Skills: Learn both bayesian and frequentist statistics. E T Jaynes’s book, also Gelman’s Bayesian Data Analysis, and any solid frequentist textbook e.g. Goodman Teach Yourself Statistics 1972 edition. Also Judea Pearl Causality. Read the papers critiquing current methods (why most published research findings are false, the recent papers criticising the use of P values).
You will need calculus and linear algebra to get far but for reading the medical literature you can probably ignore measure theory.
Heuristics: Look at sponsorship, both for the study itself and for the researchers (speaking fees, sponsorship of other papers. This massively skews results.
Look for ideological or prior commitments by authors. This also massively skews results.
Look out for p hacking / garden of forking paths i.e. degrees of freedom that result in ‘significant’ results being claimed when this is not valid.
Understand the difference between statistical significance and practical significance. Understand how arbitrary the 5% threshold for statistical significance is. Understand that a result falling short of statistical significance may actually be evidence *for* an effect. No significant effect /= no effect, may mean probably is an effect.
Understand how little most medical people from GP to professors know about statistics and how often basic statistical errors occur in the literature (e.g. lack of statistical significant taken to be disproof as in the Vioxx debacle).
Read the methods section first. Don’t read the results part of the abstract or if you do, check that all the claims made are backed up by the body of the paper.
When reading meta-analyses look hard at the papers they are based on—you cannot make silk from sows ears. Be very wary of any study that has not been replicated by independent researchers.
Be aware of the extreme weaknesses of epidemiological and observational studies and be very sceptical of claims to have “controlled for” some variable. Such attempts are usually miserable failures, invalid and can make things actually worse. See Pearl’s book.
As an example here is copypasta from the latest dietary guidelines:
Adults who are obese should change their eating and physical activity behaviors to prevent additional weight gain and/or promote weight loss. Adults who are overweight should not gain additional weight, and those with one or more CVD risk factors (e.g., hypertension and hyperlipidemia) should change their eating and physical activity behaviors to lose weight. To lose weight, most people need to reduce the number of calories they get from foods and beverages and increase their physical activity. For a weight loss of 1 to 11⁄2 pounds per week, daily intake should be reduced by 500 to 750 calories. Eating patterns that contain 1,200 to 1,500 calories each day can help most women lose weight safely, and eating patterns that contain 1,500 to 1,800 calories each day are suitable for most men for weight loss. In adults who are overweight or obese, if reduction in total calorie intake is achieved, a variety of eating patterns can produce weight loss, particularly in the first 6 months to 2 years;  however, more research is needed on the health implications of consuming these eating patterns long-term.
Straight wall to wall calories in calories out.
I don’t buy this at all.
The OP has attacked Taubes on a peripheral issue and used that to make it look like Taubes got it wrong on his central theses. And I don’t think he did.
Even on this peripheral issue, I think Taubes is actually basically right. I have read 3 of his books and watched a few of his talks so I know his views on the topic.
Overwhelmingly the advice to consumers has been eat less move more. As if that was a solution to the problem of weight gain. My own doctors have said this to me. Not a word about more sophisticated approaches to regulating appetite and hunger.
The scientific rationale for the 2015-2020 guidelines has barely a thing to say about this. They have some ideas about eating less sugar and less takeaway food but evcen there the main argument is the hoary old chestnut about calorie density (fat = 9 calories / gram versus healthy carbs at 4).
Of course you can find some quotes suggesting that regulation of weight is complex. But overwhelmingly the message is calories in calories out. Ancel Keys—who dominated the field, and was funded in part by packaged food companies—gave this message repeatedly in his works.
Dietary policy in the US (and therefore in most of the world) has been a monumental failure with skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes. The fall in smoking rates and better treatments have masked the impact of this on heart disease.
There is a long and sad history of the recommendations not being evidenced based and being skewed by the packaged food industry and by vegetarian/vegan zealots (particularly more recently).The AHA’s original big funding splash came from Proctor and Gamble, who marketed the wonder food, Crisco, full of “healthy” trans vegetable fats.
Read the reports over time and look at the evidence that wasn’t there and the evidence that was ignored.
Weren’t you trying to argue that mainstream science doesn’t make mistakes?
I would emphasise that you can be productive for far more than 4 hours a day. For example doing routine clerical work. But there does seem to limits on work at deliberate practice level or above. If you disagree, install Anki on your phone and download or make a deck of some things you are interested in memorizing. Keep adding cards until you have done 4 hours according to Anki (clock time may be 50% longer as you goofed off at various times without realizing it). Now do this for a week and report back.
Often people will say they practice violin for 6 hours, but you will usually find that there is a lot of down time in there.
