here).

Comment author: James_Miller 16 September 2010 12:13:51AM *  7 points [-]

A shockingly high percentage of undergraduates illegally use ADHD drugs. A group of researchers questioned 1,811 undergraduates at a large public U.S. college and found that 34% admitted illegally using ADHA stimulants.

The researchers conducted detailed interviews with 175 of the users. None of these users "sought out information from health professionals, medical or pharmaceutical reference guides, or even Internet sites before taking their first dose."

From the paper "Illicit use of prescription ADHD medications on a college campus: a multimethodological approach" by DeSantis AD, Webb EM, Noar SM, published in the Journal of American College Health. Not available online.

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 16 September 2010 02:11:50AM 5 points [-]

It is online. google scholar is awesome. ungated

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 September 2010 10:52:08PM *  7 points [-]

Exercise: Effect on brain function:

A 2008 review of cognitive enrichment therapies (strategies to slow or reverse cognitive decline) concluded that "physical activity, and aerobic exercise in particular, enhances older adults' cognitive function". In mice, exercise improves cognitive functioning via improvement of hippocampus-dependent spatial learning, and enhancement of synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis. In addition, physical activity has been shown to be neuroprotective in many neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. For instance, it reduces the risk of developing dementia. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that frequent exercise may reverse alcohol-induced brain damage. There are several possibilities for why exercise is good for the brain: increasing the blood and oxygen flow to the brain; increasing growth factors that help create new nerve cells and promote synaptic plasticity; increasing chemicals in the brain that help cognition, such as dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Physical activity is thought to have other beneficial effects related to cognition as it increases levels of nerve growth factors, which support the survival and growth of a number of neuronal cells.

Anyone have a better summary or source? The overall research emphasis on 'older adults' is understandable but personally unhelpful.

The papers I've looked at lead me to believe that cardiovascular/aerobic exercise is a lot more effective than e.g. strength training at increasing cognitive function. But I still don't know how how effective! Is there e.g. a 10% increase in short term memory, or 2%, or 20%? So many of the papers include only data about elderly people that aren't particularly relevant to my research.

Comment author: xamdam 15 September 2010 12:36:46PM 7 points [-]

For a no-brainer, you can easily adjust to listening to audiobooks at 2x on ipod/phone.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 15 September 2010 02:48:41PM 6 points [-]

“Besides, we are friends of the lento, I and my book. I have not been a philologist in vain — perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading. I even come to write slowly. At present it is not only my habit, but even my taste — a perverted taste, maybe — to write nothing but what will drive to despair every one who is ‘in a hurry.’ For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all — to step to one side, to leave themselves spare moments, to grow silent, to become slow — the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow, fine work, and attains nothing if not lento. Thus philology is now more desirable than ever before; thus it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of ‘work’: that is, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-skurry, which is so eager to ‘get things done’ at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not so hurriedly ‘get things done.’ It teaches how to read well, that is, slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes. My patient friends, this book appeals only to perfect readers and philologists: learn to read me well!”

-Nietzsche

Comment author: Drahflow 15 September 2010 12:53:36PM 3 points [-]

Same goes for videos (Yay action movies at 2x).

Bonus points (for fun only): Play action games afterwards. Time sensation is a weird thing.

Comment author: Leafy 16 September 2010 04:42:52PM 1 point [-]

Interestingly I have noticed a similar "time slowing" effect in rapid reaction computer games following extreme bursts of adrenaline for whatever reason - I wonder if action movies at 2x give you an adrenaline boost?

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 05:35:14PM 1 point [-]

I noticed real life slowing down after extended multiplayer sessions of Quake 3.

Comment author: tabsa 16 September 2010 12:05:56AM *  6 points [-]

The magic combination of things that work for me:

  • Regular exercise, i like running at least 5 days a week, tabata/endurance depending on the mood/energy levels.

  • Piracetam

  • Very strong coffee in the morning

  • Clear goals of what i want to accomplish

  • No sleep debt, and sufficient sleep everyday.

Last one is the hardest, but the weeks that manage to get enough sleep, i get things done like an animal.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 01:31:25AM 3 points [-]

Very strong coffee in the morning

Are you worried about caffeine addiction at all? My understanding is that once your body gets used to it, the coffee is really only bringing you up to what would otherwise be your baseline.

Comment author: Mass_Driver 16 September 2010 04:58:50AM 2 points [-]

My experience is that when used in combination with sufficient sleep, i.e., much more sleep than most Americans get, small doses of caffeine (e.g. 1 espresso/day) can be a permanently useful stimulant. The 'cost' of the alertness gets taken out of your bone density and immune system rather than via chemical habituation.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 05:51:22AM 3 points [-]

The 'cost' of the alertness gets taken out of your bone density and immune system

I'll still take a pass. :)

Comment author: tabsa 16 September 2010 11:50:43AM 2 points [-]

Exercise, especially tabata seems to mitigate some of these problems. I get sick quite often, but i recover very fast and my bones seem to be stronger. Of course it's just my subjective observation.

Comment author: xamdam 16 September 2010 01:08:25PM 1 point [-]

Your experience with tabata: subjective or did you find some research?

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 16 September 2010 05:25:00AM 2 points [-]

What is your experience? Have you tried stopping caffeine? Do you have objective measure of alertness?

Comment author: Mass_Driver 16 September 2010 06:21:11AM 4 points [-]

Yes, on most days I have no caffeine. I frequently go 2-3 weeks without taking any caffeine at all except for, say, a fun-sized dark chocolate bar. I do not drink soda, take caffeniated pills, drink office coffee, or have access to other popular surrepetitious sources of caffeine, so it is unlikely that I am in denial about my caffeine consumption.

I do not have an objective measure of alertness, but I have been successfully confused by what appeared to be aytpical levels of alertness after misestimating the amount of caffeine in, e.g., a Grande Starbucks Frappucino (~120 mg vs. my estimate of 50 mg), gone back and checked the actual caffeine level, and found that it predicted my past alertness better than my estimated caffeine level. This happened twice with two different types of caffeniated beverages, both at times when I was habitually using caffeine at roughly the same dosages per day as the beverages in question.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 06:28:48AM 4 points [-]

Yes, on most days I have no caffeine.

This is a sufficient answer to my comment as well.

Comment author: Tom_Talbot 15 September 2010 11:10:37PM 6 points [-]

I recommend O'Reilly's Mind Performance Hacks and the accompanying Mentat Wiki. I was particularly interested in the exoself which is really just a combination of the Hipster PDA and a Motivaider.

Also, touchtyping is the closest thing to a Direct Neural Interface you can get today. If you don't know how to do it, learn!

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 01:42:12AM 6 points [-]

Also, touchtyping is the closest thing to a Direct Neural Interface you can get today. If you don't know how to do it, learn!

For an interface to a computer, I completely agree; mice are for art and play, keyboards are for getting other work done.

However, while I have excellent touchtyping speed and a small portable netbook, I still take class notes, and often brainstorm, on paper. Why? It's the easiest possible way to work in two dimensions. I can make outlines, add margin notes, connect related ideas with arrows, and draw diagrams, without being confined to a grid or having to switch modes between location selection and input. I don't know of and have difficulty imagining the computer program that would let me do this anywhere near as fluidly, although if someone knows one I'd love to hear about it.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 02:47:45AM 3 points [-]

However, while I have excellent touchtyping speed and a small portable netbook, I still take class notes, and often brainstorm, on paper. Why?

Another benefit is that you will remember your notes better if you write them on paper. The kinaesthetic involvement aids memory formation. I don't do it myself. But then, I don't usually take notes either.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 03:45:29AM *  2 points [-]

you will remember your notes better if you write them on paper

Good point. I knew that, but forgot about it (probably since that's not my reason). They'll probably also be easier to browse and review if I care to.

I didn't used to take notes either. The main conscious reason I do it now is that I know I'm inclined to do something with my hands while in class--doodling, writing something unrelated, even crocheting or embroidery sometimes. All of these activities take some of my attention away from the instructor. If I take notes, I satisfy the urge to keep my hands busy, and also pay more attention instead of less.

(That, and I'm getting paid to take notes in one of my classes, and I would've felt silly if that was the only one I took notes for.)

