Post Health

Wincing at surveillance, the security state, medical devices, and free software

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Last week I saw a play version of . I winced throughout, perhaps due to over-familiarity with the topics and locale, and there are just so many ways a story with its characteristics (heavy handed politics that I agree with, written for adolescents, set in near future) can embarrass me. Had there been any room for the nuance of apathy, a few bars of Saturday Night Holocaust would’ve been great to work into the play. But the acting and other stuff making up the play seemed well done, I’m glad that people are trying to make art about issues that I care about, and I’d recommend seeing the play (extended to Feb 25 in San Francisco) for anyone less sensitive.

I also just watched Karen Sandler’s LCA talk, which I can’t recommend highly enough. It is more expansive than a short talk she gave last year at OSCON based on her paper Killed by Code: Software Transparency in Implantable Medical Devices.

I frequently complain that free/libre/open software and nearby aren’t taken seriously as being important to a free and otherwise good society and that advocates have completely failed to demonstrate this importance. Well, much more is needed, but the above talks give me hope, and Sandler in front of as many people as possible would be great progress.

Counterfeiting against inequality and addiction

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

When I read articles blaming advertisers for the bad behavior of (especially relatively poor) people who want advertised products (quoted material below mostly from linked story) I tend to think:

  1. To the extent “corporate pushers have made us addicts”:
    1. As a letter-to-the-editor from Michael Slembrouck says “You can ask your dealer to stop selling you dope because you have a problem, but if you keep giving him money he’s going to keep giving you the same dope.”
    2. It seems to me that being able to ignore/forgo potentially addictive messages/products is an important survival skill.
  2. More [free] speech (broadly speaking) is the answer:
    1. What is the hidden role of patent and trademark? In other words, what is the role of lack of cheap copies? Cheap copies would reduce incentive to advertise in the first place, and also reduce “the dreary feeling many get from walking by store windows knowing society offers no legal path for them to ever possess what is inside.” Is bad behavior supposedly related to lack of access to fashionable items reduced where counterfeit goods are plentiful? That’s a serious question, though of course answers will largely be swamped by cross cultural confounders.
    2. Regarding addiction and other adverse things characterized as such, I still think one of the best messages trusted figures (friends, ministers, the famous, etc) can convey is how totally unacceptable it is to follow spam — and I consider advertising to include a continuum from spam to useful information, with that critiqued as solely “manufacturing desire” tending toward the spam end.
    3. If advertising is so powerful, why not use it more for counter-addiction-and-other-adverse-messages? In the link above, I wished for the Ad Council to run a don’t-click-on-spam campaign. Maybe too close to its membership for comfort. Fortunately, access to media has improved greatly, including access to organizing for access to media. Hopefully things like LoudSauce (crowdfunded advertising) will help make that happen.

As indicated by the title, I mostly blogged this for 2(a). I think the contribution of intellectual protectionism to inequality is woefully underexplored and underexploited. I made a new category on this blog, Inequality Promotion, to remind me to attempt further exploration and exploitation.

Notability, deletionism, inclusionism, ∞³

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For the past couple years there has been an in English Wikipedia (archived version). It is an ok article. Some that I’d include isn’t, and some of what is seems kind of tangential, e.g., talking at a NASA event, that besides a citation, netted spending the day with an unholy mix of the usual social media suspects and entirely retrograde “we gotta put man humans into space because it makes me feel proud to be an American and my daughter might do her math homework!!!” boosters (get real: go robots!) and a sketch. However, overall it is fairly evocative, even the NASA event part. It would be uncool of me to edit it directly, and I’ve been curious to see how it would be improved, translated, vandalized, or deleted, so I haven’t made suggestions. It has mostly just sat there, though it has been curious to see the content copied in various places where Wikipedia content gets copied, and that a fair proportion of the people I meet note that I “have a Wikipedia page” — that’s kind of the wrong way to think about it (Wikipedia articles have subjects, not owners), but good to know that people can use web search (and that I can tend toward the pedantic).

