Was Facebook’s Meta announcement a botched example of PR hilarity where we all make fun of robot Zuckerberg? Or did they expect that we would do exactly that, making it into a fantastically orchestrated PR maneuver, where Facebook’s public relations team successfully distracted us from unpleasant truths and the true nature of the company?
In this video, I suggest that it’s the latter and that we need to be more wary. If you think that a PR team like Facebook’s can’t use memes like “reptile Zuckerberg” for their own benefit, I think you are underestimating them.
Self-help groups are great – when they work to help their members. Some, however, stray far from their path and become inescapable pits of despair. This is most often seen in relationship advice, weight loss, mental health and addiction recovery spaces.
Learn how to avoid the groups that will just trap you in learned helplessness and what to watch out for when you’re looking for a group to help you with your problems.
So you decided to join a self-help group. Good choice. Accountability can surely help… but you need to know that self-help groups can turn bad and if you don’t keep your wits about you, you might find that your self-help group becomes more of a self-harm group.
Talking about incels here feels unavoidable, because they’re such a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
Did you know they started out innocuous? The person who coined the term is horrified by what it turned into, when it was originally meant to be essentially a self-help group for lonely people who were not sure how to start dating in challenging circumstances. These days? It’s a pit of despair, learned helplessness and rage.
They are far from the only such group, however. There are various sub-groups in the addiction recovery space that have simply given up, you can find such groups in weight loss and fitness spaces, as well as in the mental health space, where many are under the impression that no treatment or therapy will ever work for them.
How does this happen? How do groups with the lofty goal of uplifting its members turn into something so antithetical to their original goals?
Evaporation of Expertise
“Evaporation of expertise”, at least that’s what I call it. Any self-help group that doesn’t invest time and effort to stop it from happening runs the risk of running into this problem.
Think of it as being analogous to literal evaporation of water. What happens there? Water molecules don’t all turn to vapor at the same time. They have different levels of energy – it’s the highest energy particles that leave first, while the lower energy ones stay behind. When the high energy particles leave, they take their energy with them and the remaining water gets colder.
Let us run a quick simulation to see what happens [see video]. How does this simulation work? Two simple rules – one, the least toxic members of the group are the most likely to succeed at their goals and leave. Those are the spheres who you see turn yellow and leave the group.
What do I mean when I say toxic? It’s not just being an asshole, although it does include that. It’s also other behaviors and thought patterns that make it unlikely for you to succeed – it’s learned helplessness, lack of discipline and commitment, inability to deal with failure and so on and so forth. The more toxic you are, the greener and then darker your sphere is.
Two, new recruits won’t join a group that they find repulsive or just too much of a downer. On the left, you can see potential new recruits. If they go right, they join the group. If they go left, the group was too toxic for them – they decided that they’re not interested, even though their goals align with it.
I think you’ve been watching this simulation long enough to see the pattern here. The most capable people join the group but they don’t stay long – they solve the problem they wanted to solve, whether that’s beating an addiction, weight loss, getting into a relationship or whatever is the group’s core goal. They may dispense some advice and wisdom on their way out, but eventually they leave – after all, they’ve got their lives to live now and there’s not much incentive to stay forever. They take their accumulated knowledge, wisdom, expertise and plain positivity and resilient character out of the picture – the group, on average, becomes less able in all these things.
Despite the fact that we started with an unrealistically motivated and saintly group with near-zero toxicity, the group is now composed of a core of bitter veterans who’ve been unable to solve the problem. If things get bad enough, they may cease to believe that improvement is possible at all – at that point, crab mentality often follows and the group becomes an almost-inescapable pit of despair for any remaining members.
That, in turn, affects recruitment. If the group gets a bad reputation, now only people who don’t mind join. That is not a problem if the group’s bad reputation is undeserved, but it’s a serious issue if it isn’t.
What can you do about this? The biggest red flag warning sign is crab mentality. A group member achieving their goals should be cause for celebration; if the group denigrates those who succeed among their ranks – or assumes that every member will come crawling back as a failure once more – you need to get out, because nothing good will come from you staying there.
