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Comment author: chatquitevoit 12 July 2011 05:27:10AM 2 points [-]

Also, you can use Splenda, for no calories at all, and it tastes just fine. I know some people can get downright militant about how awful the stuff is, but they are the same people who buy organic when the term is essentially meaningless, and they seem to hate the thought that you are "cheating" to get deliciousness. I simply say to them "Er, human technology has progressed to the point where I can have, say, a sweet breakfast without consuming any sugar, and I'm going to do so. Cheating has nothing to do with it." I drink tea with it alllll the time, too. :)

Comment author: mattnewport 12 July 2011 03:40:44PM *  0 points [-]

I simply say to them "Er, human technology has progressed to the point where I can have, say, a sweet breakfast without consuming any sugar, and I'm going to do so. Cheating has nothing to do with it."

It's true that artificial sweeteners mean you can get a sweet taste without consuming calories. Beware the conclusion that they therefore don't cause you to gain weight or have other negative health effects though. There's plenty of evidence to the contrary.

I agree that eating healthily doesn't mean having to deprive yourself of all delicious foods. Sadly artificial sweeteners seem to be quite problematic, though some types may be less bad than others.

Comment author: Yvain 08 July 2011 05:17:12AM 11 points [-]

I think exponential discounting already assumes uncertainty. You need uncertainty to discount at all - if things are going to stay the same, might as well wait until later. And it doesn't intuitively lead to hyperbolic discounts - if there's a 1% chance you'll die each week, then waiting from now until next week should make you discount the same amount as waiting from ten weeks from now until eleven.

But there is a way to use uncertainty to get from exponential to hyperbolic discounting. You get exponential if you're worried about yourself dying/being unable to use the reward/etc. But if you add in the chance of the reward going away, based on a prior where you don't know anything about how likely that is, you might get hyperbolic discounting. If you don't eat an animal you've killed in the next ten minutes, then it might get stolen by hyenas. But common-sensibly, if it goes a year without being stolen by hyenas or going bad or anything, there's not much chance of hyenas suddenly coming along in the next ten minutes after that.

Comment author: mattnewport 08 July 2011 08:10:10PM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure you need uncertainty to discount at all - in finance exponential discounting comes from interest rates which are predicated on an assumption of somewhat stable economic growth rather than deriving from uncertainty.

As you point out, hyperbolic discounting can come from combining exponential discounting with an uncertain hazard rate. It seems many of the studies on hyperbolic discounting assume they are measuring a utility function directly when they may in fact be measuring the combination of a utility function with reasonable assumptions about the uncertainty of claiming a reward. It's not clear to me that they have actually shown that humans have time inconsistent preferences rather than just establishing that people don't separate the utility they attach to a reward from their expectation of actually receiving it in their responses to these kinds of studies.

Comment author: mattnewport 08 July 2011 02:01:45AM 8 points [-]

Do any of the studies on hyperbolic discounting attempt to show that it is not just a consequence of combining uncertainty with something like a standard exponential discounting function? That's always seemed the most plausible explanation of hyperbolic discounting to me and it meshes with what seems to be going on when I introspect on these kinds of choices.

Most of the discussions of hyperbolic discounting I see don't even consider how increasing uncertainty for more distant rewards should factor into preferences. Ignoring uncertainty seems like it would be a sub-optimal strategy for agents making decisions in the real world.

Comment author: mwengler 03 January 2011 09:17:54PM 1 point [-]
  • A developed country will suffer a currency crisis - most likely either the UK, US or one of the weaker Eurozone economies (60%).

I think the problems in Greece (and to a lesser extent Spain and Portugal) and the resulting turmoil in the Euro are sufficient to say this prediction was correct. The UK pound has also had a rough time but in both cases 'currency crisis' could still be argued. I expect further problems before the year is out.

I think this prediction has failed utterly. In the Euro zone, There are/were debt crises in Greece and Ireland, but the currency, the Euro itself did fine. A graph of the variation of the Euro against the US dollar shows no special variation in 2010 compared to its "typical" variations over the last decade. The pound maintained the value in 2010 that it had already fallen to in 2009, hardly even slightly adhering to a prediction about 2010.

Those were exciting predictions. Had you predicted a sovereign debt crisis in a developed country, you would have been right, and it would have been a much less exciting prediction than a currency crisis.