!#@!@^% deletionists are ruining Wikipedia. They’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

The one thing that I have said about the article about me on English Wikipedia, until now, has been this, on my (not precisely, but moreso “mine”) user page on English Wikipedia: “I am the subject of Mike Linksvayer, which I would strongly advocate deleting if I were a deletionist (be my guest).” I’ve thought about pulling some kind of stunt around this, for example, setting up a prediction market contract on whether the article about me would be deleted in a given timeframe, but never got around to it. Anyway, last week someone finally added an Articles for Deletion notice to the article, which sets up a process involving discussion of whether the article ought be deleted (crickets so far). When rough consensus is reached, an admin will delete the article, or the notice will be removed.

I’m not a fan of deletionism (more below), but given the current rules around notability, I am either somewhat questionable as an English Wikipedia article subject (using the general, easy to interpret charitably summary of notability: “A person is presumed to be notable if he or she has received significant coverage in reliable secondary sources that are independent of the subject.”) to unquestionably non-notable (any less charitable interpretation, which presumably any “deletionist” would use, thus my user page statement). The person who added the Articles for Deletion notice may not have done any research beyond what is already linked in the article (more on that general case below), but I must admit, his critique of the citations in the article, are fairly evocative, just as the article is:

We have three sources from Creative Commons (primary), a paragraph in a CNET news article where he does his job and encourages scientists to use CC licenses, one IHT article about veganism that mentions him for a couple of paragraphs, and a link to his Wikipedia userpage. That is not enough for notability, in my opinion.

The IHT (actually first in the NYT) article was about calorie restriction, not veganism, but that’s a nitpick. Most of the “media” items my name has appeared in are indeed about Creative Commons, i.e., me doing my job, not me as primary subject, or in a few cases, about calorie restriction, with me as a prop. Or they’re blogs — ok that one is even less notable than most blogs, but at least it’s funny, and relevant — and podcasts. The only item (apart from silly blog posts) that I’ve appeared in that I’m fond of and would be tickled if added as a reference if the current article about me squeaks by or some future article in the event I as a subject become a no-brainer (clearly I aim to, e.g., “[make] a widely recognized contribution that is part of the enduring historical record in his or her specific field”, but even more clearly I haven’t achieved this) is in Swedish (and is still about me doing my job, though perhaps going off-message): check out an English machine translation.

I’m not a fan of deletionism, largely because, as I’ve stated many times, thinking of Wikipedias as encyclopedias doesn’t do the former justice — Wikipedia has exploded the “encyclopedia” category, and that’s a wonderful thing. Wikipedias (and other Wikimedia projects, and projects elsewhere with WikiNature) need to go much further if freedom is to win — but I’m partisan in this, and can appreciate that others appreciate the idea that Wikipedias stick close to the category defined by print encyclopedias, including strong limits on what might be considered encyclopedic.

It also strikes me that if Wikimedia movement priorities include increasing readership and participation that inclusionism is the way to go — greatly increase the scope of material people can find and participate in building. However, I’m not saying anything remotely new — see Deletionism and inclusionism in Wikipedia.

Although I’m “not a fan” I don’t really know how big of a problem deletionism is. In my limited experience, dealing with an Articles for Deletion notice on an article I’ve contributed to is a pain, sometimes motivates substantially improving the article in question, and is generally a bummer when a useful, factual article is deleted — but it isn’t a huge part of the English Wikipedia editing experience.

Furthermore, reading guidelines on notability closely again, they’re more reasonable than I recall — that is, very reasonable, just not the radical inclusionism I prefer. To the extent that deletionism is a problem, my guess now is that it could be mitigated by following the guidelines more closely, not loosening them — start with adding a {{notability}} tag, not an Articles for Deletion notice, ask for advice on finding good sources, and make a good faith effort to find good sources — especially for contemporary subjects, it’s really simple with news/web/scholar/book/video search from Google and near peers. I’m sure this is done in the vast majority of cases — still, in the occasional case when it isn’t done, and initial attempts to find sources and improve an article are being made during an Articles for Deletion discussion, is kind of annoying.

I also wrote some time ago when thinking about notability the not-to-be-taken-very-seriously Article of the Unknown Notable, which I should probably move elsewhere.