Comment author: Relsqui 24 September 2010 07:25:54PM 1 point [-]

A downside, it turns out, is that when a classmate asks to borrow my notes and our schedules conflict enough to not do a handoff in person, I can't just copy them into an email. I just scanned half a dozen pages instead. Oh well. :)

Comment author: MBlume 16 September 2010 07:30:19AM 5 points [-]

Definitely if you program, and quite possibly if you don't, using a 'real' editor like vim, or emacs, is almost as much of an increase in productivity over something like textpad as touch-typing is over hunt-and-peck.

That sentence was awkward...

Using vim fluently : Textpad :: touch-typing : hunt-and-peck.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2010 04:47:06AM 4 points [-]

It's extremely frustrating returning to a 'normal' editor and trying to find the shortcut key for 'regex substitution'. ;)

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 02:11:42AM 2 points [-]

Also, does anyone remember that in the days before ubiquitous cheap electronics, the equivalent of the motivaider was tying a string around your finger? The only difference seems to be that the motivaider can actively alert you, whereas the string must passively rely on you noticing it.

Comment author: curiousepic 16 September 2010 11:50:05AM 1 point [-]

And surely now in the days of ubiquitous (expensive) smart phones, there's an equivalent of a $60 piece of extra physical junk.... I'll add it to the wiki when I find it.

Comment author: Morendil 17 September 2010 06:58:27AM 5 points [-]

Most if not all of the comments so far are focused on individual intelligence augmentation.

I suspect there is big, juicy, low-hanging fruit in collective intelligence augmentation. We're pretty smart by ourselves but really dumb when we get together in groups, small and big.

For an interesting (if controversial) example of IA for groups, see Software For Your Head.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2010 09:12:06AM *  4 points [-]
Comment author: whpearson 17 September 2010 12:12:23PM 2 points [-]

I'm planning to start an organisation that experiments with a different feedback system for organisations.

It is about trying to improve organisational sanity more than intelligence though.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 September 2010 11:18:31PM *  5 points [-]

God helmet. More info here where it's sold for $650. Kooky or credible or both?

Also, anyone know where to buy transcranial magnetic stimulation devices? Closest I found was this without an easily findable price tag. If not, do any engineers know if they'd be difficult to build?

I found a place that does TMS sessions in Berkeley that treat depression. Website here. I'll do more research to figure out if it'd be useful for things other than depression. This looks potentially promising, but I haven't found the original study yet (using Google Scholar).

Comment author: Kevin 16 September 2010 01:13:06AM *  3 points [-]

Clearly credible that the God helmet produces hallucinations, possibly really cool ones.

Comment author: simplicio 16 September 2010 05:58:28PM 2 points [-]

See this podcast for a description of one neuroscientist's experience with the God Helmet.

Comment author: HughRistik 15 September 2010 07:32:11PM 5 points [-]

Is this a good thread to talk about sleep in? I'm not sure if sleep deprivation reduces intelligence, but it reduces executive function, which is necessary for effective use of one's intelligence.

Comment author: simplicio 17 September 2010 12:58:08PM *  1 point [-]

I've had excellent success with melatonin (2-3 mg) in getting myself on a good sleep cycle. I take it about 1 hr before I want to be sleeping; works like a charm. Before I used to sit in bed for hours waiting to feel sleepy. Other people here report similar effects.

Only drawback is sometimes I feel groggy in the morning, and I've had lots of crazy dreams on the nights I've taken it (or maybe just remember them better?).

Comment author: HughRistik 17 September 2010 05:28:22PM *  5 points [-]

I've tried melatonin, and it helps sometimes, but it doesn't fix the root of the problems:

  1. My main problem is akrasia over getting to bed because after 9 PM I do a Jekyll and Hyde switch where Hyde comes out and wants to stay up late trying reading, writing, programming, or stopping people on the internets from being wrong. My value system changes. Every night. I've tried stuff like cronjobs to quit my browser, but it's no good. I need a cronjob to switch off my brain.

  2. Melatonin doesn't necessarily make me go to sleep. It can make me feel a bit more sleepy, but my brain doesn't experience sleepiness as motivation to go to sleep. It experiences sleepiness as motivation to focus even harder. All day I'm distractable from being sleep deprived, then after like 8 or 9 PM, my brain suddenly focuses on things, I turn into Hyde, and I can't break it.

  3. Melatonin makes me groggy in the morning a lot of the time.

  4. Ladyfriends like to sleep over, or to chat online.

Melatonin does help me sleep when I can actually get to bed, and it helps me not get woken up in the middle of the night, or get back to sleep if I do.

Comment author: pjeby 17 September 2010 06:06:50PM *  4 points [-]

My main problem is akrasia over getting to bed because after 9 PM I do a Jekyll and Hyde switch where Hyde comes out and wants to stay up late trying reading, writing, programming, or stopping people on the internets from being wrong.

So go to bed before 9. ;-)

(Seriously, though, I've found that there are certain time windows for me to go to bed, and once they pass, I then want to stay up a few more hours, so catching a sleep window before 9 might actually work for you.)

Comment author: ratdreams 28 September 2010 08:31:48PM 1 point [-]

I second the crazy dreams (which I usually enjoy very much...). I've heard from other people that they get them as well.

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 September 2010 01:20:29PM 5 points [-]

I have posted about my positive experiences with piracetam and sulbutiamine here before. Since then I've also tried L-tyrosine (precursor to a bunch of important neurotransmitters), but it hasn't had a discernible effect on me.

I'd just like to say that there are many safe, potentially nootropic and anti-akrasic supplements to try, and while individual biochemistry varies too much to reliably predict whether any particular one will work for you or not, the expected return on investment from experimentation is extremely high. I would also like to add that chemical problems can disguise themselves as psychological problems, and that taking a multivitamin is not optional unless you're keeping a detailed food log and tallying up your intake of every one of the standard multivitamin ingredients.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 15 September 2010 04:00:58PM 1 point [-]

How long have you been on piracetam and sulbutiamine? Have you been collecting data on your does over time and any subjective evaluations (a diary/log or whatever)? Individual experiements such as that can be quite useful for others.

Have an idea which works better? After reading about your sulbutiamine experiment I went and got a B-vitamin complex which I now take, and I'm curious about actually trying sulbutiamine next.

Comment author: jimmy 15 September 2010 08:14:25PM 2 points [-]

I've taken piracetam and measured the effects on a one dose basis.

I notice more 'clear' thinking, but the measurable part is in terms of action/reaction time. My 'maximum typing rate' (my typing speed when I type a memorized sentence and don't make mistakes) goes up about 10%. My reaction time goes down about 10%.

My guitar playing speed seems to improve by more than 10% (haven't actually measured it). The increase is large enough that my friends can tell that I've taken a 'racetam without me mentioning it. One of the first times I took piracetam I had forgotten about taking it and when I went to play guitar I was shocked and confused until I remembered taking it.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 15 September 2010 08:19:39PM 1 point [-]

That is really interesting jimmy. Is it still legally available in the US? I am motivated now to research it more.

Of course a 10% speed increase isn't earth-shattering and probably doesn't result in anything near a 10% benefit in most tasks, but it's fascinating to me because I wasn't aware that any pharmaceutical could significantly increase speed of thought. Although I guess perhaps some stimulants can, but I've also thought of there effects as increasing alertness more than speed.

Comment author: gwern 15 September 2010 08:29:57PM 3 points [-]

Piracetam is still legal, apparently. smartpowders.com, for example, is still selling it, although note the timer gives you only 2 days. There are other retailers, of course.

Comment author: jimmy 15 September 2010 09:08:25PM 1 point [-]

It's legal and cheap in the US. I bought 500g for ~$20 if I remember correctly. Aniracetam is similar and also legal and worth playing with. I have a friend that's into MMA and likes taking aniracetam before grappling.

To cut a few snips from a conversation about it: "more free flowing instictual thought processes instead of frantic fleeting moments when it gets intense.."

