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Adding and removing complexity from models

-5 Elo 19 September 2016 11:31PM

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/adding-and-removing-complexity-from-models/


I had a really interesting conversation with a guy about modelling information.  what I did when talking to him is in one case insist that his model be made more simple because adding more variation in the model was unhelpful, and then in another case in the same conversation, insist his model be made more complicated to account for the available information that didn't fit his model.

On reflection I realised that I had applied two opposing forces to models of information and could only vaguely explain why.  With that in mind I decided to work out what was going on.  The following is obvious, but that's why I am writing it out, so that no one else has to do the obvious thing.


Case where a model should be simplified

This all comes down to what you are measuring or describing.  If you are trying to describe something rather general, like "what impact do number of beach-goers have on the pollution at the beach?", it's probably not important what gender, age, race, time spent at the beach or socioeconomic status the beach goers are.  (With the exception of maybe socioeconomic status of the surrounding geopolitical territory), what is important is maybe two pieces of information: 

  1. A measure of the number of beach goers
  2. A measure of the pollution

That's it.  This would be a case for reducing the survey of beach goers down to a counter of beach goers and a daily photo of the remaining state of the beach at the end of the day (which could be compared to other similar photos).  Or even just - 3 photos, one at 9am (start), one at 1pm (peak) and one at 5pm (end).  This model needs no more moving parts.  The day you want to start using historic information to decide how many beach cleaners you want to employ, you can do that from the limited but effective data you have gathered.

Case where a model should have more moving parts added to it.

Let's continue the same example.  You have 3 photos of each day, but sometimes the 1pm photo is deserted.  Nearly no one is at the beach, and you wonder why.  It's also messing with your predictions because there is still a bit of rubbish at 5pm even though very few people were at the beach.  The model no longer explains the state of the world.  The map is wrong.  But that's okay.  We can fix it by adding more information.  You notice that most days the model is good, so there might be something going on for the other days which needs a + k factor to the equation (+k is something added in chemistry, in algebra it's sometimes called a +c as in y=mx+b+c, and physics +x, but generally adding a variable to an equation is common to all science fields).  Some new variable.

Let's say that being omniscient to our own made up examples we know that the cause is the weather.  On stormy windy rainy days - no one goes to the beach, but some rubbish washes up.  Does this match the data? almost perfectly.  Does this help explain the map?  Yes.  Is it necessary?  That depends on what you are doing with the information.  Maybe it's significant enough in this scenario that it is necessary.


Second example

The example that came up in conversation was his own internal model that there is fundamentally something different between someone who does exercise, and someone who Doesn't exercise.  I challenged this model for having too much complexity.  I argue that the model of - there is a hidden and secret moving part between does/doesn't exercise, is a model that doesn't describe the world better than a model without that moving part.  

The model does something else (and found its way into existence for this reason).  If you find yourself on one side of the model (i.e. the "I don't exercise") then you can protect yourself from attributing the failure to exercise to your own inability to do it by declaring that there is a hidden and secret moving part that prevents me from being in the other observable group.  This preserves your non-changing and let's you get away with it for a longer time.  I know this model because that is what I did.  I held this model very strongly.  And then I went out and searched for the hidden and secret moving part that I could change in order to move myself into the other group.  There was no hidden and secret moving part.  Or if there was I couldn't find it.  However, I did manage to stop holding the model that there was some hidden and secret moving part, and instead just start exercising more.

In figuring out if this model is real or a made up model to protect your own brain from being critical of itself, start to think of what the world would look like if it were true.  If there was some difference between people who do exercise and people who do not - we might see people clustered in observable groups and never be able to change between them (This is not true because we regularly see people publishing their weight loss journeys, we also regularly see people getting fatter and unhealthier, suggesting that travel in either direction is entirely possible and happens all the time).  If there were something describable it would be as obvious as different species, in fact - thinking evolutionarily - if such a thing existed, it's likely that it would have significantly shaped the state of the world already to be completely different...  Given that we can't know for sure, this might not be a very strong argument.  

If you got this far - as I did and wondered, so why can't I be in the other group - I have news for you.  You can.


  • Does this pattern of models with too many moving parts sound familiar to another model you have seen in action?  
  • Is there a model that you use that could do with more moving parts?

Meta: this took an hour to write.  If I were to spend more time on it, it would probably be to tighten up the examples and maybe provide more examples.  I am not sure that such time would be useful to you and am interested in if you think it will be useful.

The barriers to the task

-7 Elo 18 August 2016 07:22AM

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/the-barriers-to-the-task/


For about two months now I have been putting in effort to run in the mornings.  To make this happen, I had to take away all the barriers to me wanting to do that.  There were plenty of them, and I failed to leave my house plenty of times.  Some examples are:

Making sure I don't need correct clothes - I leave my house shirtless and barefoot, and grab my key on the way out.  

Pre-commitment to run - I take my shirt off when getting into bed the night before, so I don't even have to consider the action in the morning when I roll out of bed.

Being busy in the morning - I no longer plan any appointments before 11am.  Depending on the sunrise (I don't use alarms), I wake up in the morning, spend some time reading things, then roll out of bed to go to the toilet and leave my house.  In Sydney we just passed the depths of winter and it's beginning to get light earlier and earlier in the morning.  Which is easy now; but was harder when getting up at 7 meant getting up in the dark.  

There were days when I would wake up at 8am, stay in bed until 9am, then realise if I left for a run (which takes around an hour - 10am), then came back to have a shower (which takes 20mins - 10:20), then left to travel to my first meeting (which can take 30mins 10:50).  That means if anything goes wrong I can be late to an 11am appointment.  But also - if I have a 10am meeting I have to skip my run to get there on time.