How can this be avoided?
Keeping the experts around. While there are a bunch of things I don’t like about Alcoholics Anonymous and its off-shoot groups, I can’t deny that they’ve had a very smart idea of investing time and effort into keeping their expert members around. Those sobriety badges are pure genius – monetarily, they don’t cost very much, but they have an enormous emotional and symbolic meaning to the person receiving them. That’s a powerful incentive to stick around or at least visit.
Leadership and moderation. A group that polices its members’ beliefs may feel stifling to any free spirits in the audience, but it can be an unfortunate necessity to prevent corruption from the group’s original noble goals. This can take the form of an actual leader who sets group policy; or it can be a culture of calling out shitty behavior.
Constant infusion of fresh blood. Aggressive recruitment can keep the level of toxicity reasonably manageable, but it’s obviously a somewhat imperfect solution.
Barriers to entry. Don’t take this as me endorsing commercial self-help groups – there are so many scams and bad actors in this space that I can’t do that. However, I can’t deny that a barrier to entry can keep toxicity at bay. The biggest losers are unlikely to be willing to put down serious money to join a self-help group because they don’t believe that change is possible in the first place. A barrier to entry will filter out the most toxic people.
Does this mean that a group needs any of those things to stay corruption-free? No, but they sure help. Free groups with limited moderation can still be valuable places, so long as you remember to watch out for crab mentality.
If you think this video will help you avoid toxic self-help groups, like and subscribe. I invite you to comment down below about your own experiences with self-help groups turned toxic. Thanks for your time.
The ethics of digital piracy have always been a hot topic. Dishonest copyright holders want to convince you that piracy is stealing, but that argument is total nonsense and here, I demonstrate why.
The philosophical implications of piracy are simply too different from stealing to consider them the same thing or even remotely similar.
You’ve probably heard the line “You wouldn’t download a car” before. If’s a spoof of this very edgy anti-piracy PSA, which attempts to make the claim that piracy is stealing. PSAs like that are not the only place you hear it – it’s a widespread false equivalence that people use to attempt to bludgeon your conscience into thinking that piracy is much worse than it actually is.
If I steal your stuff, you lose it. If I pirate your stuff, you don’t. Your overall wealth decreases when stuff is stolen from you, but it stays the same if your stuff is pirated. When someone pirates something from you, you only lose the possibility of potential future profits.
Attempting to claim equivalence between the two when the difference is that massive is just dishonest.
And yes, it is only that, a mere possibility. Do you think that those avid consumers of media, who pirate fifty titles a month would buy them all if piracy was impossible? Of course not. Almost no one has an entertainment budget that large. In the absence of piracy, they would simply be far more selective with the titles they play or watch, less experimental and less open to new experiences. If you still think otherwise, consider whether downloading a title and then copying it a thousand times inflicts a thousand times the economic damage. Of course not, the mere possibility is absurd.
The argument usually turns emotional at this point: but how would YOU like it if someone pirated something that YOU’VE worked very hard on? That is a fantastic question, one that perfectly demonstrates why piracy is not stealing.
Imagine you’ve worked very hard on an intellectual property and you just released it. Unfortunately for you, the work doesn’t get much attention from customers. Now the timeline splits.
In timeline 1, clever thieves and conmen steal everything you own. You go to the proper authorities to attempt to defend yourself but the thieves were just too good. There’s no evidence of any wrongdoing. All your wealth has been stolen from you and can’t be recovered – you’re penniless and homeless.
In timeline 2, your work does get some attention from customers – but not legal ones – it gets pirated a whole bunch. The combined value of all the sales you could’ve potentially made if all the pirates purchased a copy is equal to your entire wealth.