Why I believe this
1. The book “daily rituals”, and references therein. People at the apex of achievement seem to work—at maximum intensity, not drone tier busy work—not much more than 4 hours a day. You would think that if it were possible to do more someone would, and they would surpass them.
The typical day would be 4 hours of damn hard creative work, 4 hours of taking care of business, 4 hours of fun. A good life.
2. I go looking for exceptions that do work really hard (deliberate practice hard) and they are few and far between. They seem either to burn out (Proust—died in his early 50s) or use serious drugs (Erdos—amphetamines) or seriously affect their health (Richard Stallman).
3. That study that I can’t find right now that the violinists that made it practiced for about 4-5 hours a day. They were able to eke out an extra hour by napping in the middle.
4. My own experience. OK I am not that young anymore but 4 hours a day knocks me out. I am very happy to achieve 4 hours a day. I have been tracking this and average about 2.5/day, gradually going up
When people hear about the 4 hours thing they tend to think it is far too low. My advice to people is to try to get to 4 hours and *then* worry about going past it. If you can actually work maximally hard for 4 hours a day you will kill it. If you try to go past the 4 hours your brain will find ways to “procrastinate”.
Also note that IMHO you cannot “carry forward” the 4 hours. Use it or lose it. At least that is my experience. Maybe you can do 3,5,4, etc but not much more, not 2,6,0,8.
I am interested in any other exceptions apart from the ones I listed above.
Two issues here
1. Correlation is not transitive as you seem to assume (the claim is a) sat fats corr cholesterol, and b) cholesterol corr to heart disease, therefore c) sat fats corr heart disease, therefore d) sat fats cause heart disease) . A correlated to B and B correlated to C does not even mean A is correlated to C, let alone that A causes C.
2. When you go looking for solid evidence for saturated fats causing heart disease—as I have—it just isn’t there.
What seems to have happened is that the field was for many years dominated by one man Ancel Keys who had a hunch that saturated fat was the culprit. He then fell prey to the usual cognitive biases, e.g. confirmation bias, and failed to update his views based on evidence.
Unfortunately the mania against saturated fats has let to a large uptake in intake of carbs in particular sugars (which Keys said was better than SF at least on one occasion), and Omega 6 fats contained in industrial seed oils (“vegetable oils”), trans fats and various other abominations that have been replacing trans fats.
Read this and note how weak and old the evidence cited here is (president of the AHA).
Circulation. 2017;136:e1–e23. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510
Per your comment about realizing there is a mistake I get the feeling that the tide is turning and they are slowly walking it back.
Contrast the article above with this talk on the issue.
I don’t have a citation but I did read a paper which appeared to show that, while at first fat cells get smaller (and unhappier!), after about two years excess cells get culled. So if you can tough it out for two years it gets easier.
I acknowledge that there is also research that says otherwise. Not too easy to find, though journalism that says this is easy to find.
Both my wife and I lost about 15 kg of fat and did find after a couple of years life got easier, so maybe it’s true.
I had the same experience. In my case I actually tested this and I found to my great surprise that I was more productive at tough (for me) intellectual tasks when dieting (500 calorie deficit).
It might be worth testing if not actually done yet.
I do accept that some people have terrible problems mobilizing body fat for fuel. This can drive appetite.
Weight loss is a wicked problem. There can be many reasons for overeating. Psychology (i found IFS therapy best here), high insulin from excess glycemic carbs, genetic ungiftedness, hormonal issues often driven by excess fructose and/or Omega 6 fats.
What is frustrating is you have to get it all right before you lose weight sustainably.
This is not as simple as it looks.
I think it would be better to provide a way to note that a claim is contested. It is just not clear in many cases what the facts are.
To add value to this, you could tell people what things the various parties think are facts. People might be interest to hear that the site says Elvis is still alive, the earth is flat, that evolution is a communist lie, that this commentator said in 2007 there was a ‘zero’ chance of a major housing downturn in our lifetime, that this site said that Trump had no chance to win in 2016, that (6 months ago) the Muller report is going to be coming out within a few days, etc.
Other useful information: Who owns, sponsors, pays for lots of advertisements etc on that site? Where would you position them ideologically? Do they admit errors and publish retractions?
Trump has a good chance to win the 2016 election.
Fact check: False! The NYT says Clinton has > 98% chance to win!
if you were to discover that apples were twice as valuable, you could simply pretend that you instead received twice as many apples
No, because twice as many apples are not usually twice as valuable. This because utility functions are not linear.
You can kind of deal with uncertainty about utility by fudging expectations about outcomes but, trust me, it is the primrose path to hell.