" id say no more than a 10% improvement, but i will say i felt invincible on ground and pound days when i got on top, it was just so easy to flow and maintain top position... it seemed like it improved timing and sense of body awareness"

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 September 2010 05:25:16PM 1 point [-]

About 3 weeks on sulbutiamine, 5 on piracetam. I haven't gotten any quantitative data. Before I started, I thought I ought to get in the habit of using dual N-back and Anki and some other tests so I'd have a baseline, but didn't really have the energy and motivation to set those up and do them. Once I realized that was stopping me from trying nootropics at all, I dropped that idea and settled for subjective impressions, collected informally. I have some subjective feeling data recorded in my private diary, but it pretty much just duplicates what I posted in comments.

Piracetam and sulbutiamine have pretty much orthogonal effects. If you're already taking a supplement with lots of thiamine, then sulbutiamine will have a smaller effect than it would otherwise since they are analogues of the same molecule, but I think there's a limit to how much thiamine can cross the blood-brain barrier which doesn't apply to sulbutiamine so you may still get some effect.

Comment author: cata 15 September 2010 02:00:52PM 1 point [-]

In the piracetam post you mentioned some controlled studies -- I'm not sure if I would blindly trust the results as applied to me, but I'd certainly be interested in the methodology. Got any links?

(I'd be much more inclined to experiment with these on myself if I could do actual experiments.)

Comment author: gwern 15 September 2010 02:48:43PM *  1 point [-]

Is there anything wrong with Wikipedia'ing it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracetam

Comment author: cata 15 September 2010 04:05:18PM *  1 point [-]

Nope, nothing wrong, Wikipedia has a rather overflowing wealth of information. I was just wondering if JRH had any specific references that struck him as very interesting, or if he had any particular techniques to measure his own performance.

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 September 2010 02:31:59PM 1 point [-]

I don't know about the methodologies those studies have used, but the one I would recommend for measuring effects on long-term memory is to study flash cards with Anki, and monitor its statistics on the success rate for new, young and mature cards.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 15 September 2010 04:03:37PM 1 point [-]

Intelligence is hard to define, let alone measure.

Even if some nootropic showed an increase in long-term memory, I would be concerned that might involve a decrase in some other more important cognitive quality, such as creativity.

Memory is important only to a degree. I most value creativity, short term working memory, and focus. The latter is often the most important for success, and mood/motivation is thus critical.

Comment author: ata 15 September 2010 03:44:25PM *  13 points [-]

How would people feel about an IA wiki, to collect and organize information about software, drugs/supplements, etc., including links to the best available research on each, plus perhaps space for anecdotes?

(I am volunteering to host and moderate it if there is interest, though I'm not an expert on the actual subject matter, so I'd need plenty of help with writing and researching it.)

Comment author: ata 15 September 2010 04:49:54PM *  6 points [-]

I'll go ahead and get it started here. I need to head out now but I'll start filling things in later.

Edit: If anyone has any better ideas for the site's title, please do let me know. I'm not attached to the current one, it's just the first thing I thought of.

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 September 2010 07:03:45PM *  4 points [-]

Interesting initiative, bookmarked. Being a rather cautious layman in this area I look forward to a good and more importantly trustworthy resource on this. I feel the need to be extra careful with anything that targets the mind specifically. I'm concerned about side effects showing up in old age, especially anything that could increase the odds of Alzheimer's or something similar that could mess with my cryonics plans.

Perhaps start the thing by stealing articles from wikipedia so to have a seed base? Also this sounds silly but a cool wiki emblem goes a long way.

I don't know why but when I heard better brains I associated it with something similar like a level up icon, a + inside the a line shaped like a human brain. In some respect similar to the h+ logo.

Comment author: ata 15 September 2010 08:21:53PM 1 point [-]

Perhaps start the thing by stealing articles from wikipedia so to have seed base?

I'm going to discourage copying entire articles, as Wikipedia articles will have a lot of information that this wiki won't need (information on substances' history, marketing, etc.); I want the pages to be focused on practicality. There'll probably be some information duplicated, and Wikipedia will be a good source, but if there's an existing Wikipedia article we'll just have a badge linking to it, the way the LW wiki does it.

Also this sounds silly but a cool wiki emblem goes a long way.

Indeed. I'm decent at designing things, so I'll put something up today, but maybe there could be a logo contest at some point if there's enough activity to warrant it.

Comment author: PeerInfinity 16 September 2010 03:31:58PM *  1 point [-]

I made a page on the wiki collecting all of the links that were mentioned so far in this thread: http://ia.fubaria.org/index.php/External_links

I also made a few other pages, but most of those will probably end up being deleted.

Comment author: XFrequentist 16 September 2010 07:21:57PM *  4 points [-]

I've been mulling over getting an iPhone, basically weighing two considerations.

On the one hand, it's another distraction. As Paul Graham wrote, the ability to carry the internet around is not necessarily a move someone aspiring to get more done should make.

On the other, it seems like it must have awesome potential as an intelligence amplification tool! I feel like I'm missing a step towards human-machine integration by not getting one.

Anyone have any thoughts on how to optimize the tool for intelligence amplification?

A few apps that seem to have potential:

  • SuperMemo/SRS
  • EverNote
  • QuickReader (or some sort of flash-read app)
Comment author: curiousepic 16 September 2010 10:01:50PM 3 points [-]

I've also benefited from Sleep Cycle, Meebo (IM aggregator), and Epic Win (a to-do list/incentive system that hijacks the shininess of RPG progress). I also fill otherwise useless moments with a number of very entertaining games, but whether I'm losing important introspection during these moments is another question.

Comment author: listic 18 September 2010 04:34:22PM *  1 point [-]

This one Sleep Cycle? http://mdlabs.se/sleepcycle/

Comment author: thomblake 16 September 2010 09:40:51PM 3 points [-]

Being the possessor of a Motorola Backflip, I find that I do not use it for time-wasting Internet browsing. It has four major advantages over my previous dumbphone:

  • I can look up words / facts in mid-conversation or while listening to a talk
  • I can browse Twitter/Facebook any moment I'm not doing something useful, so I don't feel compelled to check them when I could be doing productive work in front of a computer
  • My contacts are all imported automatically from Facebook, and when I call someone I immediately see their last facebook/twitter update and picture (and all other possible combinations of this functionality)
  • If I want to find something locally, I can just start Google Maps. It knows where I am and I can call the place with one touch. Also, I can call numbers on websites with one touch.
Comment author: sketerpot 16 September 2010 09:26:40PM 3 points [-]

On the one hand, it's another distraction. As Paul Graham wrote, the ability to carry the internet around is not necessarily a move someone aspiring to get more done should make.

Maybe a valuable smartphone app would be one which blocks your web browsing access unless you explicitly request a five-minute unblock -- and gives out larger intervals only after making you click through an irritatingly long series of "Are you sure you're sure?" dialogs that jump around the screen so you can't just tap on "OK" repeatedly. Not enough to cripple your phone, but enough to make you think twice about idly rechecking your email for the 18th time today.

Comment author: jimrandomh 16 September 2010 07:41:54PM 2 points [-]

If IA is your goal from a smartphone, you probably want reasonably fast text input. A Motorola Droid is significantly better in that regard, since it has a physical keyboard. It's still not nearly as fast as a full-size keyboard, though. For that, I suggest getting a folding keyboard.

One bit of software I really want, and have considered writing myself, is a text editor that can be used blind with the screen locked. In some contexts, like the subway, it's easy to take out and use a folding keyboard, but only if the phone is left in a pocket. It would need some clever use of text-to-speech for navigation and typo detection, but the Android OS already provides the hard part of that.

Comment author: Baughn 16 September 2010 08:43:10PM 2 points [-]

Have you tried Swype? I've got a physical keyboard on mine, but I find that that method of input is actually even faster.

Comment author: jimrandomh 16 September 2010 08:47:21PM 1 point [-]

I haven't, mainly because the authors refuse to take my money for it. But if it's that good, then I suppose I ought to seek out a pirated copy.

Comment author: ieai 28 September 2010 03:22:26PM 1 point [-]

Honestly, having the ability to access any piece of knowledge as long as I know how to find it has revolutionized my life. I would for years get hung up in my own mind when I was missing a key fact in a discussion or debate, now I find I can more eloquently present myself while essentially throwing links at the other person (rarely in real time and if in real time usually just as an exercise in my own mind). As someone with a short attention span my ability to pull hard data from my active memory has always been difficult. But now, what was a hindrance, is now an incredibly powerful asset. My conversation now lives at the edge of my consciousness almost continuously, my responses are natural and precise. I study the "zone" as an adrenaline and video game junkie, just knowing that I have the internet's knowledge comfortably in my pocket has freed my mind to exist in this state more often than ever before.

