46 Comments

My grandfather had intuited that margarine was bad, and never strayed from using butter. He always referred to margarine as “axle grease”.

Expand full comment

Excellent article. Other possibilities? Many of the world's leading virus experts and pandemic prevention bodies decided that they should be collecting viruses from out of the way parts of the world, and studying them in laboratories. It is at least possible that this caused the worst pandemic for a century.

I don't feel I can really judge if it's correct, but I find the argument plausible that to date, AI alignment and safety work has increased AI risk, and that certain kinds of alignment/safety work would increase risk in the future.

Many of those responsible for sharing information with the Soviets that allowed them to develop the atomic bomb claimed they were motivated by concerns about the risk of only one side having nuclear weapons (though I'm not sure I believe them, given their pre-existing politics). Giving Stalin the bomb surely increased the risk of nuclear weapons being used.

The defenders of freedom granted exceptional powers to defend against a would be dictator, who then go on to use those powers to become dictators themselves, are legion.

Expand full comment

I think ultimately there aren't really "safe" options. Everything has consequences and side effects. It's just what tradeoff we as individuals can afford.

Expand full comment

All that I can say is that if nutrition research as a body isn't the worst research since 1900 it must surely be in the top three.

Expand full comment

Is the plan to increase dependence on nuclear power because it is free of carbon emissions, “safe?”

https://open.substack.com/pub/1longtrain/p/the-bane-of-nuclear-energy?r=1zyuut&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post

Expand full comment

"One of these things is not like the others." That old line came to me today as I read your thoughts on cryonic suspension. On the upside, you grant that the objections to getting cryopreserved are fantasies. Let's take the fantasy of a soul (whatever that is -- it's not clear to me that a soul carries personal continuity). If the standard Christian view were correct, the soul enters the body at the point of conception. So there are millions of people walking around who were once cryopreserved embryos. There is no evidence that this caused a problem. If the divine plan is for you to go to heaven (or downstairs) on death, we have to ask what definition of death is this God person using. If God is using the sensible definition of information theoretic death, then God can either decide that you're not really dead but dead enough and take you straight to the afterlife, or that you are not. If not, you have to wait a while. It would make zero difference to you, since no subjective time passes. You will have only slightly more of an issue catching up with relatives who pre-deceased you by years, decades, or centuries. (Families in heaven must be ENORMOUS!)

Even that depends on what is officially not the mainstream view. The official view for most Christians is that you await bodily resurrection and return in Christ's kingdom on Earth. (My sense is that the official mainstream view differs from the actual mainstream Christian view, but I lack good data on that.)

The other supposed risks to cryopreservation are ludicrous fantasies: You might be enslaved (why use the time and resources to repair and revive someone as a slave when you can enslave people who are already functional or, you know, use robots and automation.) The Jerry Pournelle idea that you will be used for spare parts is just as ridiculous.

As to not knowing what sort of world you will come back to: We don't know that about our regular future either but don't usually kill ourselves to avoid that risk. Further, if we are brought back from cryopreservation, two things will be true: 1. Society has developed advanced medical technology that implies massive improvements in quality of life and lifespan. 2. There was a will to follow through on the preferences of those who made and funded their cryo arrangements. I would add that the best best is on an improving society, by extrapolating from the past. So, the risk seems small and the likely benefit enormous.

Expand full comment

Reading your essay makes me ponder the implications of your framework on other life and death matters, like suicide. You mentioned in regard to cryonics that "bad as death is, there are worse things." This raises the question: under your framework, would taking one's own life be considered "playing it safe"? While the idea may initially seem paradoxical and deeply flawed for multiple ethical and psychological reasons, it does present an interesting contradiction that deserves exploration. Perhaps I'm missing something in your argument, and I'd be interested in your thoughts on this. To be clear, I'm certainly not suggesting or advocating for suicide; I'm just questioning the logical implications of your argument.

Expand full comment

I'm confused by your claim about maize prices. Why would converting biofuel maize cropland to other use raise the price of food maize? I would have expected food maize cropland to be unchanged.

