Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on Your Strength as a Rationalist - Less Wrong

69 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 August 2007 12:21AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (113)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 September 2007 08:59:25PM 23 points [-]

A valid point, Psy-Kosh, but I've seen this happen to a friend too. She was walking along the streets one night when a strange blur appeared across her vision, with bright floating objects. Then she was struck by a massive headache. I had her write down what the blur looked like, and she put down strange half-circles missing their left sides.

That point was when I really started to get worried, because it looked like lateral neglect - something that I'd heard a lot about, in my studies of neurology, as a symptom of lateralized brain damage from strokes.

The funny thing was, nobody in the medical profession seemed to think this was a problem. The medical advice line from her health insurance said it was a "yellow light" for which she should see a doctor in the next day or two. Yellow light?! With a stroke, you have to get the right medication within the first three hours to prevent permanent brain damage! So we went to the emergency room - reluctantly, because California has enormously overloaded emergency rooms - and the nurse who signed us in certainly didn't seem to think those symptoms were very alarming.

The thing is, of course, that non-doctors are legally prohibited from making diagnoses. So neither the nurse on the advice line, or the nurse who signed us into the emergency room, were allowed to say: "It's a migraine headache, you idiots."

You see, I'd heard the phrase "migraine headache", but I'd had no idea of what the symptoms of a "migraine headache" were. My studies in neurology told me about strokes and lateral brain damage, because those are very important to the study of functional neuroanatomy. So I knew about these super dangerous and rare killer events that seemed sort of like the symptoms we were encountering, but I didn't know about the common events that a doctor sees every day.

When you see symptoms, you think of lethal zebras, because those are what you read about in the newspapers. The doctor thinks of much less exciting horses. This is why the Medical Establishment has always been right, in my experience, every single time I'm alarmed and they're not.

But in answer to your question about selection effects, Psy-Kosh, I think I'd have noticed if my friend had actually had a stroke. In fact, it would have been much more likely to have been reported and repeated than the reverse case.

Comment author: Strilanc 15 October 2012 06:03:27AM *  0 points [-]

I had a similar experience with my girlfriend, except the symptoms were significantly more alarming. She was, among other things, unable to remember many common nouns. I would point and say 'What is that swinging room separator?" and she would be unable to figure out "door".

I was aware from the start that the symptoms might have been due to a migraine aura, having looked up the symptoms on Wikipedia, but was advised by 811 to take her to the hospital immediately. The symptoms were gone before we arrived. Five hours later (a strong hint that at least the triage people thought it wasn't an emergency), a doctor had diagnosed it as a silent migraine.