I don't have an iphone, I have a blackberry. I use it for talking and email, web browsing when needed. I also have an extensive social network and at any given time can converse through bbm/gchat/fbchat/msn with around 100 people. Where before I was forced to be stuck at home on my desktop or to lug around my laptop to connect with my peers I can now go anywhere and do anything and still be able to make those connections when I have to. I've found myself becoming a much more social creature, shedding chains while at the same time gaining real time information updates that allow me to know where to go on any given night.

I've just started keeping my phone on silent, no vibration, no nothing. I haven't had a ringtone since 2002, but even the vibrations started to get to be too much. I check my phone often, but its always on my terms. When I'm at home I have my phone facing me on my desk and the alert light fits nicely into what is essentially my HUD of monitors and input devices. Though sometimes "phone calls only" which is essentially the same as silent with the obvious difference, when I "need" to be reached.

I could never go back. Going back at this point would be like deciding just to sit in a basement and smoke weed all day, sure it might be nice, relaxing, whatever, but what good is it doing? If I got rid of my smartphone I'd be jumping off of the society train into the dinosaur graveyard.

I could go on, but I've been awake for longer than I remember and my active memory is failing me, I hope what I've written here makes enough sense and I'd be more than happy to elaborate and would even like to get into more detail as to specific benefits (politic power and sex, to name a couple more).

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 07:42:44PM 1 point [-]

Anyone have any thoughts on how to optimize the tool for intelligence amplification?

An iPhone? Use it to call people and maintain ongoing and stable relationships with intelligent peers. The identity grounding and mental health benefits of such interactions far outweigh anything you can get from apps.

Comment author: XFrequentist 16 September 2010 07:55:47PM 1 point [-]

I'm not a recluse and I already have a phone, so this isn't really an answer to my question.

Certainly true though, were I interested in comparing apps to relationships.

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2010 04:27:55AM 1 point [-]

I'm not a recluse

That was never suggested.

The communication device is merely a lead in to the two points I made that are critical to the subject of the post and have not yet been mentioned.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 05:10:36AM 4 points [-]

Suggestions for statistical software (ideally freeware) for self-experimentation data analysis? Or data tracking? Ideally something that takes very little knowledge of stats and isn't programmer-oriented. I suppose I should ask people at Quantified Self.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 16 September 2010 05:25:34AM 4 points [-]

I suppose I should ask people at Quantified Self.

Report back, if you do?

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 06:53:09AM 4 points [-]
Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 September 2010 12:25:41AM *  4 points [-]

I'm unsure how much alcohol I should drink.

I'm perfectly happy abstaining. And I know that my memory and computer programming abilities are temporarily impaired by even one drink.

But there's fairly persuasive evidence that several drinks daily causes old people to live longer. With the notable exception of social isolation (people tend to drink more when they're socializing), just about everything I can imagine was controlled for.

Background: Growing epidemiological evidence indicates that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced total mortality among middle-aged and older adults. However, the salutary effect of moderate drinking may be overestimated owing to confounding factors. Abstainers may include former problem drinkers with existing health problems and may be atypical compared to drinkers in terms of sociodemographic and social-behavioral factors. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality over 20 years among 1,824 older adults, controlling for a wide range of potential confounding factors associated with abstention. Methods: The sample at baseline included 1,824 individuals between the ages of 55 and 65. The database at baseline included information on daily alcohol consumption, sociodemographic factors, former problem drinking status, health factors, and social-behavioral factors. Abstention was defined as abstaining from alcohol at baseline. Death across a 20-year follow-up period was confirmed primarily by death certificate.

Results: Controlling only for age and gender, compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had a more than 2 times increased mortality risk, heavy drinkers had 70% increased risk, and light drinkers had 23% increased risk. A model controlling for former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and key sociodemographic and social-behavioral factors, as well as for age and gender, substantially reduced the mortality effect for abstainers compared to moderate drinkers. However, even after adjusting for all covariates, abstainers and heavy drinkers continued to show increased mortality risks of 51 and 45%, respectively, compared to moderate drinkers.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 16 September 2010 03:36:49AM *  5 points [-]

Another thing that should be taken into account -- though, as far as I know, it's not discussed explicitly by any serious research into the subject -- is that with many people who drink, being a total abstainer can be a great obstacle to building trust .

From what I've observed, drinkers are apt to be prejudiced against abstainers in social situations, treating them as prissy and judgmental types in front of whom one should be extremely cautious before divulging any potentially compromising opinions and information. I myself usually have this attitude when I first meet people in parties and similar places, and I think it is on the whole a useful heuristic, though I will quickly override it as soon as I get more information about the person. (There are several people who are abstainers and nevertheless enjoy the highest level of trust from me.) I obviously have no systematic data, but it does seem like lots of people employ the same heuristic, though many would never admit it explicitly.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 September 2010 10:39:12PM 3 points [-]

Excellent point: I know I tend to feel the same way about vegans (I eat dairy+meat) initially.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 16 September 2010 02:01:35PM 4 points [-]

I wonder how many of the non-drinkers are super-tasters. If so, this could make dietary differences (like avoiding dark green veggies) which would affect longevity.

On the other hand, this is a long inferential chain, and just to generalize from one example, I don't like the taste of alcohol or other bitter flavors (grapefruit, coffee unless considerably buffered), but enjoy most dark green veggies.

Comment author: Alicorn 16 September 2010 02:09:34PM *  3 points [-]

I suspect, although I haven't tested the hypothesis, that I am a supertaster. Dark green veggies are delicious cooked. I love the smell but hate the taste of coffee. I don't like grapefruit by itself, although I've consumed sweetened grapefruit juice that was okay. And the single most repulsive taste experience I have ever had involved a rum-soaked tiramisu crust. I haven't tasted any alcohol since - I'll use wine to cook once in a while, but I make sure that the alcohol all boils off. I can't get myself to bring anything that smells like alcohol to my lips.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 September 2010 01:44:57PM 1 point [-]

I tried eating some raw Swiss chard-- it was tolerable, and the texture of the stalks is like celery but better, but I definitely prefer the taste cooked. Someone with less tolerance for bitter would probably have hated it.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 September 2010 10:37:56PM 1 point [-]

Fascinating idea for another confound they didn't control against. How common is what you call a super-taster, though? If it's infrequent enough, it can't possibly explain the entirety of the huge effect in the study.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 20 September 2010 03:49:16PM 1 point [-]

wikipedia-- the article puts the prevalence at about 25% for people of European decent, but they're defining supertasters as people who experience tastes more intensely, and it does correlate with disliking alcohol and bitter flavors.

On the other hand, using the expansive definition of supertaster, for all I know there are people who experience bitter intensely, enjoy it, and make fine distinctions between different bitter flavors.

Comment author: Alicorn 16 September 2010 12:30:05AM 4 points [-]

They didn't control for social isolation? I wouldn't take that lightly at all. I would be astonished if sociable people didn't live longer.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 September 2010 01:00:23AM 3 points [-]

I didn't read the full text of the original study, but someone pointed out that "social-behavior factors" didn't include the amount of time spent hanging out with friends/colleagues/family and drinking.

The reason I take this study as any evidence at all is that it's not the first such study to indicate that drinking increases lifespan, and because they did control for quite a few things.

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 12:46:53AM *  2 points [-]

The link didn't work for me but assuming it refers to this study, controlling for socio-behavioural factors (which includes measures of social support) significantly reduces but does not eliminate the effect.

[We study] the association between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality over 20 years among 1,824 older adults…. Controlling only for age and gender, compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had a more than 2 times increased mortality risk, heavy drinkers had 70% increased risk, and light drinkers had 23% increased risk. A model controlling for former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and key sociodemographic and social-behavioral factors, as well as for age and gender, substantially reduced the mortality effect for abstainers compared to moderate drinkers. However, even after adjusting for all covariates, abstainers and heavy drinkers continued to show increased mortality risks of 51 and 45%, respectively, compared to moderate drinkers.