The delicious “dialectical inclusionism” quote above is from Gordon Mohr. Coincidentally, today he announced ∞³, a project “to create an avowedly inclusionist complement to Wikipedia”. There’s much smartness in his post, and this one is already long, so I’m going to quote the entire thing:

Introducing Infinithree (“∞³”)

Wikipedia deletionism is like the weather: people complain, but nobody is doing anything about it. 

I’d like to change that, working with others to create an avowedly inclusionist complement to Wikipedia, launching in 2011. My code name for this project is ‘Infinithree’ (‘∞³’), and this blog exists to collaborate on its creation.

Why, you may ask?

I’ll explain more in future posts – but in a nutshell, I believe deletionism erases true & useful reference knowledge, drives away contributors, and surrenders key topics to cynical spammy web content mills.

If you can already appreciate the value and urgency of this sort of project, I’m looking for you. Here are the broad outlines of my working assumptions:

Infinithree will use the same open license and a similar anyone-can-edit wiki model as Wikipedia, but will discard ‘notability’ and other ‘encyclopedic’ standards in favor of ‘true and useful’.

Infinithree is not a fork and won’t simply redeploy MediaWiki software with inclusionist groundrules. That’s been tried a few times, and has been moribund each time. Negative allelopathy from Wikipedia itself dooms any almost-but-not-quite-Wikipedia; a new effort must set down its roots farther afield.

Infinithree will use participatory designs from the social web, rather than wikibureacracy, to accrete reliable knowledge. Think StackOverflow or Quora, but creating declarative reference content, rather than interrogative transcripts.

Sound interesting? Can you help? Please let me know what you think, retweet liberally, and refer others who may be interested.

For updates, follow @_infinithree on Twitter (note the leading underscore) or @infinithree on

Infinithree is already very interesting as a concept, and I’m confident in Gordon’s ability to make it non-vapor and extremely interesting (I was one of his co-founders at the early open content/data/mass collaboration service Bitzi — 10 years ago, hard to believe). There is ample opportunity to try different mass collaboration arrangements to create free knowledge. Many have thought about how to tweak Wikipedia culture or software to produce different outcomes, or merely to experiment (I admit that too much of my plodding pondering on the matter involves the public domain↔strong copyleft dimension). I’m glad that Gordon intends ∞³ to be different enough from Wikipedia such that more of the vast unexplored terrain gets mapped, and hopefully exploited. As far as I know is probably the most relevant attempt so far. May there be many more.

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

‘s A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World as the name implies is an engaging history of long-distance trade from the dawn of history.

The book points out that jurisdictions and other actors throughout history have chosen among trading, raiding, and protection.

By my reading, raiding in the form of piracy and literal trade war was a substantial part of the mix everywhere — and reached its pinnacle among and by the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and English — until bulk goods with many sources came to dominate shipping in the 1800s. Spices that only grew in or the flyspeck were the opposite — subject to piracy, monopolization, and taxation along narrow routes and chokepoints. I have temporarily increased my consumption of the now pedestrian seeming cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and black pepper — only available to the very wealthy in well connected cities for most of history. Raiding in the form of conquering and plundering seems even more important and persistent, e.g. the and WWII and its aftermath.

Speaking of the scramble for Africa, this book points out many times the importance of disease in shaping history. As another book I read recently more forcefully pointed out, the scramble did not occur until the easy availability of anti-malarials — before the late 1800s, European death rates in tropical Africa were too high to sustain more than fortified trading posts. Bernstein even makes the fairly astounding claim that death rates were higher for European crew of slave ships than for the African slaves the ships transported.

The civlilization-destroying blow to the New World dealt by Old World diseases (and resulting relatively unopposed European colonization of the New World) is well known, but Bernstein speculates that disease may have also given Europeans an advantage versus the Islamic world, India, and China as well. The evidence is scantier, but the Black Death may have hit those regions even harder than it hit Europe, rendering them relatively weak at the dawn of European world-wide raiding and trading. 700 years earlier sealed the long-term decline of the Byzantine Empire and created an opening for the explosion of Islam.

The last few chapters are somewhat drier reading, perhaps mostly due to familiarity. Overall Bernstein makes the case that increased wealth and decreased transport costs have swamped any political changes in their impact on long-distance trade and that trade’s measurable impact on static well being is swamped by less tangible building of relationships and transfer of knowledge that accompanies trade, and that free traders imperil free trade to the extent they ignore those who lose from trade — paying off losers would be preferable to protecting them, for world-wide trade is net positive, and the alternative risks a spiral of trade wars leading to real wars.