Read a few of the sequences. Then read the book. Then read all the sequences.
I found the book very good.
I do not have time to wade through a one hour presentation without a strong indication that it is very good.
Found and read the speaker notes.
Utterly fails to make the case
Basically it is emotive activist propaganda
Full of left wing applause lights
I agree global heating is a big problem. A wicked hard to solve problem. Along with a lot of other problems we face that are just as bad or worse. I find it strange—this mono-focus on global heating.
Finance is full of such hidden risks. Start a fund, take insane risks, maybe generate outsize returns ⇒ profit by growing funds under management and take a % of that.
If not, try, try again. Google “incubator funds”. Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness has many examples.
But if you are taking risks, won’t people see it and shun you? Probably not. It is very hard to see risk after the event. It is not too hard to “stuff the risk into the tails”. There are even conslutants who will help you do this.
Even without cheating, when a test is very stringent, then an alarming fraction of the apparent top performers may have just had a lucky day.
It seems that sub-personalities do not actually exist, but are created by the human mind at the moment of query.
This is one good way to rationalize them. It doesn’t really much matter whether this is true or not.
I am not OP but I can give an example.
As background there are some activities that are general purpose feeling obliterators and thus are commonly used by firefighters: binge-eating, drinking alcohol, drugs, sex, TV, video games…
I have been fighting with my weight for many (26!) years. I did lose a lot of weight but still at BMI 26 and could not get off that last 7kg. Using the IFS process I identified the firefighters which used eating to make various feelings go away:
Social stress, anxiety about food being available (from when I was young = “Jimmi”), feelings of emotional deprivation (childhood situation), feelings of frustration when I could not understand something, feeling tired, feeling frightened (childhood situation)
Once I connected with these protectors and made friends with them, connected (with their permission) with the original exiles, and established that the problems have solutions, I have been able to stick to my diet for 50 days straight and lose 2.5kg in less than two months. This takes me almost half way to my target.
As an example how much has changed I have had a packet of chocolate biscuits in my refrigerator for the last few weeks with no drama at all about being tempted to eat them (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Tam).
Why do I have a packet of tim-tams in the fridge?
This is a possibly interesting aspect of the IFS process. Having satisfied all the exiles that their problem is solved you are supposed to check in with them every day for a week. You should also check in with the protectors every day, that they are happy also and that they are liking the new roles they have chosen for themselves.
Well the character Jimmi above on the second check-in said that he bought in theory that nowadays I can always get the food I need but he wanted actual proof. So we went and bought various foods that 8 year old Jimmi liked. Thus the tim-tams. This then satisfied him. But I ate them as part of my diet e.g. this morning I had two tim-tams as my carb/fat portion of breakfast. They were delicious!
I give this as an example of where thinking of the parts as characters can sometimes help. How you rationalize them is less important.
LWers can get too hung up on the theory of things. “I know it works in practice but does it work in theory” as one economist said.
All models are wrong but some are useful. I find this one useful.
As OP pointed out, IFS is very useful for understanding other people. Additionally if you model someone’s bad behavior as a part flaring up, it can help you to be more compassionate.
This post would be much helped by some explanation and context.
AIXI—I happen to know what this is but maybe not everyone does
UDT—Maybe Updateless Decision Theory? Maybe something else?
“the policy”—what policy?
“the algorithm I wrote”—where might I find this algorithm?
General practice is to have links from new terms.
I see that most of your postings seem to have similar issues. Even in pure math papers they tend to put references so the reader has some chance to work out what you are talking about.
There is a rich literature on design anti-patterns and the reasons they exist and survive.
Agree that biology looks like a classic legacy system, but worse:
3.5B years old
3.5B years old
No source code
No source code
Suggestion to test your theory: Look at the best AI results of the last 2 years and try to run them / test them in a reasonable time on a computer that was affordable 10 years ago.
My own opinion is that hardware capacity has been a huge constraint in the past. We are moving into an era where it is less of a problem. But, I think, still a problem. Hardware limitations infect and limit your thinking in all sorts of ways and slow you down terribly.
To take an example from my own work. I have a problem that needs about 50Gb RAM to test efficiently. Otherwise it does not fit in memory and the run time is 100X slower.
I had the option to spend 6 months maybe finding a way to squeeze it into 32Gb. Or, what I did: spend a few thousand on a machine with 128Gb RAM. To run in 1Gb RAM would have been a world of pain, maybe not doable in the time I have to work on it.
I think you need to make a stronger case that mockery is bad.
Cultures often have harmful dysfunctional components, which should be criticised—and mockery is one of the more potent forms of criticism.