Going to bed at a reasonable hour - I am still getting used to deciding not to work myself ragged.  I decided to accept that sleep is important, and trust to let my body sleep as long as it needs.  This sometimes also means that I can successfully get bonus time by keeping healthy sleep habits.  But also - if I go to sleep after midnight I might not get up until later, which means I compromise my "time" to go running by shoving it into other habits.

Deciding where to run - google maps, look for local parks, plan a route with the least roads and least traffic.  I did this once and then it was done.  It was also exciting to measure the route and be able to run further and further each day/week/month.


What's in your way?

If you are not doing something that you think is good and right (or healthy, or otherwise desireable) there are likely things in your way.  If you just found out about an action that is good, well and right and there is nothing stopping you from doing it; great.  You are lucky this time - Just.Do.It.

If you are one of the rest of us; who know that:

  • daily exercise is good for you
  • The right amount of sleep is good for you
  • Eating certain foods are better than others
  • certain social habits are better than others
  • certain hobbies are more fulfilling (to our needs or goals) than others

And you have known this a while but still find yourself not taking the actions you want.  It's time to start asking what is in your way.  You might find it on someone else's list, but you are looking for the needle in the haystack.  

You are much better off doing this (System 2 exercise):

  1. take 15 minutes with pencil and paper.
  2. At the top write, "I want to ______________".
  3. If you know that's true you might not need this step - if you are not sure - write out why it might be true or not true.
  4. Write down the barriers that are in the way of you doing the thing.  think;
    • "can I do this right now?" (might not always be an action you can take while sitting around thinking about it - i.e. eating different foods)
    • "why can't I just do this at every opportunity that arises?"
    • "how do I increase the frequency of opportunities?"
  5. Write out the things you are doing instead of that thing.
    These things are the barriers in your way as well.
  6. For each point - consider what you are going to do about them.

Questions:

  • What actions have you tried to take on?
  • What barriers have you encountered in doing so?
  • How did you solve that barrier?
  • What are you struggling with taking on in the future?

Meta: this borrows from the Immunity to Change process, that can be best read about in the book, "right weight, right mind".  It also borrows from CFAR style techniques like resolve cycles (also known as focused grit), hamming questions, murphy-jitsu.

Meta: this took one hour to write.

Cross posted to lesswrong: http://lesswrong.com/lw/nuq

Cultivate the desire to X

3 Elo 07 March 2016 03:40AM

Recently I have found myself encouraging people to cultivate the desire to X.

Examples that you might want to cultivate interest in include:

  • Diet
  • Organise ones self
  • Plan for the future
  • be a goal-oriented thinker
  • build the tools
  • Anything else in the list of common human goals
  • Getting healthy sleep
  • Being less wrong
  • Trusting people more
  • Trusting people less
  • exercise
  • interest in a topic (cars, fashion, psychology etc.)

Why do we need to cultivate?

We don't.  But sometimes we can't just "do".  Lot's of reasons are reasonable reasons to not be able to just "do" the thing:

  • Some things are scary
  • Some things need planning
  • Some things need research
  • Some things are hard
  • Some things are a leap of faith
  • Some things can be frustrating to accept
  • Some things seem stupid (well if exercising is so great why don't I automatically want to do it)
  • Other excuses exist.

On some level you have decided you want to do X; on some other level you have not yet committed to doing it.  Easy tasks can get done quickly.  More complicated tasks are not so easy to do right away.

Well if it were easy enough to just successfully do the thing - you can go ahead and do the thing (TTYL flying to the moon tomorrow - yea nope.).

  1. your system 1 wants to do the thing and your system 2 is not sure how.
  2. your system 2 wants to do the thing and your system 1 is not sure it wants to do the thing.  
  • The healthy part of you wants to diet; the social part of you is worried about the impact on your social life.

(now borrowing from Common human goals)

  • Your desire to live forever wants you to take a medication every morning to increase your longevity; your desire for freedom does not want to be tied down to a bottle of pills every morning.
  • Your desire for a legacy wants you to stay late at work; your desire for quality family time wants you to leave the office early.

The solution:

The solution is to cultivate the interest; or the desire to do the thing. From the initial point of interest or desire - you can move forward; do some research to either convince your system 2 of the benefits, or work out how to do the thing to convince your system 1 that it is possible/viable/easy enough.  Or maybe after some research the thing seems impossible.  I offer Cultivating the desire as a step along the way to working it out.

Short post for today; Cultivate the desire to do X.


Meta: time to write 1.5 hours.

My table of contents contains my other writing

feedback welcome

Min/max goal factoring and belief mapping exercise

-1 [deleted] 23 June 2015 05:30AM

Edit 3: Removed description of previous edits and added the following:

This thread used to contain the description of a rationality exercise.

I have removed it and plan to rewrite it better.

I will repost it here, or delete this thread and repost in the discussion.

Thank you.

How I changed my exercise habits

16 Normal_Anomaly 13 April 2015 10:19PM

In June 2013, I didn’t do any exercise beyond biking the 15 minutes to work and back. Now, I have a robust habit of hitting the gym every day, doing cardio and strength training. Here are the techniques I used to do get from not having the habit to having it, some of them common wisdom and some of them my own ideas. Consider this post a case study/anecdata in what worked for me. Note: I wrote these ideas down around August 2013 but didn’t post them, so my memory was fresh at the time of writing.


1. Have a specific goal. Ideally this goal should be reasonably achievable and something you can see progress toward over medium timescales. I initially started exercising because I wanted more upper body strength to be better at climbing. My goal is “become able to do at least one pull up, or more if possible”.