Comment author: steven0461 16 September 2010 01:03:05AM 1 point [-]

Could that just be because the controls used are imperfect measures of what we should be controlling for?

Comment author: mattnewport 16 September 2010 01:07:15AM *  2 points [-]

It could. The balance of evidence makes it seem unlikely that moderate alcohol consumption has negative health consequences and quite plausible that it has some health benefits (particularly if red wine is consumed) however.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 12:37:19AM 3 points [-]

'Drinks' is really ambiguous. Wine drinkers average something like 18 points better than beer drinkers on IQ tests, indicating that there are very large confounding variables at play.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 16 September 2010 01:02:22AM *  3 points [-]

True. You really have to believe it's alcohol that's making a difference to just talk about "drinks". I do believe they would have noticed if it were only red-wine drinkers who benefited (via reservatol, say), though. I imagine their data included the kind of drinks imbibed.

The 18 IQ points of wine > beer is clearly mostly snobbery/signaling :)

Comment author: arch1 17 September 2010 11:08:01PM *  8 points [-]

The best-ROI techniques I've found to date are getting sufficient sleep, and trying hard. I know that these work, andthey work quite reliably.

Another which is somewhat less reliable is 'sleeping on it.' I mean quickly and intensively priming the mental pumps on a task, then doing something else, then coming back (ideally after a good night's sleep) to the task later. I often perceive the benefit of signicant effortless processing which must have taken place in the interim,

Back to trying hard. To help w/ this, I tend to psych myself differently depending on the mental barrier of the hour, e.g. (just by way of example):

raring to go -> go (duh); low energy -> compete with self / make it a game / hyperoptimize; anxiety concerning outcome -> depersonalize, take cosmological perspective, dust-mote-on-dust-mote, etc.; self-doubt -> reflect on successes and known abilities, depersonalize; lazy -> see low energy; competition for focus -> promise self rewards if focus, quick-list competing demands then flush from mind, etc.; uncertainty - 80/20 rule, do-then-adjust, countless pithy sayings

The psych-up phase may take 5 seconds (most of my techniques are so familiar I just need a quick flash on them to get most of the effect). Ideally I've planned ahead sufficiently so that 'sleeping on it' is still an option if I feel insufficiently psyched after the psych-up phase. Sometimes, just reminding myself of this fallback makes the psych-up easier.

Fairly mundane stuff, but reasonably effective and equipment-free (the bed I'll be needing anyway:-)

Comment author: knb 26 September 2010 08:46:48AM 11 points [-]

The best-ROI techniques I've found to date are getting sufficient sleep, and trying hard. I know that these work, andthey work quite reliably.

Also, I hear that fat people need more willpower, and depressed people should just cheer up.

Comment author: jimmy 21 September 2010 12:08:30AM 1 point [-]

I often perceive the benefit of signicant effortless processing which must have taken place in the interim

Are you sure that it works because you're unconsciously working on it? Might it be that during the time off, you simply forget what you were thinking, and you take a new approach that works?

Comment author: Yvain 15 September 2010 02:23:39PM 8 points [-]

Next year I have to do a study as a school project. I will probably have access to about 10-20 test subjects, maybe more if I beg, and a lab with a full battery of professional-level cognitive tests. I'd like to study nootropic drugs and see how well they work, but the only one I'm really familiar with, piracetam, is by prescription only in Ireland, and I'm not likely to be able to prescribe it for this study.

So, nootropics experts, can you think of a drug or supplement that needs testing, that you think will return measurable results in a study of only 10-20 people, that works quickly (ie no "have to take this for a month before seeing effects", preferably <2 hr onset of action) and which is sold over-the-counter in Europe?

Comment author: jimrandomh 15 September 2010 02:58:57PM 6 points [-]

Sulbutiamine. I don't know whether it will return measurable results for typical biochemistries or not, but I'd very much like to know. I'm also unsure what the test procedure for "reduced mental fatigue" would be like. Maybe give subjects control over their breaks and stopping point for a task, and measure their persistence?

Comment author: SilasBarta 17 September 2010 06:23:55PM *  1 point [-]

Anecdote: I've tried out sulbutiamine (250-400 mg mixed with 2g piracetam) from smartpowders and didn't notice a difference -- certianly not the momentous results you obtained. However, I'm not diabetic (just fat, quick to sweat, and tired after eating).

Comment author: loqi 15 September 2010 06:04:49PM 4 points [-]

Non-expert suggestion: Flax seed oil.

Comment author: SilasBarta 15 September 2010 05:53:52PM 4 points [-]

I've had really good success with 5HTP. It begins working in your desired time frame, and has consistently make me calmer, more focused, and more positive.

Piracetam and sulbutiamine didn't seem to do anything for me though.

Comment author: [deleted] 16 September 2010 09:50:21PM 5 points [-]

I'd be VERY careful with 5-HTP . Very careful indeed. I used it for a couple of years and it had some beneficial effects (increased sleep, decreased migraine, decreased depression, general cognitive improvement). But anything that affects your serotonergetic system can have nasty unpredictable effects. In my case, I upped my caffeine intake a lot, without realising that caffeine can have a synergetic effect with 5-HTP, and gave myself mild <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin_syndrome">serotonin syndrome</a>. NOT pleasant. In particular, if you take any kind of SSRI, don't touch 5-HTP with a bargepole...

Comment author: gwern 15 September 2010 07:33:36PM 2 points [-]

Coincidentally, I recently began trying l-tryptophan (which metabolizes into 5HTP). I think it helps sleep and may've helped motivation, but I'm not sure (coincided with a sleep schedule switch from day to night).

Comment author: Kevin 16 September 2010 05:03:55AM 1 point [-]

+1 for 5-HTP. I use it as a substitute for melatonin and think it is more broadly useful than melatonin.

Comment author: MrShaggy 16 September 2010 10:33:32PM 1 point [-]

More useful than melatonin for sleeping in particular?

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 12:14:53AM 1 point [-]

My own experience was that 5-HTP had a VERY noticeable effect on my sleep for the first week or two, after which point I built up a tolerance to it in that respect at least. I switched to melatonin after the problems I mentioned above, and that had a much less noticeable effect, but the effect didn't taper off at all as it did with 5-HTP...

Comment author: gwern 15 September 2010 02:52:56PM *  3 points [-]

Personally, I can't. In nootropics, the more powerful something is the more likely it is to be illegal. If even piracetam is out... (Incidentally, the FDA letter to smartpowders.com banning it from selling piracetam went up on fda.gov today or yesterday.) Maybe the other racetams aren't banned? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racetam)

Maybe you'd be better off trying n-backing. That at least is legal, although you might have trouble getting subjects to do enough to matter.

Comment author: James_Miller 15 September 2010 10:14:45PM 3 points [-]

To the best of my knowledge only one small N-back study has been done and the results were strongly positive. There would be significant social value in getting more data on N-Backing.

Comment author: gwern 15 September 2010 11:00:58PM *  3 points [-]

http://www.gwern.net/N-back%20FAQ#support

Besides Jaeggi 2008, there have been 2 or 3 studies supporting it to some degree, and 2 or 3 studies opposing it to some degree.

Comment author: XFrequentist 16 September 2010 07:34:51PM *  2 points [-]

Has anyone ever done a systematic review of the literature for studies of nootropics that looked at cognitive outcomes in healthy people?

This commentary from Nature indicates that there have only been a few trials. It might be worth the trouble to compile a database of all the trials of the compounds we're interested in.

Anyone else use Mendeley? You can share a public database of documents among users.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 09:19:59AM 2 points [-]

So, nootropics experts, can you think of a drug or supplement that needs testing, that you think will return measurable results in a study of only 10-20 people, that works quickly (ie no "have to take this for a month before seeing effects", preferably <2 hr onset of action) and which is sold over-the-counter in Europe?

Sulbutiamine could use some more study and is significant enough in effects that it would show a difference on that scale of investigation.

Comment author: Yvain 16 September 2010 07:42:46PM 2 points [-]

Thanks, that's my first choice right now. Just got to find out how to find out if it's legal here.

