Are Supplements Worth It?

I used to take heaps of supplements.

Then I realised we don’t know much about how supplements effect the body. It’s hard to track second order effects of an input into a complex system. Even if the science is done well.

So as a hedge against limited knowledge, I stopped ingesting things my ancestors wouldn’t have.

I still believe this, but I take supplements again.

Why?

Some pills provide energy. Using this energy, you might make better health choices. It might be the difference between eating a mound of cake or not. Using this energy, you might get more done. Getting more done can be good for the psyche.

Some pills help provide calm. Using this calmness, you might sleep better. It might result in less shitty thoughts. Less stress is healthy.

There’s a spectrum of risk with supplements. I’m still very conservative, but sometimes the tradeoff is worth it.

FYI some stuff I use: Lions Mane, Rhodiola, B Complex, Zinc, Magnesium, Ashwaganda, Carnityl, Creatine, MCT shots.

Can a Layman Question Climate Change?

I know little about climate science. So I should just believe the experts right?

If a physicist tells me ‘we know’ something about physics – I’ll believe them. Same goes for a chemist or molecular biologist.

Climate scientist? Not so much. 

Here’s why:

A young physicist wants to make a name for themselves, so they try and prove conventional physics wrong. They’re probably wrong. Then other physicists point out their errors, specifically. Their incorrect criticism is welcome.

This is good science – a culture of criticism.

It’s a major reason physics has been so successful. The ideas are fallible. In this hostile environment, most ideas end up in the graveyard. The one’s which survive are winners.

It is always necessary to jump up and down on the scaffold of knowledge to make sure it is solid – David Sloan Wilson

A young scientist criticises conventional climate science. The response?

‘Science Denier’ ‘Climate Denier’. Engineered ad hominems.

Unlike physics, climate change is politicised. If one jumps up and down on the scaffold of knowledge, their reputations and careers could be in jeopardy. On the margin, these disincentives silence critique.

Believers in climate change evoke scientific consensus. Kinda like me deferring to a physicist. But in physics, ‘consensus’ isn’t uttered – it’s either true or not. ‘Scientific consensus’ is usually uttered to try and persuade.

But 97% of climate scientists agree?!

This was taken from a small sample of scientists, they agreed that:

The climate is changing. Humans are influencing this change. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

There was nothing in there about how harmful it would be. 97% of scientists don’t agree on that.

Claims of ‘scientific consensus’ are usually unscientific.

———————

‘Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings’ –Richard Feynman.

Another reason physics is so successful is that it’s conducive to the scientific method. It’s (generally) easier to control variables.

Climate science is not conducive to controlling variables. It’s a complex system. We try to map this complexity by using predictive models. Ask a scientist if these models are imperfect, they’ll say yes. But in reality this gets forgotten. Some scientists, much of the ‘skeptic community’ and laypeople conflate these models with hard science.

Unfortunately, we don’t have 30 identical realities where we can fully manipulate the carbon variable. We could have confidence in that experiment.

We can look back at the empirical success of prior models. People will point to some which have proved accurate, but this doesn’t tell us much. There have been lots of models. With a big enough sample, you can always cherry pick to confirm a bias.

A meta analysis of prior models would be informative. But how much data is missing because of publication bias/file drawer effect? Especially given the disincentives I talked about.

——————

‘Step 1: Look at how emotional each side is. Step 2: Assume the less emotional side is right and the more emotional side is wrong’ – Bryan Caplan

Once upon a time there was a perfect Garden Of Eden. Then humans came along and ruined it – original sin.

This story is Lindy. It resonates in our bones. For many, this intuitiveness creates a bias towards it. No one cares about asteroids destroying everything because we can’t feel guilty it.

From an evolutionary perspective, worrying about unlikely catastrophe isn’t irrational. It helped us survive (see Skin In The Game). But it does help explain why climate change is so politicised. 

Lefties who hate capitalism dig the narrative. Righties don’t like government coercion or Al Gore. 

There’s less emotion when discussing protons.

Like Taleb, I’m skeptical of the models. But too much of a single input into a complex system could push it too far (carbon). Even if catastrophe is really unlikely, it’s worth taking seriously as we currently have one usable planet.

The counter to this argument? There’s lots of potential catastrophes. Asteroids, nuclear war, pandemics, future black swan technologies etc. Does climate change deserve special status?

In trying to hedge against this risk, it’s questionable the approach taken has been very effective (see Bjorn Lomborg). 