Why it works: if you have a specific goal instead of a vague feeling that you ought to do something or that it’s what a virtuous person would do, it’s harder to make excuses. Skipping work with an excuse will let you continue to think of yourself as virtuous, but it won’t help with your goal. For this to work, your goal needs to be something you actually want, rather than a stand-in for “I want to be virtuous.” If you can’t think of a consequence of your intended habit that you actually want, the habit may not be worth your time.

2. Have a no-excuses minimum. This is probably the best technique I’ve discovered. Every day, with no excuses, I went to the gym and did fifty pull-downs on one of the machines. After that’s done, I can do as much or as little else as I want. Some days I would do equivalent amounts of three other exercises, some days I would do an extra five reps and that’s it.

Why it works: this one has a host of benefits.

* It provides a sense of freedom: once I’m done with my minimum, I have a lot of choice about what and how much to do. That way it feels less like something I’m being forced into.

* If I’m feeling especially tired or feel like I deserve a day off, instead of skipping a day and breaking the habit I tell myself I’ll just do the minimum instead. Often once I get there I end up doing more than the minimum anyway, because the real thing I wanted to skip was the inconvenience of biking to the gym.

3. If you raise the minimum, do it slowly. I have sometimes raised the bar on what’s the minimum amount of exercise I have to do, but never to as much or more than I was already doing routinely. If you start suddenly forcing yourself to do more than you were already doing, the change will be much harder and less likely to stick than gradually ratcheting up your commitment.

3. Don’t fall into a guilt trap. Avoid associating guilt with doing the minimum, or even with missing a day.

Why it works: feeling guilty will make thinking of the habit unpleasant, and you’ll downplay how much you care about it to avoid the cognitive dissonance. Especially, if you only do the minimum, tell yourself “I did everything I committed to do.” Then when you do more than the minimum, feel good about it! You went above and beyond. This way, doing what you committed to will sometimes include positive reinforcement, but never negative reinforcement.

4. Use Timeless Decision Theory and consistency pressure. Credit for this one goes to this post by user zvi. When I contemplate skipping a day at the gym, I remember that I’ll be facing the same choice under nearly the same conditions many times in the future. If I skip my workout today, what reason do I have to believe that I won’t skip it tomorrow?

Why it works: Even when the benefits of one day’s worth of exercise don’t seem like enough motivation, I know my entire habit that I’ve worked to cultivate is at stake. I know that the more days I go to the gym the more I will see myself as a person who goes to the gym, and the more it will become my default action.

5. Evaluate your excuses. If I have what I think is a reasonable excuse, I consider how often I’ll skip the gym if I let myself skip it whenever I have that good of an excuse. If letting the excuse hold would make me use it often, I ignore it.

Why it works: I based this technique on this LW post

6. Tell people about it. The first thing I did when I made my resolution to start hitting the gym was telling a friend whose opinion I cared about. I also made a comment on LW saying I would make a post about my attempt at forming a habit, whether it succeeded or failed. (I wrote the post and forgot to post it for over a year, but so it goes.)

Why it works: Telling people about your commitment invests your reputation in it. If you risk being embarrassed if you fail, you have an extra motivation to succeed.


I expect these techniques can be generalized to work for many desirable habits: eating healthy, spending time on social interaction; writing, coding, or working on a long-term project; being outside getting fresh air, etc.

Does this seem to you like evidence for the existence of psychic abilities in humans?

-5 gothgirl420666 30 May 2014 02:44AM

I was recently reminded of something I have encountered that seems to me to be good evidence for paranormal phenomena. Can anyone help me figure out what might be going on? 

When I was a little younger, I used to play the online riddle game Notpron. In this game, the player (essentially) has to analyze a webpage for clues towards the URL to the next webpage, and then repeat for 140 stages. The creator of this game, DavidM, at some point became a huge new age conspiracy theory loony type. Three years after the original ending of the riddle went online, he revised it to include an additional final level: Level Nu. This level is very different than the ones preceding it. I can't link to the page for obvious reasons, but I will transcribe it here:

835 492 147 264

Remote view the photography this number represents!

Email me all your results to david@david-m.org. I'll get you some feedback. Get me all elements or impressions that seem really strong for you. Or send me your sketches if you like.

Don't bruteforce, or you'll be banned from this one. You have as many attempts as you like, take your time.

Yes, I mean it. No tricks here, just pure remote viewing. The number represents a picture, I want to know what's on there.

So learn some remote viewing technique you like best and go ahead. The internet has lots of information. Have fun!

Please do this ALL by yourself, not even with your very very close friends. Because its boring and stupid, and because you can put bullshit into each others head, which is hard to get rid of again, because the mind needs to be shut down for this to work properly. So do it alone, just talk to me about it, please.

(Yes, this really works, one friend got the content of the picture on first try...and yes, he only got the number from me.)

I personally tried to solve it myself. I was less of a rationalist back then, and so I was fairly open-minded about the existence of most paranormal phenomena. The picture I was looking for was the shark

Here is a shortened, paraphrased transcript of our email conversation:

Me: I'm imagining palm trees by a lake at sunset.
David: It's not bad, but I don't want to give you any more information because it will interfere with your efforts.
Me: I'm picturing an elephant walking into a barn.
David: Nope. 
Me: How many people have attempted this? And how many people have solved it with the current picture?
David: About half of the people who attempted solved it. Most solved it on their first try. I don't know exactly how many people solved this picture, but it has been a few. 
Me: Is it a space shuttle?
David: No. 
Me: (Expressions of frustration, with a few guesses thrown in.)
David: (Encouragement and advice, no comment on the guesses. Says "I can very well see that you receive the right input, but your mind is screwing it up into something else.")
Me: It's a bee?
David: No. Are you getting more subtle input, instead of a specific idea?
Me: Yeah, for that one, I saw something sharp, bright yellow colors, symmetry, a noisy drone, and two colors in pattern.
David: So THIS is interesting. Everything else you said wasn't!
Me: Are you saying that I was close? 
David: These elements sound like they are on target. They are too vague yet to tell if they are for real. 
Me: Thanks. The only other thing I could think about that relates to those elements is a pencil. I'll try again tonight. 
David: Stop fiddling around with your mind about this. It's bound to fail. There's no way to guess the target just from what you said. 
Me: I just tried it again. Is it a helicopter?
David: Are you sure you aren't viewing the old solution? There was a helicopter involved. 
Me: The boat? I'm not trying too. I guess I'll just keep trying... I even have the numbers memorized at this point.
David. The boat was shot from a helicopter. You shouldn't memorize the numbers. They don't matter. Memorizing them might just create unwanted associations.
Me: Okay. I say helicopter because I had an experience where I saw a bunch of spinning fan blades. I was going to guess a fan, but I could sense that there was more. Then I went "through" the fan blades and for a second I saw the whole helicopter. 
David: It sounds like it could be on target. But ignore it, it's not the object of interest.

At that point, I lost interest and gave up. Looking back, I can honestly say that I saw nothing remotely (haha) similar to the picture of the shark. I was not even a tiny bit close. I'm not sure why David said that I was on track, I can't see any association between the shark and what I was guessing. 

So that's everything I know. 

Points in favor of it being real:
  • "Most people" apparently guessed it on their first try.
  • According to David, about half the people who tried it have solved it. 
  • The dream thing - absolutely insane, hard to imagine that it's a coincidence. 
  • David did not consider the guy who guessed the shark as "something approaching me, it is a situation that I need to react to" to have solved the level. This shows that he requires fairly high standards of accuracy.
  • David implies that in order to have guessed the boat, you need to say the word "boat", also implying high standards. 
  • David did not really give me very much help or "lead" me anywhere when I tried to solve it. 
Points in favor of it being fake:
  • One person who solved it says that he did not solve it using remote viewing. 
  • It didn't work for me at all. 
  • David might very well be exaggerating both the percentage of people who successfully solved it and the percentage of people who guessed it on their first try. 
  • David might be (and in fact probably is) only reporting the "best" answers in his forum posts. For the fruit and the shark, he seems to be posting about half of the people who solved it in that time period. For the boat, he doesn't really give specifics, and instead says "Most people just said it was a boat on their first guess."
Here are my two theories regarding this.
  • Maybe DavidM is in fact "leading" people to the answer through a series of multiple guesses. For this to be true, however, a few things would have to be the case. First of all, his assertion that most people guessed it on their first try would have to be greatly exaggerated. Let's imagine that David is outright lying about most people guessing it on their first try and that half the people who attempted the riddle solved it. However, at least six people (I don't feel like going back through all 29 pages and counting) posted on the forum that they solved it on their first try. Let's imagine that all 300 people who reached the level attempted it. This is still a 1/50 "first guess" rate, and that's out of all the photographs in the world. However, maybe by some conjunction of 1) exaggerating those two numbers, 2) his dialogue with me being atypical, 3) the answers he posted on the forum being atypical, 4) his refusal to accept "something approaching me" being atypical and 5) the dream being a total coincidence, it may be true that he actually is doing a form of "leading" and is covering it up well. This feels like a really unsatisfactory answer. It relies on a lot of conjunctions and it seems clear that the only way to arrive at it is by a thorough search for some sort of answer that fits nicely in with our pre-existing worldview. That being said, I suspect it might be the most likely answer. 
  • Perhaps the level is an elaborate joke. In reality there is some other more conventional means of arriving at a solution, and people who solve it are told to play along. I can sort of see this being the case, given that 1) there are some other levels of Notpron that have "prankster-ish" elements and 2) I have actually myself been a part of a very similar joke on an even bigger scale, so I know that it can happen. However, on the other hand, DavidM really strongly believes in the conspiracy theory new age stuff and vigorously promotes it, so it seems unlikely that he would sabotage his own ideology like that. Also, while there are other prankster-ish levels of Notpron, nothing comes close to being as clever or elaborate as this scenario would be. 
So, given the above and this recent article from Slate Star Codex, I feel like I am forced to raise my credence level for remote viewing being real to somewhere between 50 and 60 percent. 

Does this seem in error to you? 
 

Optimal Exercise

51 RomeoStevens 10 March 2014 03:37AM

Followup to: Lifestyle interventions to increase longevity.

What does it mean for exercise to be optimal?

  • Optimal for looks
  • Optimal for time
  • Optimal for effort
  • Optimal for performance
  • Optimal for longevity

There may be even more criteria.

We're all likely going for a mix of outcomes, and optimal exercise is going to change depending on your weighting of different factors. So I'm going to discuss something close to a minimum viable routine based on meta-analyses of exercise studies.

Not knowing which sort of exercise yields the best results gives our brains an excuse to stop thinking about it. The intent of this post is to go over the dose responses to various types of exercise. We’re going to break through vague notions like “exercise is good” and “I should probably exercise more” with a concrete plan where you understand the relevant parameters that will cause dramatic improvements.

continue reading »

How to become a PC?

15 DataPacRat 26 January 2014 06:49PM

"Cryonics has a 95% chance of failure, by my estimation; it would be downright /embarrassing/ to die on the day before real immortality is discovered. Thus, I want to improve my general health and longevity."

That thought has gotten me through three weeks of gradually increasing exercise and diet improvement (I'm eating an apple right now) - but my enthusiasm is starting to flag. So I'm looking for new thoughts that will help me keep going, and keep improving. A few possibilities that I've thought of:

Pride: "If I'm so smart, then I should be able to do /better/ than those other people who don't even know about Bayesian updates, let alone the existence of akrasia..."