By the way, Bernstein doesn’t mention intellectual property at all, now a staple of trade negotiations, apart from a single passing mention of a trademark applied to Danish hog and dairy products.


Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Sad news from , diagnosed with ALS. I’ve only met him briefly, but have been following his writing, mostly on mailing lists, for nearly two decades. Very few if any people exist whose thoughts I trust and respect as much as his.

Titled Dying Outside, Finney’s post about his diagnosis, is a fine example of his writing, for the future.

Via Robin Hanson.

Vegan cuisine day

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

November 1 was apparently World Vegan Day (via Zenpawn).

Earlier this year prior to visiting a city I asked someone who recently lived in that city and since returning to San Francisco has been on a vegan diet whether they knew of any great vegan restaurants in the city I would visit. Their reply was something like “no, I’ve only been vegan since I returned.” Which strikes me as odd — as if one would not eat at a Chinese restaurant because one is not Chinese.

I’ve encountered (mostly through overhearing) this strange attitude before — people who think that going to a vegan or merely vegetarian restaurant is crazy unless one is a vegan or vegetarian, or just maybe if a crazy veg*n friend or relative drags one along. I’ll chalk this up to a combination of general lack of imagination and negative reaction to vegan identity entrepreneurs.

As an alternative, I propose November 2 as “Vegan Cuisine Day” — the message is not “Go Vegan” but “go to a vegan restaurant” and discover a new cuisine.

Debunking debunking bad debunkers

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Yesterday I attended a talk by Aubrey de Grey, the purpose of which seemed to be to get feedback on messaging to potential donors. The feedback was good, but perhaps hard to hear. I hope de Grey uses some of it. Much of the feedback could apply to anyone selling a radical program.

Don’t dwell on your critics. Debunking detractors is too easy, comfortable, and personal. Every second you’re telling me why your detractors are wrong you’re not telling me how your idea will work. Suspicious. Reason puts it well:

[E]very new idea, every plan, arrives associated with a raft of dumb objections, but you won’t convince a smart, educated audience of the merits of your idea by taking time to dispel the dumb objections. The world is full of dumb ideas – many more of them than good ideas. Dumb ideas also arrive accompanied by dumb objections (just look at any average day in politics…), and one of the chores of being involved in a funding organization is to listen to people trying to demonstrate that a dumb idea has merit by demolishing dumb objections to that dumb idea. This is a form of rhetorical alchemy – often performed quite innocently by those sold on a plan that just won’t work – that raises red flags for folk in funding organizations.

Don’t dwell on the of your program (unless they’re short term money makers). De Grey claimed that repairing each of the seven causes of aging (with the possible exception of mutant mitochondria) individually would cure a raft of diseases. If true, this should be more than adequate to fund fixes for each of the seven causes individually without ever mentioning any potential for life extension. De Grey claimed this is a hard argument to make, as curing individual diseases through other means will be less expensive than the relevant cause of aging fix. If true, de Grey is either extremely optimistic about conventional medical research or is lying about the level of funding needed for his program, considering the $US billions spent on individual disease research annually. I suspect de Grey is wrong on this point and hope other researchers and organizations take an engineering-fixes-for-causes approach via funding for individual disease research.

Since my last (peevish) post mainly about de Grey’s work slightly over a year ago, Methuselah Mouse Prize total ($1.6m received plus $2.5m committed) funding has risen by nearly $1m. More importantly $4m has been raised for the research program, with LysoSENS and MitoSENS work having begun. De Grey also had a more concrete plan for ramping up the research program as funding becomes available than I recall having seen before; unfortunately I couldn’t find it quickly at

I still highly recommend giving to the Methuselah Mouse Prize/Foundation. Highly recommend would be an understatement. I don’t know of a more important cause.

Somewhat relatedly, I want to reiterate that even without repair technologies, increased lifespan over the past century was concomitant with decreased absolute time spent in a diseased state and that on an individual level, a healthy life expectancy increase is available now, no technology required.