Is some of that land necessarily used for both? As in, perhaps certain farmers are growing maize for both purposes, and shutting down one use makes it profitable for them to shut down the other as well? Or is this a claim about speculation bubbles? Or something else? (I don't *think* I'm missing anything basic, but perhaps I am.)

Expand full comment

The keto diet is a disaster. " Michael Greger, MD from NutritionFacts.org offers a science-based approach. Check out: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-keto-diets-safe/ and https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-weight-loss-on-ketosis-sustainable/

See also Nutritarianism: It protects against heart disease, cancer and other risks by focusing on the healthiest foods on the planet. Nutritarian women can expect to live to between 97 and 108. It's slightly less for men. The so-called Blue Zone people live an extra eight years. Nutritarians in general live an extra 20 years. Sure, animal products have a few vitamins but there are thousands of micronutrients in plants, especially green veggies. It is impossible to be overweight on this plan. My cholesterol dropped over 100 points without a statin though I was already thin and eating healthily. See: https://www.drfuhrman.com/blog/210/beginners-guide

Expand full comment

Great article! It seems that perhaps Ice Cream isn't as bad as you believe, as there seems to be evidence that eating ice cream is good for you - it seems to lower diabetes. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2023/05/ice-cream-bad-for-you-health-study/673487/. There are also others who have found success on high fat diets: https://exfatloss.substack.com/.

What do you think of this? Is there anything in it?

Expand full comment

And, bad as death is, there are worse things. Or, as John Stark said, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

Expand full comment

Wise words.

*And, bad as death is, there are worse things.*

Expand full comment

Imagine your brain (or body) gets frozen in such a way that the information stored is preserved, and later, you're awakened, it would matter not if there was a heaven/hell or a virtual construct simulation in which "you," i.e. your programming, went; there would merely be two of you.*

The unfrozen verison would simply be years (decades, centuries) ahead of the frozen verison. Essentially it's own person, an original "you" with its own timeline going forward, but shared past experiences.

Now, if there is no afterlife (a supernatural or materialistic one) then the information, assuming it's preserved without destruction and awoken, would mean they'd be one of you.

*Obviously, there could be a supernatural being that didn't allow your stored information to stay in the brain, i.e. the copy wouldn't be a copy at all, but not only the original, but the only original. I suppose this must be the position a religious person would make, sense they'd be hard pressed to say they thought 2 souls were possible.

Since the world we live in, i.e. reality, pretty much lands at a zero probability of a soul existing, then either you wake up and you're it, still you, still the original, OR we do live in a simulation and it seems fair to assume it's possible in that case that "you" is backed up on the server in the next level up universe, thus there'd be 2 (or more) of "you." However, whether the people or AIs that run that next level up actually respin the "you" on storage in that universe, who knows....I suspect they might since that's half the fun of having a virtual world.

You get spun up and find yourself among old friends you'd forgotten about while you were spending a lifetime "playing Earth v. 12454."

The question of the day is what character do you want to play next and well, whether you should feel bad copying yourself in the Earth v. 12454 seeing as a zombie apocalypse is coming right after you get revived. Sadly.

Expand full comment

The thing with that erythritol study from my understanding is that it measured levels of erythritol rather than consumption of it. Your body actually produces it on its own, and we don't exactly understand why. It's possible it's elevated in people who are unhealthy as a byproduct of something, which has been seen in other substances. It should be studied more how this relates to consumption, but it's a single data point and very limited study

However, I will say that keto ice cream is probably quite unnecessary anyway if it's not saving you calories

Expand full comment

Making maize more expensive would make growing maize a more attractive investment and so cause capital to be allocated to increasing maíz production. Should end up only a little more expensive than before due to marginal costs going up from using worse land on average, since it’s already produced at scale.

So there’d be a period of higher cost followed by cost going down to about normal. But overall humanity would be better off, assuming biofuels are a net good. Which they aren’t but the argument that enriching farmers makes poor people starve is used a lot and is usually false.

Global warming is necessary to some degree but it seems like an insane experiment to cause more than enough to maintain our current biomes. But of course we should use methods that actually work.

Expand full comment