Sloth: "If I stop now, it's going to be /so much/ harder and more painful to start up again, instead of just keeping on keeping on..."

Desire: "I already like hiking and camping - if I keep this up, I'll be able to carry enough weight to finally take that long trip I've occasionally considered..."

Curiosity: "I'm as geeky a nerd as you can find. I wonder how far I can hack my own body?"

Pride again: "I already keep a hiker's first-aid kit in my pocket, and make other preparations for events that happen rarely. How stupid do I have to be not to put at least that much effort into making my everyday life easier?"

 

Does anyone have any experience in such self-motivation? Does this set of mental tricks seem like a sufficiently viable approach? Are there any other approaches that seem worth a shot?

Exercise isn't necessarily good for people

9 NancyLebovitz 08 June 2013 02:32PM

I would appreciate it very much if anyone would take a close look at this-- it looks sound to me, but it also appeals to my prejudices.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=E42TQNWhW3w#!

My comments are in square brackets. Everything else is my notes on the Jamie Timmons lecture from the video.

Short version: 12% of people become less healthy from exercise. 20% of people get nothing from exercise. This is a matter of genetics, not doing exercise wrong.

****

Ask a hundred people about exercise, you'll get a wide range of answers about what exercise is and what good it might do for health, and the same for health professionals.

You need to focus on the evidence that exercise affects particular health outcomes. Weight and health are not strongly correlated. BMI is problematic.

There's a recommendation for 150 minutes of exercise/week, but this isn't sound. People who *report* being active have better health. People who are fitter have better health. These are not evidence that having a person with low activity take up exercise will make them healthier.

Nothing but a supervised intervention study is good enough.

Improved lifestyle is better than Metformin for preventing diabetes. (Studies) Exercise + diet modification has a powerful effect of preventing and slowing the progression of Type II diabetes. People with Type II have more cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes). However, it doesn't follow that the lifestyle changes which help with Type II will also help with CVD. [I'm surprised]

Diabetes doesn't kill, CVD does, and a major motivation for the NHS to care is that CVD is expensive.

[9:45] Two studies which find that lifestyle intervention has no effect on CVD in diabetics. [11:00] One study which found that lifestyle intervention prevents Type II but doesn't affect microvascular disease (blindness and ulcers). [I'm not sure what this means. Maybe people can have the ill effects of Type II without the disease showing up in their blood sugar levels?] There are no supervised exercise-only intervention studies which show that exercise prevents long term disease progression.

[13:00] The usual advice on exercise from the NHS (pretty similar in the US): Aerobic exerise must raise your heart rate and make you sweat to be benefiscial. The more exercise you do, the better. Do a minimum of 150 minutes/week of aerobic exercise + strength training. If you do more than 150 minutes/week, you'll gain even more health benefits. Using a skipping rope is an example of vigorous intensity exercise. People aren't following this advice, and a major factor is the amount of time required. The advice is based on best guesses.

[15:55] Exercise will increase aerobic capacity in 80% of people (lowers all-cause mortality), improve insulin action in 65% of people (lowers type II diabetes by 50%), reduce blood pressure in >55% of people (lowers strokes 25%), increase good cholesterol in 70% of people (less vascular disease), promote muscle and bone mass (? less fractures and 'aging')

[17:40] Exercise response graphs. The average person gets a 15% increase in aerobic capacity, but a few get less capacity if they exercise. Insulin response-- average of 20% improvement. Some people get better, some get worse. A high proportion, maybe the majority, have little or no change. The people in this chart were doing 150 minutes/week of supervised exercise.

[20:00] High-intensity exercise is exercise which depends on stored energy, there's no way to take in enough oxygen to contribute. An athlete might be able to continue for 10 minutes. The average person can continue for more like 30 seconds to one minute.

[22:00] Experiments with high-intensity/rest intervals: 3 x 20 seconds of high intensity. [25:00] Charts showing flattened glucose spike (there probably was a peak, but the test missed the moment) and less isulin in the blood after only two weeks of 6 x 30 seconds interval training (total 7 minutes).

[30:54] "Advice has been based on what epidemiology methods can detect, not what is actually important or required." Health questionaires don't include things like 20 seconds of running for the bus.

[33:00] Ten days of bed rest will make healthy people insulin resistant.

[35:00] It looks as though modern hunter gatherers expend about as much energy/mass as Americans on the east coast do. [I found I could make sense out of the graphs by using full screen.] This evidence suggests that people are eating more rather than moving less. The evidence for 7 minutes of HIIT three times a week isn't completely solid, but it's at least as good as the evidence for 150 minutes/week.

[38:36] ..... Epidemiology of a sort-- evidence that eating chocolate makes it more likely to get a Nobel prize. Beautiful corelation! The Swiss eat the most chocolate and get the most prizes. The Swedes are an outlier-- they don't eat as much chocolate as they should to get so many prizes. That the prize is given in Sweden might have something to do with this. Cocoa has flavenols which slow age-related cognitive decline, but the corelation is probably just a coincidence.

[40:00] 12% of healthy people make their blood pressure **higher** by exercising 150 minutes a week. 20% get little or no improvement. [42:00] Graphs of low responders for aerobic capacity, muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity. Exercise does slow progression of diabetes on the average, but that doesn't apply to all individuals.

[44:47] There's no obvious indicator to tell high responders from low responders in advance. You have to either check the genes or track the results of exercise. [45:00] Finding non- or adverse responders: change in aerobic fitness is 60% genetic, insulin sensitivity is 40% genetic, strength is 50% genetic. These are estimates from family studies, including twin studies. There are 10 million genes variants which might have at least a 5% effect.