Update 20070109: Reason argues that if the focus is not on fighting aging, progress will only be incidental and inefficient. Perhaps, but if nearly everyone is in a “pro-aging trance” as de Grey is fond of saying, should your marketing really depend on breaking that trance? Let’s face it, in all probability that trance will not be broken and relative to the medical innovations required is not even a major obstacle. Individuals will nearly always choose to prolong health and life (when self-control is not involved anyway), regardless of their emotional or religious attachments to death. In my view de Grey has done a great service by identifying a set of targets for repair and recommending an engineering approach. If there’s value in his approach it will be used by others with smaller goals resulting in faster and more efficient incidental progress against aging. The indefinite lifespan part of his pitch is just Macho Flash:

Macho Flash WORKS internally — at raising the most money from a small group of people (which then also KEEPS us small and insignificant).

Dangerous Optimism

Monday, January 1st, 2007

I never got around to commenting on responses to the 2006 Edge Annual Question — “What Is Your Dangerous Idea?” — as most were uninteresting, not dangerous, or simply lame.

It must’ve been the question, as this year’s responses — to “What Are You Optimistic About? Why?” — make for good reading. I’ll excerpt a few that resonate with themes I go on about.

Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence:

Even the mass murders of the twentieth century in Europe, China, and the Soviet Union probably killed a smaller proportion of the population than a typical hunter-gatherer feud or biblical conquest. The world’s population has exploded, and wars and killings are scrutinized and documented, so we are more aware of violence, even when it may be statistically less extensive.

My optimism lies in the hope that the decline of force over the centuries is a real phenomenon, that is the product of systematic forces that will continue to operate, and that we can identify those forces and perhaps concentrate and bottle them.

James O’Donnell says Scientific Discoveries Are Surprisingly Durable:

But the study of the past and its follies and failures reveals one surprising ground for optimism. In the long run, the idiots are overthrown or at least they die. On the other hand, creativity and achievement are unique, exciting, liberating—and abiding. The discoveries of scientists, the inventions of engineers, the advances in the civility of human behavior are surprisingly durable.

Clay Shirky on Evidence:

We will see a gradual spread of things like evidence-based politics and law — what is the evidence that this expenditure, or that proposed bill, will have the predicted result? The expectation that evidence can answer questions about the structure of society will discomfit every form of government that relies on sacrosanct beliefs. Theocracy and communism are different in many ways, but they share the same central bug — they are based on some set of assertions that must remain beyond question.

Jamshed Bharucha on The Globalization of Higher Education:

We are all better off when talent is realized to its fullest—even if it crosses borders.

I didn’t count, but I think the subject mentioned most often was climate change, with solar power as the thing most were optimistic about. My favorite take on climate change was Gregory Benford on Save The Arctic:

So: despair? Not at all. Certainly we should accept the possibility that anthropogenic carbon emissions could trigger a climactic tripping point, such as interruption of the gulf stream in the Atlantic. But rather than urging only an all out effort to shrink the human atmospheric-carbon footprint, my collaborators and I propose relatively low tech and low expense experiments at changing the climate on purpose instead of by mistake.

If we understand climate well enough to predict that global warming will be a problem, then we understand it well enough to address the problem by direct means.

There are also several good entries on health, life extension, and also networks-will-change-publishing — but my, isn’t the last relatively boring?

One last favorite, on human enhancement, Andy Clark on The End Of The ‘Natural’:

Second, the biological brain is itself populated by a vast number of hidden ‘zombie processes’ that underpin the skills and capacities upon which successful behavior depends. There are, for example, a plethora of such unconscious processes involved in activities from grasping an object all the way to the flashes of insight that characterize much daily skilful problem-solving. Technology and drug based enhancements add, to that standard mix, still more processes whose basic operating principles are not available for conscious inspection and control. The patient using a brain-computer interface to control a wheelchair will not typically know just how it all works, or be able to reconfigure the interface or software at will. But in this respect too, the new equipment is simply on a par with much of the old.

In sum, I am optimistic that we will soon see the end of those over-used, and mostly ad hoc, appeals to the ‘natural’. May we all have a thoroughly unnatural New Year.