Comment author: XFrequentist 15 September 2010 03:16:01PM *  2 points [-]

You're of course aware of power and sample size considerations. With 20 participants, you'd need a pretty precise instrument or a very large effect size to get a useful answer, no?

I haven't done research in cognitive science. Do you have fine measures of important cognitive function? Is expecting a large effect realistic?

Very cool if you can get some useful data though!

Comment author: jacob_cannell 15 September 2010 04:06:00PM 1 point [-]

Yvain, are there any cognitive tests that can measure creativity?

I'm also curious about nootropics that improve focus and or mood, which seems to difficult to measure. Coffee and aderall work in this category, but I wonder how you test other potential nootropics for those effects.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 09:20:33AM 3 points [-]

I'm also curious about nootropics that improve focus and or mood, which seems to difficult to measure. Coffee and aderall work in this category, but I wonder how you test other potential nootropics for those effects.

Focus is sometimes tested by giving people a task and introducing distracting influences in a controlled manner. I recall nicotine being tested on children in this way (it works about as well as Adderall if memory serves me.) But there isn't too much incentive for people to formally research this kind of thing for most nootropics so a lot of the time we just have ad hoc anecdotal reports to go by.

Modafinil is better for boosting mood than caffeine or adderall, especially in as much as it tends to provoke less agitation. The effect on focus is not quite as pronounced as with the amphetamine. This is sometimes considered a good thing when the overfocus is detrimental (eg. when socialising or exposed to TvTropes.)

Selegeline also improves both focus and mood - in a more subtle way over periods of weeks (irreversible MAOB inhibition doesn't 'rebound' after a few hours).

For mood specifically try Phenylethylamine while you are taking selegeline (carefully!) or use phenibut.

Comment author: CronoDAS 16 September 2010 07:34:03AM 1 point [-]

Are there any cognitive tests that can measure creativity?

I don't know how reliable it would be, but you can try a book of "lateral thinking puzzles."

Comment author: nick012000 16 September 2010 11:45:51PM 3 points [-]

Personally, I find physical pain to be somewhat helpful. When I start getting drowsy in one of my lectures, winding my hair around one of my fingers and pulling on it keeps me awake and cognitively alert. I've also found that biting my tongue is less effective at it.

Comment author: MichaelVassar 18 September 2010 07:10:09AM 5 points [-]

Yep. I used to use electric shocks to keep awake during classes.

Comment author: luminosity 19 September 2010 02:05:57AM 3 points [-]

If you're getting drowsy in lectures wouldn't you be better off either arriving at lectures better rested, or if you already are and the presenter bores you, learning information in another way? When I went to university, lecturers would get two weeks' trial to prove that their lectures were worth attending. If they weren't, I just read the syllabus, and would study the material from a textbook or the internet during the time allocated for the lecture.

It's rather unfortunate that the majority of lectures were thus avoided, but better to use the allocated learning time optimally.

Comment author: nick012000 26 September 2010 05:24:45AM *  2 points [-]

It probably would be, but that's not always possible, and something about attending lectures and riding buses seems to trigger the "go to sleep" response in my brain whenever I'm not properly rested.

I also seem to have adapted to getting six hours of sleep each night; I naturally wake up about that much time after I go to sleep. Not sure why; it might have been a response to years of sleep deprivation (yay neural plasticity), in which case it might well be worth looking at to determine if it decreases my mental capabilities, and if it can be replicated. An extra two hours each day adds up, after all.

Comment author: Leafy 16 September 2010 12:56:32PM 3 points [-]

Breakfast. Discuss:

Comment author: knb 17 September 2010 02:55:59AM 4 points [-]

Probably the biggest single thing you can do (if you aren't doing it already). It took me till my junior year of high school to realize that feeling exhausted and light-headed till lunch isn't normal.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 03:08:06AM 2 points [-]

I find that I do not want to eat until at least an hour after waking up in the morning, and if I do anyway, it doesn't settle properly in my stomach or something and I feel sort of nauseated until midafternoon.

Comment author: knb 17 September 2010 02:11:19PM 2 points [-]

I've always had the same problem, which is why I went that long without eating breakfast in the first place. Eating a small amount of something liquid-ish like a fruit smoothie or oatmeal/fine cereal makes a big difference.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 02:20:23PM 2 points [-]

Hmm... I usually don't feel awake enough in the early morning to make a smoothie. I've tried oatmeal and didn't find that I reacted any differently to it than to solid breakfasts eaten too early. Perhaps I should just drink juice or something? Might that do the trick?

Comment author: Relsqui 17 September 2010 04:37:24PM 3 points [-]

Depending on where you are and what your schedule is like in the morning, you could also bring along something portable (granola bar, fruit, boiled egg as jimrandomh suggests) and eat it whenever your stomach is ready for it.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 05:35:15PM 3 points [-]

I leave the house once a week, and don't need to get up at any particular time in the morning. I do eat once I want food - the question is whether I'm depriving myself of some of the value of breakfast by waiting as long as that takes.

Comment author: mattnewport 17 September 2010 08:15:34PM 1 point [-]

I leave the house once a week

This seems a strangely hermit-like lifestyle for a self-professed extrovert. Does this not affect your happiness?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 10:52:18PM 1 point [-]

The Internet "counts" for me as far as my dose of social interaction. Also, I have roommates.

Comment author: mattnewport 17 September 2010 11:08:21PM 3 points [-]

Ok. I ask in part because it took me a while to recognize the (in retrospect quite strong and obvious) correlation between not leaving my apartment for > 24 hours and serious negative effects on my emotional state. Internet based social interaction did not alleviate the negative effects for me.

Comment author: Relsqui 17 September 2010 07:19:56PM 1 point [-]

Ah, got it. Not knowing that is why I'd refrained from making that suggestion in the first place; I figured other commenters knew something I didn't. :)

My suspicion is that you're fine, unless you're doing some severely energy-intensive tasks in between getting up and feeling hungry.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2010 04:35:11PM 2 points [-]

I usually don't feel awake enough in the early morning to make a smoothie

Make it in advance and refrigerate. If it has too short a shelf life for that, experiment with recipes and/or storage conditions until you find one that lasts long enough. I had the same issue with making eggs, until I realized that they have a pretty long shelf life when boiled and it was stupid to let laziness affect my diet when I could just make two batches per week in the evenings and have a constant supply.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 05:36:49PM *  1 point [-]

I don't think there are any storage conditions that would let a smoothie the way I make them last that long. I like them with equal parts ice, frozen fruit, and fresh fruit, plus a dollop of yogurt and three good squirts of agave - all of which items are stored at a variety of temperatures. It'd freeze solid in the freezer, melt in the fridge, and lose texture in a thermos.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2010 05:46:58PM 3 points [-]

Well, it doesn't necessarily have to be simplified all the way down to zero preparation. What if you premixed two containers, one frozen and the other refrigerated, so that only one mixing and one blending step had to be done in the morning? For maximum simplicity, one of those containers could be a piece of the blender itself.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2010 06:19:58PM 1 point [-]

I'm pretty sure that a puree of ice and frozen banana (or whatever) would freeze solid in the freezer overnight, and not be amenable to blending in the morning with the other ingredients. (Also, I use a stick blender.)

Comment author: whpearson 17 September 2010 03:04:29PM 1 point [-]

You could try ultra-fine oats. I make a drink thing with them and some fruit juice, and it only takes some shaking if you can cope with that first thing. Maybe cooking makes a difference?

I've been mean to make some of my own, when I've got my own place.

Or palatinose, but that is more expensive. Unsure of US suppliers.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 17 September 2010 04:23:54AM 2 points [-]

On the other hand, I find that if I don't eat shortly after waking up I'm unlikely to remember to eat at all for the rest of the day unless something prompts me to do so, which tends to result in further difficulties the following day when I'm ravenous and can't think straight. If I do eat within an hour or so of waking up, I'm much more likely to notice hunger-signals for the rest of the day.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 01:49:21PM 2 points [-]

Not just carbohydrates. Fat and protein.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 12:42:39AM 3 points [-]

SSRIs have neuroprotective properties among other things, some good (insomnia treatment, depression treatment, premature ejaculation treatment), and some bad (big list of typical drug side effects like nausea).