[47:35] There's a group of 27 genes which together can 'predict' gains in VO2max. It isn't necessary to understand how the genes work to create their effect as long as that effect is predictable, and it's possible that we will never understand something so complex. There may be drug combinations which can make exercise safe and effective for non-adaptors. There's research happening. It's possible to breed rats which are better at responding to training.

[53:52] A life-style program will *on average* reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes. We *don't know* whether exercise-training on its own will reduce heart-disease, angina, etc. It does improve risk factors and symptoms. If *you* have a risk-factor for ill-health, we *can not* be sure that exercise will help. (12% *adverse* responders, 20% no effect)

[57:00]Public health (what advice should the government give?): 1 minute a day of high-intensity sprint cycling reduces major risk factors. [For what proportion of people?] People tend to like brief high intensity exercise better than longer low intensity exercise. North American study: 150 minutes/week of exercise increase one's carbon footprint by 15% (food, laundry, showers).

Safety: 2 million marathoners have been studied. Very low fatalities. HIIT isn't likely to be more dangerous. [Ack! Ack! Ack! What happened to all the care about evidence? Marathoning isn't sprinting. Fatalities during the race aren't the only thing that can go wrong. People who do marathons aren't randomly selected.]

HIIT has be done safely by medically supervised diabetes and heart failure patients. It would take a billion dollars to do a thorough supervised intervention study. Some pieces of it have been done. This is much less than big drug companies spend, without much results. The current hope is finding the gene markers and then useful drugs for non and adverse responders. There are no average people!

**** http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/242498.php

Summary of a TV show which has more details about High Intensity Interval Training.

Absent Transhumanism and Transformative Technologies, Which Utopia is Left?

3 diegocaleiro 05 December 2012 12:54PM

Assume for the time being that it will forever remain beyond the scope of science to change Human Nature. AGI is also impossible, as is Nanotech, BioImmortality, and those things.

Douglas Adams mice finished their human experiment, giving to you, personally, the job of redesigning earth, and specially human society, according to your wildest utopian dreams, but you can't change the unchangeables above.

You can play with architecture, engineering, gender ratio, clothing, money, science grants, governments, feeding rituals, family constitution, the constitution itself, education, etc...  Just don't forget if you slide something too far away from what our evolved brains were designed to accept, things may slide back, or instability and catastrophe may ensue.

Finally, if you are not the kind of utilitarian that assigns exactly the same amount of importance to your desires, and to that of others, I want you to create this Utopia for yourself, and your values, not everyone.

The point of this exercise is: The vast majority of folk not related to this community that I know, when asked about an ideal world, will not change human nature, or animal suffering, or things like that, they'll think about changing whatever the newspaper editors have been writing about last few weeks. I am wondering if there is symmetry here, and folks from this community here do not spend that much time thinking about those kinds of change which don't rely on transformative technologies.  It is just an intuition pump, a gedankenexperiment if you will. Force your brain to face this counterfactual reality, and make the best world you can given those constraints. Maybe, if sufficiently many post here, the results might clarify something about CEV, or the sociology of LessWrongers...

 

Minimum Viable Workout Routine is Dangerously Misinformative

22 betterthanwell 24 June 2012 01:02PM

Edit: Dangerously misleading on one crucial point.

 

This started out as a short reply to the Less Wrong post Minimum Viable Workout Routine. Unfortunately I was unable to summarise my points sufficiently, so this reply grew into a post of it's own. I realize that the following is a bit rude to the original poster, and I apologize. Minimum Viable Workout Routine seems to be backed solely by anecdotal personal experience. The majority of the post, which addresses strength training seems decent, and not obviously wrong. However, the following paragraph is dangerously wrong:

A note about cardio: Cardiovascular capacity (V02 max) has shown a high degree of correlation to all cause mortality.  Why aren't I recommending cardio?  Because the only way to increase V02 max is with high intensity exercise.  Between high intensity weight lifting and high intensity cardio, high intensity weightlifting easily wins for a newbie.  A newbie, especially a significantly out of shape one, will not be capable of a level of cardio exertion that results in a significant adaptation.  This can result in a lot of effort with very little in the way of improvement.  This is soul-destroyingly frustrating.

Leaving this uncontested could be dangerous to your health. As we shall see, cardiovascular capacity is indeed important to survival and longevity. It is also quite easily trainable, it needs not be soul crushingly frustrating, and it should not be overlooked. 

 

A couple of cool findings from the physiology of exercise:

Instead of having me trying to convince you, we'll take a look at the science, and see what we find.

You can assume with reasonable confidence that the findings are valid, well-corroborated, and furthermore, the findings quoted in this post have been found to apply to the general population, to the untrained, the athlete, the elderly, and the ill, even though I'm only able to present here a selection of these results.

Human physiology, and its response to exercise is surprisingly stable across genders, race, age and physical fitness. What works for the well trained athlete will also work for the utter newbie, the obese, and patients with heart disease.

Strength training is also important to health, increases in maximal strength of the large muscle groups tends to cause large increases in endurance, as measured in time to exhaustion. Why? Because if your muscles have to work slightly less hard at each movement, relative to the one repetition maximum of the muscle, you can work at moderate to high intensities for much longer.

So, let's first see that a brief strength training intervention can dramatically increase endurance:

 

Maximal Strength Training Improves Running Economy in Distance Runners

Purpose: The present study investigated the effect of maximal strength training on running economy (RE) at 70% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) and time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic speed (MAS). Responses in one repetition maximum (1RM) and rate of force development (RFD) in half-squats, maximal oxygen consumption, RE, and time to exhaustion at MAS were examined.