A highly agreeable toast.

Many of the responses contain very rough predictions, reminding me of prediction registries, an idea Robin Hanson has said would obtain 80% of the benefits of prediction markets (I doubt the number is that high) and also promoted by David Brin. I think prediction markets and registries are almost entirely complementary.

I like Brin’s point that “One advantage of registries is that they can be involuntary.” A pundit can only avoid inclusion by effectively not making predictions (which may include being wishy-washy and imprecise). I conjecture that DiscourseDB (I mentioned previously) is a model of what a prediction registry would look like — just imagine cataloging “will” rather than “should” opinions, and add evaluation.

I’m surprised that none of the responses (I could have missed one) took the (unintended?) bait offered by combining the 2006 and 2007 questions: Is optimisim dangerous?

That depends on the subject of optimism. I think people tend to be dangerously optimisic about the outcomes of authoritarian processes, including both obvious societywide authoritarianism and conscious decisions made by individuals, but dangerously pessimistic about decentralized processes, including listening to external advice at the individual level.

Via Boing Boing, Marginal Revolution, or EconLog, all of which appeared in one batch of feed updates.

CR related questions

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Several people have asked me roughly the same questions after noticing me in last week’s NYT article on . I am not a physician, nutritionist, or even particularly knowledgeable amateur. In other words, I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Common questions with my answers follow anyway.

I don’t think I can restrict calories, what can I do to stay healthy?

You can still try to optimize your nutrition (the ON in CRON). Eat more vegetables, fewer grains, and cut out sugar to the maximum extent possible. You’ll probably end up eating fewer calories unintentionally.

I am extremely active, e.g., I run marathons. How can I do CR?

You’ll probably have to cut back. You need to consume lots of calories to perform at the highest levels in many sports and to participate in endurance sports. Kenton Mullins is a well known example in the CR community. From a news story in 2004:

The 37-year-old former body builder went from 4000 to 2000 calories a day. And to conserve energy, he surfs four hours a week instead of his usual 20.

Note, he still surfs.

If you do run marathons or similar and you want to stay healthy you may want to reconsider irrespective of CR. Read Art de Vany’s endurance training: death, injury and risk archives. De Vany, who is also skeptical about CR, gave an interesting presentation at CR IV that I may eventually summarize.

I don’t think I can restrict calories, should I take supplements?

I’d say “not yet.” Resveratol supplements are still expensive and of uncertain quality and effect. I agree with the view of Fight Aging:

The gold standard for science to back a form of metabolic manipulation is the research supporting the practice of calorie restriction. It is an open question to whether some shared mechanisms mean that calorie restriction mimetics like resveratrol can piggy-back on this wealth of data to a lower risk. But why take that risk? If you’re healthy and young, why risk the use of a compound with comparatively little data behind it versus a lifestyle practice with a great deal of data behind it? Equally, why dive in now versus waiting for more information?

The scientific world is littered with biochemicals that performed wonderfully in mice and then fell by the wayside in humans. The medical and supplement world is littered with poor or varied formulations of chemicals that have little to do with the forms used to obtain well-known laboratory results. There are many slips between the lab and your body; many are very hard or even impossible for folk like you or I to detect ourselves, but each passing year will reduce their number in any given case.

Pills (broadly speaking) are the future of life extension and health in general, but I don’t think their cost/benefit/risk calculus yet justifies using them as an important component of one’s health strategy.

I do take a daily multivitamin and calcium, but only to insure against missing some nutrients. I used to take lots of vitamins but decided it was a waste of time and money. I look forward to the day when effective interventions do exist.

The disgusting Mr. Linksvayer

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

It’s been mildly amusing watching reactions in the blogosphere to yesterday’s NYT article on calorie restrction that used me as an example.

A “beauty editor” says:

He’s practically emaciated (6 feet tall and 135 lbs) but he looks like he’s 16!

Both wild overstatements, though this reminds me — is there an age guessing site on the web, a la ?

A “fitness journalist” writes:

“Holy shit! That guy looks like he’s about to drop over dead!” You might guess that he has some kind of muscle-wasting disease. I know the angle of the photo isn’t flattering to a tall, long-limbed man, but perhaps the fact he’s sitting is appropriate. Honestly, he doesn’t look strong enough to stand.