If you truly want to make the claim that piracy is equivalent to stealing, you now have to say: I don’t care which timeline I find myself in. They’re both equally bad. The actual losses from having my stuff stolen are just as bad as the virtual losses from having my stuff pirated. The problem with making this claim is that everyone knows it’s a bald-faced lie – only extreme masochists would prefer to live in timeline 1.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that people would prefer to live here even if we made timeline 2 way worse. If your stuff got pirated ten times more, a hundred times more, a million times more – if a billion people downloaded your work and not a single one paid a cent, that’s still a better timeline to live in than the first one. Especially since their downloads are not entirely valueless – sure, a pirated copy is not as good as a bought one, but in real life, exposure and eyeballs on your product still matter.
Does all of this mean that I think that piracy is all cool and perfectly okay?
No, I don’t. Baked into every creative work, there’s a cost. There’s someone or many someones who put resources – time and likely money – on the line. If their ventures are unrewarding, they will eventually pack up shop and go do something else. Yes, there is harm done with piracy – it’s just not the same harm as stealing. If you enjoyed their content and you chose to not reward them, that’s bad news for you, the creator and everyone whose tastes align with yours.
Note that I very consciously used the word “chose” here. Harm only matters if it’s preventable, if you have a realistic choice to do otherwise. We don’t blame people for breathing, even though it introduces carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You are not morally praiseworthy if you donate to charity when threatened to do so, nor are you a bad person if you cause harm when your life is threatened.
Once again, we have two timelines. In timeline 1, the creator gets nothing and you don’t enjoy their work because you couldn’t afford it and you didn’t pirate it. In timeline 2, the creator gets nothing because you can’t afford it, but you do get to enjoy their work because you pirated it. It seems to me like timeline 2 is better – and it can be made even better than that.
If you can’t monetarily support creators whose work you enjoy, you can still find ways to support them in other ways. Like, comment, subscribe, interact with their platforms online. Share and promote their work on social media. If your circumstances do not permit it, I genuinely think that’s as virtuous as you can get in this situation.
The Fermi Paradox – the question of why there are no aliens and why we are alone in the universe – has a remarkably simple solution that is often overlooked. Intelligence(and artificial intelligence) is so powerful that we should expect to find ourselves alone, even in the absence of any roadblocks that would stop technological civilizations from arising and surviving.
X-Files was criticized for being anti-science, most famously by Richard Dawkins. Was it? Yes, but Dawkins missed the mark on what made X-Files truly anti-science. The show was not what it seemed or what it told you.
Every clickbait article in the world tells you that BMI is a terrible metric and an awful way to measure obesity. Is it, though? No. BMI is far better than you think and its use in medicine is fully justified.
However, BMI does have a true fatal FLAW that most people aren’t aware of…
If you value truth more than comfortable lies, this video is made for you. “Good news about your bad habits” is a type of clickbait where someone tries to reassure us that our bad habits are just fine, really. I thought I would highlight an example of this in action, that is, BMI and criticism thereof, most of which are profoundly silly, driven by clickbait, wildly exagarrated concerns and people wanting to be reassured about their bad habits.
Why does BMI provoke such a reaction and stern opposition? That is remarkably simple to figure out – BMI is trivial to calculate, which makes it hard to ignore and it tells you that you’re fat. If given a magic body sculptor that effortlessly let you choose your body type, almost no one would choose to be, so realizing that you are is bad news for most people, something they don’t want to hear.
Of course, if you disagree with that outlook, that’s fair. They’re your choices and if you accept their consequences, then it’s not my place to tell you how to live your life. However, I do want to encourage you to make informed choices about your future and being in denial about what BMI means for you is not making an informed choice. If you’re truly at peace with your decisions, you should not have any problem accepting what they mean in reality.
I know that this topic is very charged for some people. If that’s you, take a deep breath and let go of that tension. I’m not a threat to you. You’re safe. The only thing that can happen here is that you’ll know more than you did before.
Bad Argument #1: Athletes
I’d like for you to imagine the following scenario. You are a doctor. Someone comes into your clinic. They want a comprehensive health check-up, so you oblige and perform a battery of tests for them.
You find the following:
The patient has an enlarged heart.
They have an abnormally slow heart rate – known as bradycardia.
The blood tests you perform show signs of kidney and liver damage.