Methods: Seventeen well-trained (nine male and eight female) runners were randomly assigned into either an intervention or a control group. The intervention group (four males and four females) performed half-squats, four sets of four repetitions maximum, three times per week for 8 wk, as a supplement to their normal endurance training. The control group continued their normal endurance training during the same period.

Results: The intervention manifested significant improvements in 1RM (33.2%), RFD (26.0%), RE (5.0%), and time to exhaustion at MAS (21.3%). No changes were found in VO2max or body weight. The control group exhibited no changes from pre to post values in any of the parameters.

Conclusion: Maximal strength training for 8 wk improved RE and increased time to exhaustion at MAS among well trained, long-distance runners, without change in maximal oxygen uptake or body weight

 

So a maximal strength training exercise of maybe 10 minutes, 3 times per week, for eight weeks, resulted in an increase in time to exhaustion of ~20% in well trained runners. So increases in strength can lead to large gains in endurance.

Cool, because endurance training is important. Endurance training makes you die less often, on average:

 

Exercise Capactity And Mortality Among Men Referred For Exercise Testing

Background: 

Exercise capacity is known to be an 

important prognostic factor in patients with cardiovascular disease, but it is uncertain whether it predicts 

mortality equally well among healthy persons. There 

is also uncertainty regarding the predictive power of 

exercise capacity relative to other clinical and exercise test variables. 

Methods: We studied a total of 6213 consecutive 

men referred for treadmill exercise testing for clinical 

reasons during a mean (±SD) of 6.2±3.7 years of follow-up. Subjects were classified into two groups: 3679 

had an abnormal exercise-test result or a history of 

cardiovascular disease, or both, and 2534 had a normal exercise-test result and no history of cardiovascular disease. Overall mortality was the end point. 

Results: There were a total of 1256 deaths during the 

follow-up period, resulting in an average annual mortality of 2.6 percent. Men who died were older than 

those who survived and had a lower maximal heart 

rate, lower maximal systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and lower exercise capacity. After adjustment for 

age, the peak exercise capacity measured in metabolic 

equivalents (MET) was the strongest predictor of the 

risk of death among both normal subjects and those 

with cardiovascular disease. Absolute peak exercise capacity was a stronger predictor of the risk of death than 

the percentage of the age-predicted value achieved, 

and there was no interaction between the use or nonuse of beta-blockade and the predictive power of exercise capacity. Each 1-MET increase in exercise capacity 

conferred a 12 percent improvement in survival. 



Conclusions: Exercise capacity is a more powerful 

predictor of mortality among men than other established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. (N Engl 

J Med 2002;346:793-801.)

 

If you want to live long and prosper, you should train your body, most importantly your heart, to be able to work hard when you can. So that it can work hard for you when it must fight for your life. With that, let us have a look at endurance training in the elderly:

 

Effects of High-Intensity Endurance Training on Maximal Oxygen Consumption in Healthy Elderly People

Each 60-minute training session included four repetitions of exercise at approximately 85% to 95% of maximal heart rate separated by 4-minute rest periods. The control group was encouraged to perform no additive strength or endurance training during the study period. Maximal oxygen consumption increased significantly (p < .05) (13.2%) in the TG compared to the CG. Walking economy and maximal walking speed were unchanged after the training intervention. This training study demonstrates that high-intensity endurance training significantly improves VO2 max in older adults.

Why is this interesting? Well, it seems that old people respond the same to vigorous exercise, as do young people. 

But! They tend to do less of it, and consequently they gradually suffer worse health. I'm oversimplifying, but there is a causal path from physical inactivity with old age, (not because of old age) which leads to deterioration of health which leads to death. If you are reaching retirement age, or you know people who are, try to get them to move their butts before it's too late. And don't stop moving. Don't stop moving even if you suffer heart failure. Let's have a look at the effects of vigorous training in patients with heart disease:

 

Interval and Strength Training in CAD Patients:

This study sought to study the effect of high intensity aerobic interval endurance training on peak stroke volume and maximal strength training on mechanical efficiency in coronary artery disease (CAD) patients. 8 CAD patients (age 61.4 ± 3.7 years) trained 30 interval training sessions with 4 × 4 min intervals at 85-95% of peak heart rate while 10 CAD patients (age 66.5 ± 5.5 years) trained 24 sessions of maximal horizontal leg press.

In the interval training group peak stroke volume increased significantly by 23% from 94.1 ± 23.0 mL · beat (-1) to 115.8 ± 22.4 mL · beat (-1) (p<0.05). Peak oxygen uptake increased significantly by 17% from 27.2 ± 4.5 mL · kg (-1) · min (-1) to 31.8 ± 5.0 mL · kg (-1) min (-1) (p<0.05) in the same group. In contrast, there was no such exercise training-induced change in peak stroke volume or peak oxygen uptake in the maximal strength training group, despite a 35% improvement in sub maximal walking performance.

So this is what heart patients get in return for sixteen minutes, three times a week for two and a half months. If you're still breathing, and able to move by your own power, you are capable of the level of cardio exertion that leads to significant adaptation. You don't necessarily have to run fast, you just need to be able to get your heart rate to 85-95% of your maximum heart rate, repeatedly. For a CAD patient or an overweight person, this could mean a brisk walk. If you're out of shape,  you don't have to fly across the terrain at amazing speed for your heart to get all excited.

How, exactly, does endurance training keep people healthy and alive?

Repeated intervals of brief, but high intensity endurace training causes increased stroke volume of the heart, when working at peak capacity. This carries over into the resting state, and lowers your resting pulse, your blood pressure, increases your maximal oxygen uptake, increases your working capacity when healthy, makes you less likely to get ill. If you get ill, your heart will be better at keeping you alive.