And others like this. Yes, I can stand up, and so much more!

I did not realize how many bloggers copy and paste entire articles and call it a post. There are lots of them, not counting obvious spam blogs.

On the other side, CR blogger Mary Robinson has a reasonable critique:

I did not like Linksayer’s meals as an example. They are nice enough, but reinforce the stereotype that CR food is weird food. The text made it sound like he does not eat the same thing at all as the pictured food – he seems to eat a pretty normal regimen. So why show fermented soy for breakfast? My Fiber One and vegetable juice would have been less weird. Some yogurt and an orange would have been even better. I would like to have seen some fish in there for one meal. Maybe chicken at the other.

With a little more forethought I might have tried to prepare more mainstream meals. In my little bubble world, natto is normal. Regarding yogurt, fish, and chicken, I don’t eat them. I emphasized to the reporter many times that most people attempting CR are not vegan. If I had anything re-impressed on me from this article, it is that only a tiny bit of information can be squeezed into a news article.

The most satisfying blog commentary comes from Karen DeCoster:

Here is a photo of the disgusting Mr. Linksvayer:

He’s more frail than blown glass, has a very stooped posture, and his body parts are not in proportion. In fact, upon seeing him, you immediately notice that he has taken on the physical appearance of one who suffers from mental retardation – which is typical for malnourished adults.

2,100 calories? That average day does not even approach 2,100 calories – you can do the math. This man is eating between 500-900 calories per day, that is, on the days that he does not starve himself fast.

I can see where DeCoster might get those numbers from the pictures, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, they leave out dessert and multiple servings of lunch and dinner.

But more than enough about me. DeCoster’s main argument:

First, a restricted calorie diet eats up gobs of human muscle, reduces metabolism, kills energy, destroys hair and skin and nails, numbs brain function, and depletes necessary nutrition to dangerously low levels. Only these pro-starvation crackpots would possibly claim that people on these nutbag diets can still get adequate vitamins, minerals, and overall nutrition. They claim that breaking down your body is, in essence, really “building it up” for the long run. Then, of course, we come to the call for government intervention in the aging process:

There would be some truth to this if one were to sharply restrict calories on a standard amurrican diet, or worse. This is just malnutrition. There’s a reason “we” (people practicing CR) do CRAN (CR with Adequate Nutrition) and aim for CRON (with Optimal Nutrition). In fact CR people get far more vitamins and minerals than the average person. As for destruction of hair, nails, brain, etc., nothing could be further from the truth. Aging breaks down the body. CR doesn’t build anyting up, it slows down the destruction, not least by nearly eliminating risk for major killers and disabilities like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and alzheimer’s.

My suggestion to DeCoster is to do a bit of research and to follow Fight Aging for awhile. She’ll even appreciate that blog’s general skepticism of the usefulness of government funding, for example:

While in general I’m all for raising public awareness of any plasticity of the human lifespan, we’ve all seen the objections to the Longevity Dividend; it is unambitious and slow, setting the bar so low that the target gains will probably happen anyway. It is the sort of lowest common denominator big tent approach that gets politicians to spend tax dollars on inefficient ways forward while ignoring the real possibilities of doing far better.

I am particularly amused that DeCoster wrote on I used to have a love/hate relationship with this and its sister site, Trenchant and extreme anti-war and anti-government commentary, including against intellectual protectionism. But the occasional Christian apologia, pro-apartheid writers, and general nuts really put me off. Then there’s the despicable Hoppe. Fortunately I am able to no longer care. There are many substitutes on the topics those sites were good on, and I am mostly convinced by Bryan Caplan on Austrian economics that the school does not just appear to be an ignorable backwater, it is. Part of Caplan’s conclusion reminds me yet again of the perils of meta:

Neoclassical economists go too far by purging meta-economics almost entirely, but there is certainly a reason to be suspicious of scholars who talk about economics without ever doing it.

To bring this ramble to a close, doing CR is definitely not meta.

Update 20061102: Cool, Reason too, with attitude and not much information. Others, at least check out the and learn how to use the NYT link generator before posting. You’ll look a bit less stupid.