Comment author: mattnewport 04 January 2011 02:01:26PM 0 points [-]

There's room for debate whether we saw a true currency crisis in the Euro but 'this prediction has failed utterly' is overstating it. We saw unusually dramatic short term moves in the Euro in May and there was widespread talk about the future of the Euro being uncertain. Questions about the long term viability of the Euro continue to be raised.

I'd argue that charting any of the major currencies against gold indicates an ongoing loss of confidence in all of them - from this perspective the dollar and the euro have both declined in absolute value over the year while trading places in terms of relative value in response to changing perceptions of which one faces the biggest problems.

'Currency crisis' was in retrospect a somewhat ambiguous prediction to make since there is no clear criteria for establishing what constitutes one. I'd argue that the euro underwent the beginnings of a currency crisis in May but that the unprecedented intervention by the ECB forestalled a full blown currency crisis.

Comment author: Meryseshat 01 December 2010 12:22:12AM 3 points [-]

I agree. When I've experienced sleep paralysis, I've rarely seen anything much at all other than distortions of the appearance of the room. What I get instead is a buzzing noise and a sense of vibration through my body, and then my body feels as if it's being tossed around the bed in impossibly rapid circles by some kind of evil force. I've never culturally heard of any experience like it. It certainly has the sense of oppression and evil, but there's nothing about it that sounds like any kind of mythology I've ever heard in my culture or another.

Comment author: mattnewport 01 December 2010 10:49:34PM 1 point [-]

According to this article a sense of vibration and rapid acceleration of the body are fairly commonly reported (I don't recall experiencing these symptoms myself). That article and the Wikipedia entry both mention some of the mythology and folklore surrounding the experience from different cultures.

Comment author: Craig_Heldreth 28 October 2010 12:32:24AM 1 point [-]

I find the paleo argument pretty compelling by virtue of the logic of the argument--i.e. homo sapiens evolved in an environment which did not have agriculture and grains. Also there is an M.D. blogger whose name escapes me who strongly advises people to avoid all processed grains because they pulse the glucose-insulin cycle in the blood. In March I overhauled my diet. I was eating a croissant every morning, two slices of bread every noon, and two to four cookies every evening. My grain consumption is now less than three slices of bread every four days. I eat cheese and yogurt. So I am not paleo. I do eat a serving of fruit and a serving of raw nuts at every meal.

I may be the most paleo person I know.

The other overhaul I did to my diet is the largest mass of food I am now taking in daily is a big plate of frozen vegetables at noon. I buy the two pound sacks of: 1) peas; 2) corn; 3) string beans; 4) broccoli and cauliflower mix; 5) peas and corn and carrots and string beans and lima beans mix. Choosing which of the sacks to pour from at noon is one of the high points in my typical day. My weight is down; my body mass index is down; my workouts have more pep. I am going to be hanging with this diet for a while.

I like Pollan's formula: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If somebody put that in the rationality quote thread I would upvote it. Beyond his formula, I do not like Pollan at all. He is not a nutritionist; he is a journalist. When I try and read any of his writing at length my eyes roll.

The best partisan of the paleo philosophy in my mind is the anthropologist David Abram who is part of the "re-wilding movement". I am not anywhere close to a re-wilding movement partisan, but his discussions of forager cultures and what those folks may have to teach us makes Michael Pollan and most of the other more popular figures look like they are serving up extremely thin gruel.

Normal testosterone in males varies by a factor of almost 4:241-827 ng/dL. This sticks in my memory because the last time my doctor did my blood I was at the top of the normal range and I asked him how come I don't look like a gorilla. (The 241-827 does not stick in my memory--I looked it up.) I think my doctor is awesome but his answer to that question was not.

Your textbook stomach link is truly a picture worth a thousand words.

Comment author: mattnewport 28 October 2010 12:56:35AM *  0 points [-]

Paleo diets generally consider corn a grain so you might want to avoid that. Some paleo variants (like the one I'm currently following) are ok with cheese and yogurt in moderation (and butter).

Comment author: byrnema 27 October 2010 12:49:44AM *  -1 points [-]

OK. So reading between the lines somewhat and pushing the argument further, would it similarly/analogously/generally be the case that eating nearly any part of an evolutionarily 'old', highly evolved autotroph would usually be healthy, because they have learned how to make things that are useful for living things to have? (That is, ignoring the part of the argument possibly implying that we might have evolved a dependency upon apples in particular, because that seemed unlikely to me. Though I could be convinced because know it is the case to some degree for oranges and scurvy, for example.)