Closing thoughts:

Should you trust my opinion? I've only taken a single university course in exercise physiology. You should not trust my opinion, and this is not professional advice. But my opinion is backed up with well-corroborated scientific findings, and you should probably trust those.

The course i took was excellent. The teaching professors were were former national team coaches, they have applied their research to great effect on healthy, untrained students, CAD patients, COPD patients, youth athletes, elite athletes and billion dollar soccer teams.

Pursuing a regime of maximal strength training and high intensity interval training, you should see evident and mutually reinforcing gains in strength and endurance, and you'll not stop seeing benefits, even at the level of 100 million dollar soccer players. (Endurance and Strength Training for Soccer Players)

An final anecdote of my own:

I used to find physical exercise dis-congruent with my geek identity, I found it boring, painful, useless. Learning the very basics of exercise physiology, along with some nerdy details makes working out seem important. It helps to know why I'm doing it, I know what the expected effects are, and the expected sizes of the effects, how to avoid training fatigue, track my heart rate, track my progress, and on the whole, see that I'm on track to results like those mentioned in the studies above. I find it fun to try and figure out what is happening, and approach working out as something of a puzzle to be solved. Exercise, or the lack of it, is an experiment in health.

Interesting rationalist exercise about French election

8 kilobug 16 April 2012 03:34PM

The newspaper "Le Monde" made an interesting exercise for rationalists in the context of the French election.

They first made a classical "which is your best candidate" poll, in which they ask multiple choice questions about various topics (for each question, you must select one answer, and how important the issue is for you), and at the end, they select the candidate that (according to them) is closest to your answers. Nothing new in that.

But then, they made a much more interesting (at least from a rationality training point of view) exercise : they asked the same questions, but not asking "what is your opinion on the topic ?" and "how is this question important for you ?" but they asked "what do you think the majority of our readers answered ?" and "how do they think they rated the importance of this issue ?". And then they give you a score from 0 to 1000 on how good your "predictions" were.

It's in French, so it'll be hard for most of you to try it, but if you want it is available online here.

I found this kind of exercise (trying to guess what other people will have answered) to be interesting from a LW point of view, because it somehow makes your beliefs (about the opinions, priority and mentalities of French people) pay rent.

So I wanted to share it with the LW community, and ask if you know about similar exercises elsewhere, that gives you a way to check how accurate your belief network is in complicated issues, if you find them interesting too, and how they could be improved.

As an idea of improvement, I would like adding a confidence rating to each question, the more confident you feel in your answer, the more points you get if you get it right, but the more you lose if you get it wrong.

Topics from "Procedural Knowledge Gaps"

39 NancyLebovitz 11 February 2012 09:38PM

About a year ago, we had a major discussion about procedural knowledge gaps. Here's what was covered....

How to tell whether food is fresh

pjeby claims that eating raw chicken is safe because the gag reflex identifies it fast

How to buy investments

Memorizing the alphabet and other arbitrary lists

Comparison of various how-to sites

General discussion of making things (including Less Wrong) easier to use

How jump start a stalled car.

How to use the Yellow Pages.

Cheap and easy healthy food.

Questions about preparing a simple soup.

Exercise.

Starting relationships, especially for heterosexual men.

Cooking in general.

Browning meat.

How to become bisexual.

How to transfer money from one electronic account to another.

How to buy a used car.

Interacting with police.  (Don't talk to US police! The rules are different in the UK.)

How to speak clearly, slowly, etc..

How to fold a fitted sheet.

How to make a will.

How to order at a bar. Also, some cookbook recommendations.

Tipping in the US.

Tipping in the UK and France.

Spacial orientation.

Personal hygiene-- washing, soap, shampoo.

Haircuts for men.

Haircuts for women.

Growing and maintaining long hair.

Putting a cover on a duvet.

Telling the difference between flirting and friendliness.

Choosing shirts that fit.

Left vs. Right (which hand, not political).

Shaving one's face.

How to end conversations politely.

How to make people laugh.

Mailing large objects in the US.

How to format comments at Less Wrong.

How to declutter.

E readers.

Touch typing.

Dvorak, etc.

How often to see a doctor.

Remembering to be polite.

Tying shoes.

Home maintenance.

What might melt in a dishwasher.

Kitchen knives.

Sorting laundry.

Does cranking up the thermostat heat the house faster?.

More about investment

How to not stutter.

How to be a good manager.

Scrubbing.

How to use Google.

How to talk to strangers.

Potential topics:

How to give clear instructions.

How to see things from other people's point of view

Cool sidetrack: Fish and lightning

Links and quotes:

Why grad school in the humanities is a bad choice One probably could not devise a better system for keeping people with humanistic values away from power than by confining them to decade-long graduate programs with a long future of transient adjunct positions making less than the minimum wage. From Part 2. The first article is a nice example of applying the far view (look at how things are in general) to a personal decision.

Rationality Dojo

6 freyley 15 October 2010 06:04PM

Last night, here in Portland (OR), some friends and I got together to try to start Rationality Dojo. We talked about it for a while and came up with exactly 4 exercises that we could readily practice:

  1. Play Paranoid Debating
  2. Play the AI-Box experiment
  3. Read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
  4. Write fanfiction in the style of #3

We also had a whole bunch of semi-formed ideas about selecting a target (happiness, health) and optimizing it a month at a time. Starting a dojo, in a time before organized martial arts, was surely incredibly difficult. I hope we can accrete exercises rather than require a single sensei to invent the majority of the discipline. So I've added a category to the wiki, and I'm asking here. Do you have ideas or refinements for exercises to fit within rationality dojo?