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 15 September 2010 08:10:46PM *  6 points [-]

In the Foucault Reader, Michel Foucault claims his greatest trick is an old one called hypomnemata. The last time I googled on hypomnemata, all the top hits were explicit Foucault references.

The hypomnema or hypomnemata are similar to diaries (or weblogs even), except they are not written one time and maybe never looked at again. They are to be reread and rewritten over and over for the writer's education and work and progress. I have been doing a bunch of this for years and it is only since November of 2008 that I have established a system that I am confident of using daily and feel that the pages will continue to contain useful information for years. Every page is dated and numbered. I now have close to 1900 pages with this dating/numbering scheme. Foucault claims this is a great idea and I don't know about that, but so far I like it just fine. It does keep ideas that I like to think about from sinking too far down the stack through neglect into oblivion.

After five years it is reviewed one last time and then tossed into the dumpster.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 15 September 2010 11:30:19PM 3 points [-]

OK a couple more details.

My system is not that complicated and very much resembles what I was doing seven or eight years ago, which was close to plain-vanilla journaling. Now I use printer paper, which I line myself with microsoft word in alternating colors: tan-lavender-orange-light green-rose-light blue-gray. There are fifteen pages per color. At any given time I carry with me sixty pages; the fifteen in the active queue and the filled three previous sets. Right now my active pile goes back to the 23 rd of August. The first thing written on every new page is the date and this date's page number in the top right corner.

When I fill up the current active set (of fifteen pages), I carefully read the set that will go upside down on the stack of a thousand pages or so on my bedroom floor. Some stuff will get copied onto a new fresh sheet to keep in the current active bin. Other stuff will get circled in red, starred, or otherwise annotated as something I would like to be able to review, or to find fairly fast. I use a lot of cartoon drawings and glyphs and diagrams and graphs.

I personally find it easier to find stuff out of hardcopy because keyword searches only work if you can remember the keyword and how to spell most of it. Depending on what I am looking for, I can scan through up to ten or fifteen pages in a minute; also, if it takes me a long time to find something and I have to search through a lot, I always find at least one pleasant surprise by happy happenstance.

JenniferRM, I looked at those links and some of it is intriguing. I do not log everything and am not interested in a complete map of every thought I think. What I am after is to refine and rewrite and connect my very best thoughts. This is the sense I read Foucault's discussion of the hypomnemata. If you are interested in looking at this, you can find it on page 364 of the 1st edition of the Foucalt Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow, Pantheon Books. Foucault is generally thought of as intimidating, but I find this book very approachable. Rabinow has done a careful job presenting his version of Foucault, and it is a different guy than you see in the originals. There is always humor in Foucault, but in Rabinow's presentation there is a sense that the humor is a mask for a deep underlying sadness, like Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a clown when there is no one around" character.

In any case, the man was a tornado of a scholar in terms of his ability to dig into library stacks and extract original connections from the overabundance of material waiting there for anybody with the exploratory instincts of people such as Michel Foucault, and when he talks about his methods, that is something which is worth attending to closely. The section on the hypomnemata is in the context of Rabinow interviewing him specifically on the topic of his methods.

Comment author: Relsqui 16 September 2010 01:26:41AM *  3 points [-]

Can you give an example of the kind of thing you use this to record? Is it for ideas, new concepts, notes to self, things to do later ... ? What kind of things do you save, and how are they useful?

I was thinking about something similar recently, although I came at it from a different direction. Every once in a while I'll think of something I call a "puzzle piece"--a bit of my own personality, or a rationale for something I do or feel. A piece of the puzzle that is me. Examples are along the lines of "Oh, I just remembered this experience I once had regarding such-and-such; no wonder I react to such-and-such so strongly now."

I usually talk to someone about the puzzle pieces in a logged medium, but I don't otherwise record them. It occurred to me that if I did, I'd be writing a manual to myself, and that might be very handy. Would anyone else be interested in some kind of structured site with the purpose of helping people develop their own "manuals" in this way? I'll need to think about the requirements a little more before committing to building it, but I'm tentatively interested, especially if someone wants to help. (It wouldn't be IA specifically, but self-knowledge is a useful thing.)

It's also possible that the right format for this would not be an interactive site so much as a text guide for finding your own puzzle pieces.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 16 September 2010 01:35:12AM *  2 points [-]

Can you give an example of the kind of thing you use this to record?

Everything that is now up on my blog comes directly from my hypomnemata.

Comment author: curiousepic 15 September 2010 10:50:28PM *  2 points [-]

I would love to have some sort of browser plugin that would be a combination of this and supermemo, where, before going to bed, it would compile a sort of TL;DR summary of all of the most interesting and relevant articles I read that day, as well as those from a week ago (or whatever the optimal cadence for memory) for me to review and better commit to memory. I attempted a weak version of this the other day by simply reviewing all of the page titles in my browser history, and I think it did help a bit, but the real challenge would be in filtering it down to a short list of the information we most wish to remember, for those of us who find the web too shiny.

Comment author: JenniferRM 15 September 2010 09:48:53PM 2 points [-]

I think it would make for a really fascinating read if you plugged some keywords into google scholar like "diary", "life logging", "personal journal", "mind mapping", or something else that you think might be methodologically similar and found experimental research conclusions that you could vividly illustrate by reference to your personal experiences -- "Hey I've seen that!"

Also, I'm curious about your mechanics and producing a truly fixed habit that is actually valuable and which persists over periods longer than a year. Have you ever heard of Lion Kimbro's How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think and if so, do you have any thoughts on it?

Comment author: pjeby 15 September 2010 11:06:26PM 2 points [-]

Have you ever heard of Lion Kimbro's How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought you Think and if so, do you have any thoughts on it?

The title sounded interesting, so I followed the link and tried to read it.

(Ow, my head! It hurts...)

There are some very intriguing ideas in there, and also some very scary ones, and I haven't finished it yet, and I'm not sure I want to and... ow. Just, ow.

I think there should be some kind of warning on your link, but I'm not sure what it should warn about exactly.

Those are my thoughts on it, to the degree that I am still able to think at the moment. ;-)

Comment author: Leafy 16 September 2010 04:50:50PM *  2 points [-]

It is clear that the human body is good at adjusting and fine-tuning itself in response to immediate need. What in-built "amplification" do we have when intelligence is needed, and how could it be harnessed?

For example: The natural fight-or-flight reflex appears to provide instant alertness and focus, and I would imagine blood-flow to decision making functions is enhanced? Linked to a comment below I have found my reaction time and competance at rapid reaction computer games improves rapidly following surges in adrenaline. Is this coming from the improved focus (could this be simulated?), or increased bloodflow?

Comment author: wedrifid 17 September 2010 06:18:23AM 1 point [-]

Is this coming from the improved focus (could this be simulated?), or increased bloodflow?

Mostly the former. Blood flow can help cognition a little (see vasodilators such as ginko biloba) but it doesn't really target rapid response.

The improve focus effect from adrenaline can definitely be simulated. Take anything from caffeine to amphetamine in large quantities.

Comment author: knb 17 September 2010 02:55:47AM 1 point [-]

Sympathomimetics? Ephedrine is an example that is often available OTC.

Comment author: Violet 16 September 2010 01:38:14PM 2 points [-]

Supplementing D-vitamin (D3 in my case) seems to add more energy and efficient hours in the day for me.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 02:07:48AM 2 points [-]

Which classes could I reasonably sit in on at U.C. Berkeley that would give me the most leverage for IA research? I was thinking neuroscience-type classes, but perhaps pharmacology or nutrition classes would be equally or more useful? I have no idea how universities work.

Comment author: komponisto 16 September 2010 02:30:52AM 8 points [-]

I have no idea how universities work

If what you want is information, you're probably better off not bothering with the classrooms and sticking to the library. If you need personal contact (whether for status/networking reasons or for more effectively locating the information you want), the important thing is to become acquainted with the right people, and going to their classes is only one way to do that.

Comment author: wedrifid 16 September 2010 03:24:40AM 2 points [-]

Which classes could I reasonably sit in on at U.C. Berkeley that would give me the most leverage for IA research? I was thinking neuroscience-type classes, but perhaps pharmacology or nutrition classes would be equally or more useful?

