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BenAlbahari comments on SIAI - An Examination - Less Wrong

143 Post author: BrandonReinhart 02 May 2011 07:08AM

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Comment author: BenAlbahari 05 May 2011 10:41:04AM 35 points [-]

I have an image of Eliezer queued up in a coffee shop, guiltily eyeing up the assortment of immodestly priced sugary treats. The reptilian parts of his brain have commandeered the more recently evolved parts of his brain into fervently computing the hedonic calculus of an action that other, more foolish types, might misclassify as a sordid instance of discretionary spending. Caught staring into the glaze of a particularly sinful muffin, he now faces a crucial choice. A cognitive bias, thought to have been eradicated from his brain before the SIAI was founded, seizes its moment. "I'll take the triple chocolate muffin thank you" Eliezer blurts out. "Are you sure?" the barista asks. "Well I can't be 100% sure. But the future of intergalactic civilizations may very well depend on it!"

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 May 2011 05:08:18PM 16 points [-]

In accordance with the general fact that "calories in - calories out" is complete bullshit, I've had to learn that sweet things are not their caloric content, they are pharmaceutical weight-gain pills with effects far in excess of their stated caloric content. So no, I wouldn't be able to eat a triple chocolate muffin, or chocolate cake, or a donut, etcetera. But yes, when I still believed the bullshit and thought the cost was just the stated caloric content, I sometimes didn't resist.

Comment author: Jordan 06 May 2011 10:43:18PM 12 points [-]

Luckily a juicy porterhouse steak is a nice stand-in for a triple chocolate muffin. Unfortunately they don't tend to sell them at coffee shops.

Perhaps I'll end my career as a mathematician to start a paleo coffee shop.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 06 May 2011 11:05:33PM 8 points [-]

A fast search suggests that there aren't any paleo restaurants, and possibly not even paleo sections on menus, so there might just be a business opportunity.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 May 2011 06:19:06AM 10 points [-]

I fully expect that less than 0.1% of mathematicians are working on math anywhere near as important as starting a chain of paleo coffee shops. What are you working on?

Comment author: Jordan 07 May 2011 08:24:00AM 6 points [-]

Fluid dynamics. Considering jumping over to computational neuroscience.

I've put some serious thought into a paleo coffee shop. It's definitely on my list of potential extra-academic endeavors if I end up leaving my ivory tower.

Comment author: Alicorn 07 May 2011 06:28:22AM 1 point [-]

Is coffee in the paleo diet?

Comment author: Jordan 07 May 2011 08:36:27AM 4 points [-]

There isn't really a rigorous definition of the diet. One guideline some people use is that you shouldn't eat anything you wouldn't eat raw, which excludes beans. Coffee beans aren't actually beans though. I wouldn't be surprised if some people consider coffee not paleo, but there are big names in the paleo scene that drink coffee (Kurt Harris, Art de Vany).

Really, I would say paleo is more a philosophy for how to go about honing in on a diet, rather than a particular diet in and of itself. There are hard lines, like chocolate muffins. I don't think coffee is close to that line though.

Comment author: Peterdjones 07 May 2011 03:41:45PM *  1 point [-]
Comment author: Jordan 07 May 2011 07:31:53PM 4 points [-]

I think it's likely humans are evolved to eat cooked food. The guideline don't eat anything you wouldn't eat raw isn't intended to dissuade people to not eat cooked food, but rather to serve as a heuristic for foods that were probably less commonly eaten by our ancestors. It's unclear to me how accurate the heuristic is. A big counterexample is tubers. Tubers are widely eaten by modern hunter-gatherers and are toxic when uncooked.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 May 2011 08:10:10PM 1 point [-]

One [paleo diet] guideline some people use is that you shouldn't eat anything you wouldn't eat raw

That surprises me. The paleo diet I know includes meat, which you should cook in order to kill parasites.

Comment author: Jordan 07 May 2011 09:26:14PM 2 points [-]

You're right, the guideline is not too well worded. You should probably replace "what you wouldn't eat raw" with "what would be toxic to eat raw".

Meat is edible raw. There's nothing inherently toxic about uncooked meat. Many other foods require cooking to diminish their toxicity (potatoes, grains, legumes). There's definitely concern about parasites in raw meat, but parasites are not an inherent quality of the meat itself.

There's actually a whole raw paleo sub-subculture. I wouldn't recommend it personally, and I'm not keen to try it myself, but it's there.

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 07 May 2011 03:48:17PM 1 point [-]

Tea might be even if coffee isn't.

Comment author: drethelin 06 May 2011 09:48:34PM 0 points [-]

Is this based on taubes or is there more to support it? I found his demolition of calories in calories out fairly convincing but wasn't wholly convinced by his carb-demonizing

Comment author: Cyan 05 May 2011 05:32:33PM 0 points [-]

In what way do you consider "calories in - calories out" complete bullshit? (My guess as to your answer: knock-on effects w.r.t. a Seth-Roberts-style set point of some kind.)

Comment author: SilasBarta 05 May 2011 06:56:37PM 5 points [-]

Probably in the same sense that people mean, under generous interpretations, when they say "The Laffer Curve is bullshit" -- which is to say, it's technically true, but not a relevant insight for this part of the problem space, given more significant factors in success.

Comment author: Cyan 05 May 2011 07:33:45PM *  1 point [-]

Sure. I'm curious about what EY sees as the specific "more significant factors in [why sweet things are obstacles to] success [in excess of their stated calories]".

Comment author: SilasBarta 05 May 2011 08:33:47PM 1 point [-]

Oh, okay. Probably should have known I couldn't provide what you were looking for, but I wanted to get in a jab at confused critiques of the Laffer Curve and confused applications of conservation of energy to weight loss. :-)

Comment author: rhollerith_dot_com 05 May 2011 04:07:13PM *  3 points [-]

Very skillful exploitation of the humor potential of this thread of conversation! Bravo!