Comment author: mattnewport 27 October 2010 01:01:30AM 0 points [-]

I would guess this is not true in general since many things do not want to be eaten and so evolve various defense mechanisms. In turn the organisms that eat them may develop counter-measures that enable them to safely digest their meal despite the defense mechanisms but this will depend on the complex evolutionary history of both organisms. Ruminants are adapted to a quite different diet than humans for example.

Comment author: byrnema 27 October 2010 12:29:56AM *  0 points [-]

The people I've read who gave advice based on Ioannidis article strongly recommended eating paleo.

Incidentally, something like the paleo diet works incredibly well for me. I discovered the right details for me about 4 months ago and have quickly lost weight to a point near my optimal weight and I don't have dizzy or tired spells anymore with blood sugar fluctuations. However, calling it the 'paleo' diet begs a question I don't have enough background in evolutionary biology to ask, but I can pose a related question, because it is more concrete:

My father-in-law is on some kind of fruit diet, and he raves about how healthy fruits are, especially if they are fresh and eaten with the peel. Apples, for example, have all these different healthy things in them.

I wonder why an apple should be healthy. Wouldn't any animal be satisfied with a fruit that just had calories? Enough, in any case, to come back for more and scatter the seeds? Why should an apple -- or anything 'natural' -- be so especially healthy for humans?

Comment author: mattnewport 27 October 2010 12:38:04AM 1 point [-]

I wonder why an apple should be healthy. Wouldn't any animal be satisfied with a fruit that just had calories? Enough, in any case, to come back for more and scatter the seeds? Why should an apple -- or anything 'natural' -- be so especially healthy for humans?

You're missing the other side of the story. Humans evolved to obtain their nutritional needs from those foods that were available in the EEA and this effect is probably more significant than the selection pressure in the other direction (on fruits to be nutritionally beneficial to animals that eat them). Humans are adapted to a diet that includes things that were available to them during the long pre-agricultural evolutionary period.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 15 October 2010 06:51:04PM *  8 points [-]

I'd compare this with employment. Every now and then, you see a media story about some company with a highly unusual internal culture that uses all sorts of unconventional practices in hiring, organization, and management. Yet unless you luckily stumble onto some such employer and happen to be an exceptionally good candidate by their standards, you would be well-advised to stick to the standard conventional advice on how to look and behave in job interviews and, subsequently, in the workplace. In fact, doing anything else would mean sabotaging your employment and career prospects, and expecting that your unconventional behavior will surely be rewarded with a dream job with an unconventional employer is a delusional pipe-dream.

The main flaw of this analogy, of course, is that the conventional wisdom on seeking and maintaining employment is largely correct, whereas the conventional wisdom on dating has fatal points of disconnect from reality. Also, while conforming to optimal workplace behavior is truly painful for many people, fixing the problems in one's approach to dating and relationships typically doesn't require any such painful and loathsome adjustment. (Even though people often rationalize their unwillingness to do it by convincing themselves in the opposite.)

Comment author: mattnewport 15 October 2010 07:08:49PM 2 points [-]

You're probably right but ironically I've ignored much of the standard advice on employment and it's worked out just fine for me so this example doesn't resonate very well for me. I've never worn a suit to a job interview for example.

Comment author: Relsqui 15 October 2010 06:48:06PM 2 points [-]

Certainly! If he'd said "women who might like me tend to also like ..." I'd have understood. My confusion was because there was no such qualification, or anything else limiting the population under discussion beyond "women," but the commenter seemed to expect consistency within that population.

The prevalence of different personality types in the population is very relevant here and you seem to be glossing over it.

This is what I thought I was saying. :)

Comment author: mattnewport 15 October 2010 07:07:15PM 4 points [-]

I assumed he was saying something like "the majority of women prefer a man more 'masculine' than the median man". By analogy, if it is true that "the majority of men prefer a woman who is slimmer than the median woman" it should be obvious that being overweight will make it harder for a woman to find a match even if there are men who prefer less slim women. Saying "men prefer slim women" is a slightly sloppy generalization but not an unreasonable one in this example.

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