My interest in the area has led me to go and start a full phamacology degree. Give me a few years and I'll tell you which subjects were the most interesting. ;)

Comment author: Will_Newsome 16 September 2010 12:03:05AM *  2 points [-]

People have told me that human growth hormone supplements and sprays just don't work and that the only way to take it is via injection, with potential for dangerous side effects et cetera, making it infeasible for IA. Do others have additional input?

Comment author: Konkvistador 15 September 2010 07:21:42PM *  2 points [-]

Listening to certain pieces of classical music can "enhance spatial–temporal tasks involving mental imagery and temporal ordering."

These are audio patterns primarily created for pleasure. Perhaps this is a necessary component of making them work. However if they are not this opens up a new interesting field of investigation into synthesised audio (music ect.) and visual patterns specifically designed for enhancing performance on certain tasks or perhaps even g in general.

Also let me emphasise that currently the science seems to be leaning towards this being mostly an artefact of mood and arousal and even so just for specific tasks. If this is true this would make the search for new and stronger patterns more difficult, since the space has been much more explored. But I suppose a large space of pleasurable music hasn't been explored for these effects so this may be low hanging fruit never the less.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 September 2010 02:11:06PM 2 points [-]

Is this post supposed to be seen as a reply to this one? Just curious.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 15 September 2010 08:59:02PM 2 points [-]

Hm, kinda. Indeed I figured I'd take advantage of the slightly different atmosphere. It's also my evil selfish attempt at crowdsourcing exploratory IA research. Louie Helm has convinced me that if you can outsource something, you should.

Comment author: xamdam 15 September 2010 12:35:47PM *  2 points [-]

For something slightly different, I am attempting to increase my reading speed ( I am primarily an English speaker, but English was my second language, which probably explains the initial slowness) using QuickReader app for iPad.

This app lets you predefine the reading speed (timing yourself and word counting is annoying) and uses a pointer to pace you through the material.

I am up to 380 wpm in the app, cannot confirm how transferable the skill is outside of the app quantitatively, but it feels like there is some improvement, though sometimes it feels like I am rushing through faster than I comprehend; OTOH my iPad is always with me and I have electronic versions of a lot of my reading.

One thing to fix down the line is to have "trained modes" for materials of different difficulty and ability to trade off recall for speed.

Comment author: jacob_cannell 15 September 2010 03:58:19PM 5 points [-]

One problem I have had with speed reading techniques is a difficulty in adapating to the wide variety of reading habits one may employ.

I speed read both research papers and novels, but in very different ways. With research papers I browse and download many, skim abstracts, jump into the middle of papers, usually look first at the pictures, then eventually start reading paragraphs. I usually can 'get' the paper's key concepts without having to read most of the text, although it depends heavily on the type of paper.

When reading a novel, I usually alternate between full reading for important/interesting portions and skip reading for boring or fluffier parts. I typically skip long visual descriptions (I find that whatever visual imagery I randomly summon usually works just about as well). When skip-reading, I typically scan the upper left corner of a paragraph and it's first sentence to decide if I want to skip it. I rarely spend more than a day or two on a novel. If it is really unusually good I will spend more time with it.

I have yet to find more advanced techniques that actually allow me to read dense material at higher speeds. The simpler level-of-detail control is effective enough and doesn't sacrifice comprehension for important material.

Comment author: cata 15 September 2010 07:53:06PM 2 points [-]

Oh, wow. I literally pause reading completely at non-trivial visual descriptions in novels to build the scene in my mind, and rarely go on until I have imagined the whole thing and sat on it a little bit. I find that the "page-to-imagination" process is the most relaxing and pleasant thing to me about reading most novels, so I relish it. (That might be a property of the sort of literature I tend toward, though -- a lot of magical realism.)

Comment author: timtyler 15 September 2010 11:34:42AM *  0 points [-]

My "Intelligence Augmentation" essay/video argues that intelligence augmentation is often (inaccurately) seen as an alternative to machine intelligence - whereas it is best seen as being complementary to it.

It also suggests that preprocessing your sensory inputs with machines and post-processing your motor outputs with more machines is an area where much useful work can be done.

Comment author: Leafy 16 September 2010 01:16:01PM 1 point [-]

I would suggest that the greatest leap forward in recent years of combined human intelligence has been the internet, and an Intelligence Amplification method is having ready access to it and the base level of intelligence required to correctly use it for information!

Comment author: HamSam 30 January 2013 04:00:54PM 1 point [-]

Noopept is the only drug i would actually consider a nootropic. it is extremely effective at increasing metal ability and it does not have known side effects. in my experience it similar to the effects adderall, however it is more subtle, not necessarily weaker, but harder to notice.

Comment author: Kevin 19 September 2010 09:13:11AM 1 point [-]

"Deleting a certain gene in mice can make them smarter by unlocking a mysterious region of the brain considered to be relatively inflexible, scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have found."

http://www.medicaldaily.com/news/20100918/2064/gene-limits-learning-and-memory-in-mice.htm

Comment author: Will_Newsome 19 September 2010 09:28:21AM 1 point [-]

With human genetic engineering having such a controversial status and without a Seasteading Institute presence it seems especially unlikely that we'll get to make use of all our knowledge of intelligence-related genes before FOOM or crash or whatever. :/ Maybe if we found a series of genes that regulated speed of human development such that a human could become fully mature in 3 years and die in 15? Seems unlikely...

Comment author: wedrifid 19 September 2010 09:38:25AM 3 points [-]

Maybe if we found a series of genes that regulated speed of human development such that a human could become fully mature in 3 years and die in 15? Seems unlikely...

Even more unlikely when we note that the process of maturing the mind requires decades of novel environmental stimulus. To pull it off within 3 years would require basically creating a new species, not just tweaking the speed of physical development in this one.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 19 September 2010 09:48:53AM 1 point [-]

Smarter wiser minds should be able to do a lot more with a lot less environmental stimulus, especially if such stimulus was optimized for the nourishment of smarter wiser minds, no?

(By the way, I find it really improbably that such a project could ever work, but I figure it's worth at least 5 minutes of contemplation. In case anyone's doubting my sanity. :P )

Comment author: Kevin 19 September 2010 09:30:09AM 2 points [-]

It's going to be legal somewhere in Asia, if not throughout Asia

Comment author: Tom_Talbot 16 September 2010 06:53:58PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Tom_Talbot 15 September 2010 11:32:49PM *  1 point [-]
Comment author: Tom_Talbot 15 September 2010 11:19:36PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: steven0461 15 September 2010 11:33:45PM 1 point [-]

The article you linked doesn't actually mention any intelligence benefits.

Comment author: Tom_Talbot 15 September 2010 11:40:03PM 1 point [-]

As far as I know, there are none. I mention it because I find I tend to be fresher and more motivated in the morning, so if I wanted to take up a new habit such as practicing dual n-back, I would schedule it in the morning. I'm really just throwing out ideas for the wiki.

Comment author: gwern 16 September 2010 01:32:11AM *  3 points [-]

As far as DNB goes, evening is better than morning: http://www.gwern.net/N-back%20FAQ#sleep

(My rule of thumb is that if something has to do with memory, you're best off doing it ceteris paribus before sleep.)

Comment author: Tom_Talbot 16 September 2010 07:56:44AM 2 points [-]

Thank you, I stand corrected.

Comment author: sludgepuddle 15 September 2010 10:16:36PM 1 point [-]

Low dose ketamine has been shown to promote synaptogenesis in the prefrontal cortex. (in rats) Link to abstract

It is currently being investigated as a potential antidepressant in humans, but based on anecdotal evidence, it seems likely that it's also a nootropic.

Comment author: JenniferRM 15 September 2010 08:01:22PM *  1 point [-]

For anyone interested, the SoCal LW Meetup will be getting together on the 25th and is soliciting activity suggestions.

If anyone can swiftly come up with a brilliant, written intelligence amplification intervention protocol "if only they had a handful of willing and motivated volunteers" you should write it up on the wiki and link to it as a suggestion from a comment in the appropriate place. You have 10 days. Act now because you'll get feedback swiftly.