Perhaps we’d be better off focusing on research and development. To make nuclear safer, make current tech cheaper or create a black swan tech. Ideally we get to a world where a green tech is also really cheap. Apparently there’s 100x spent on subsidies as R&D.

Or maybe we should do nothing from the national level. Leave it to states to reduce local pollution. Focus policy on getting as rich as possible so that solutions can be made from the bottom up. Notice there aren’t any Elon Musks coming from Venezuela.

Maybe I should have more faith in climate scientists. Maybe there is normal scientific dissent in the technical jargon. Maybe it’s only when non-technical enough for journalists that stupidity arises. Simply responding to consumer demand to confirm biases.

Perhaps the scientists are doing a decent job, we just don’t want to hear them.

This is something I know little about. If I’m wrong, please tell me how – specifically.

Why Meditate?

I love thinking. I’ve also spent years trying to do it less.

Why?

Seasoned meditators often advise against progress.

‘Just sit’

‘No goals’

They’re right too – at their skill level. That’s wrong for beginners though. Beginners need to put in time and make mistakes. This requires motivation. Motivation comes from a reason.

There’s deep things to say about meditation, but this post has none of that. For experienced meditators, it’s a little wrong too.

Instead, it’s the reason to get started – the ‘why’.

Continue reading Why Meditate?

Why Travel?

I got back from Oman recently (verdict: it’s ok). I’ve travelled a lot, but recently I’ve being weighing the benefits.

I’ve realised the best part about the journey (more so than the destination) is the effect it has on my thinking. New countries provide surprises. Stuff you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. But the mind changes beyond this.

I think because:

Different Input:

We’re less in control of ‘I’ than we think. Going to multiple new counties in succession helped me realise this. Different input = Different output.

Different People:

You share beliefs with friends. Being around different people provides distance from these ideas, allowing you to reassess them.

Change in routine:

I find this un-automating of decisions leaves the mind scrambling. In the scramble, neurons wire together in interesting ways.

Continue reading Why Travel?

How To Make Study Easy

I love learning, but I’m also kinda lazy.

So I’ve always preferred stuff packaged as simple as possible. I’ve trudged through dense stuff too – not for fun, but because I’ll be glad I did afterwards. I don’t want to forget it, so I furrow my brows extra hard. Sometimes I don’t grasp it though. ‘Shit maybe I am an idiot’ – It’s all very stressful.

I’ve realised much of this stress is optional.

The densest textbook is made up of squiggles. Some squiggles are harder to learn than others, but none contain inherent stress – we’re the one who makes it stressful. They stress us out because we’re scared we’ll forget them.

Continue reading How To Make Study Easy

The Vocabulary Of Emotion

The colour spectrum is made up of lots of intervals.

Apparently, English speakers slice this continuum up differently than Tagalog speakers. This is because words, like ‘blue’, categorise the spectrum. This isn’t about colour though, we impose linguistic frames on everything – including feelings.

‘Happy, sad, jealous’

In Turkish, ‘huzun’ refers to a gloomy feeling in which things will gradually get worse. In Portuguese, ‘saudade’ means a bittersweet nostalgia, memories both fond and painful because they’ve past. In German, ‘torschlusspanik’ literally translates to ‘gate closing panic’ – a sense that opportunities are fading. (More examples here)

If we knew every such word from every language, we’d be able to explain feelings in new ways. Still though, there’s only so much vocabulary.

Thoughts prompt emotions and emotions prompt thoughts. If I think about a sad memory it’ll make me feel sad. If I feel sad it’ll make more sad memories. They both create oxygen for each other.

Still, words are just a frame, they’re aren’t the actual feelings themselves. I dunno if it’s 100% of the story, but feelings are inseparable from physical feelings – butterflies in the stomach, a pit in the stomach, warm fuzzies in the chest. Emotions can only transpire in a body.

What’s happens when the words are subtracted?

Continue reading The Vocabulary Of Emotion

Rethinking Planning

Plans are important. To author our lives instead of being a pinball, we need to project into the future. Problem is, it’s often overdone.

Much human behaviour is an attempt to tame the mind. Wether it’s meditating, cleaning incessantly or working 50 hour weeks. Planning has therapeutic too – a sense of direction creates mental order.

A common assumption is that success is simply the execution of a superior plan. The domino’s are carefully placed and the lead is simply flicked. A man with a plan flicks a persuasive switch too.

But design is often an illusion.

Superior planning matters, but to become better decision-makers we need to overcome to-do list addiction. We need to overcome the domino myth.

Continue reading Rethinking Planning