Refinement Culture (PT 2)

Enter the System

Cell Phones

People are constantly talking about different phones to buy like there's a difference.

All the phones are the same now. Just like the cars. The only exception is the extreme upper limit of cars $150,000+ and up.

These minimal improvements in each phone are indistinguishable to the average person. It's still 2007 we are stuck. All they can do is add another camera to the back. Refining.

Writing Style

They created some AI called GPT-3 that you can code to write articles.

It managed to get the top of Hacker News without anyone realizing it wasn’t a real person writing it.

The AI has managed to copy mid to late 2000s internet writing aesthetic pretty well. This style is a mix of academic-corporate speak which most internet writing has clustered into. This is mostly what the style of the publications like the New Yorker, popular intellectual magazines and popular blogs write in. When you read writing from this genre you can’t distinguish the author, because they all write the same.

The writing style is clustered into one form at the top

Look at this Standard middlebrow internet article writing below that the AI generated:

This type of writing is what you see everywhere. It's easy to mimic. GPT-3 cannot mimic the LindyMan style

“You exist in full if and only if your conversation (or writings) can not be easily reconstructed with clips from other conversations. “ - Bed of Procrustes

Optimization

Everyone is taking vitamins now. Trying to “optimize” their health and nutrients. Optimization is a component of refinement culture. The body is a complex system and systems cannot really optimize; optimization leads to nonlinear increase in hidden risks which invariably blows up the apparatus.

In human relationships we can't optimize without becoming greedy selfish unethical crooks. And in commerce we prefer relations to transactions, ready to support the local butcher because we feel we are part of a community and we are not alone --we are paid back with a smile and someone who says hello in the street. Indeed the central flaw in optimization is thinking that "everything else" ceases to exist and makes people think the individual, not the collective, is the true unit --when such thinking blows up the system. We humans are punished when we try to optimize, as if we suddenly ceased to be humans.

Vitamins

There's a general principle in play when talking about megadosing huge amounts of vitamins: evolution is an amazing engineer, and we are optimized *enough* for survival already. If we mess around too much we’ll get cancer or go crazy.

Multivitamin supplement stuff turned out bogus and even dangerous

e.g., Vitamin A should have protected from lung cancer—but probably causes it

and new data suggest the same for Vitamin B-12 supplements

Huge industry, but basically zero positive effects and possibly many negatives

all based on the idea that you could take one component of a healthy diet and mega-dose it in a pill

In the best studies, and over and over again, long term micronutrient megadosing *fails* to improve health outcomes, and sometimes makes them worse. But why? In general, hopes of finding a chemical fountain of youth are often based on association studies (people with good outcomes have X in their blood), along with a plausible mechanism for why X is causal—most commonly, that X has "anti-oxidant" or "protective" effects. Having established this, supplement companies then prepare megadoses of X far in excess of what can be achieved by diet alone. When randomized control trial studies finally get around to determining the effects of these treatments—many years after the money has been made—the results are less than disappointing. Vitamin A, D, and E megadoses are associated with significant *increases* in cancer incidence.

Attempting to alter basic blood chemistry should be done with caution

Here's the human metabolic network. Look how complex it is. You’re going to start megadosing everyday and wreck this thing.

The takeaway from this image is that biochemistry is non-linear. There are loops and feedback processes that maintain systems in homeostasis.

Imagine you notice schools that give kids math homework have better outcomes. On the basis of this, you increase math homework 100x.

Excellent reasons to believe that math homework is causally relevant to doing well in math. But with homework megadosing either...

1. everyone ignores the extra assignments, and carries on as before. Homeostasis.

2. other subjects are neglected, etc.—unindented side-effects.

One pair of interventions that reliably does have effects visible in randomized control studies: Calorie restriction / fasting, and exercise. This appears to work because they *increase* stress on the body temporarily (hormesis).

Surgery and Cosmetics

Women all wear the same makeup now. They all look kind of like Kim Kardashian. People who are aging are getting the same type of surgery: fillers, botox, etc. You’re seeing appearances converge into a few “looks”.

AirBnbs

Here are some articles on why there is the same look to expensive AirBnBs, the gentrification chic. It’s all refinement culture

1) https://www.ft.com/content/6996e7f2-7446-43e5-9c31-2606b9e316b7

2) https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/3/12325104/airbnb-aesthetic-global-minimalism-startup-gentrification