The patient has been regularly coughing a tremendous amount recently.
While no doctor would perform a muscle biopsy or a similarly invasive test just because, this is a thought experiment, so let’s assume that they did – their muscle biopsy shows signs of intramyocellular lipids. A lot of them. That is, fat in their muscle cells.
Last, but certainly not least, they have a BMI that indicates they’re overweight.
Sounds rough. How bad is it?
Depends. Is the patient a strength and endurance hybrid athlete, who ran a marathon a few days prior to taking the tests or otherwise had an epic workout very recently?
If so, it’s probably not a big deal. The enlarged heart with an unusually slow heart rate is a condition known as athlete’s heart – it’s benign, arguably even beneficial. Transient elevations in kidney and liver markers are in line with expectations for hardcore endurance workouts. An excess of intramyocellular lipids would indicate insulin resistance normally – a sign of developing diabetes – but athletes have high levels of intramyocellular lipids while maintaining their insulin sensitivity. This is known as the Athlete’s Paradox. Coughing after exercise, known as post-exercise asthma is actually more common in elite athletes than the general population.
All in all, our athlete is unlikely to be in dire straits. As a responsible doctor you tell your patient to take it easy for a week, do no workouts and you’ll run the tests again to be sure, but there’s no reason to panic yet.
What if they’re sedentary and overweight, however? Then you’ve got some seriously bad news to break to your patient. Multiple failing organ systems – heart, liver, kidneys. Diabetes on top of that and likely a serious infection.
I assume you wouldn’t ignore these signs of disease just because they can be benign in athletes, so what sense does it make to ignore BMI?!
Bad Argument #2: Body Composition
The prevalence of obesity, PEDs and steroids have skewed people’s perception of what is achievable and normal as far as physique development goes. To be lean by body fat percentage while being overweight is the sort of thing that takes years of dedicated resistance training exercise, if it’s possible for you at all. It’s not easy to get that jacked. You don’t get there by maybe occasionally doing some push-ups.
To put it simply: if you’re overweight, but you don’t have a body that could convincingly play a superhero in a Hollywood production, you’re not a special athletic exception, you’re just overweight.
Bad Argument #3: BMI Is Racist??
Technically, yes, I suppose. Obesity has a different impact on people of different ethnicities – but that only makes BMI racist in the same sense in which sickle cell disease and skin cancer are racist.
This argument, in truth, a blatant attempt at manipulation. You can intimidate people by calling them racist, but you can’t do that to medical fact. Biology doesn’t care what you call it.
Bad Argument #4: BMI Is Sexist?
Men and women are, in fact, at higher risk of metabolic disorders at different levels of body fat. Men are obese at 25% body fat, while women are at around 33% body fat.
Men, however, tend to carry more lean mass too – which means that BMI roughly works out across genders
Bad Argument #5: The Inventor of BMI
There are a whole bunch of arguments that focus on the qualities or opinions of the inventor of BMI. They don’t matter. Dismissing inventions or ideas based on their origin is known as the genetic fallacy – judge an idea based on its own merits.
If you disagree and believe that we should care about the origin of an idea, Henry Ford supported Hitler – and the former is responsible for the invention of the modern factory, so I wish you the very best of luck in living up to those principles.
Bad Argument #6: Some Thin People Are Unhealthy, Some Fat People Are Healthy
This is not specifically about BMI, but that point comes up often enough to be worth addressing. Let us ask ourselves the question: are there some smokers who are healthier than some non-smokers? The answer is obvious – there sure are.
Does that mean anything for whether or not smoking is healthy? Of course not. Smoking is always unhealthy and excessive body weight is no different.
Bad Argument #7: But My 90-Year Old Grandma
Some people also have grandmas who lived to 90 while smoking. This does not mean they dodged the health effects of those habits. That smoking grandma who lived to 90 likely would’ve lived to a hundred if not for the smoking – and she’d have enjoyed a higher quality of life in her preceding decades.
This is, of course, absurd. Would you play Russian Roulette with 4 bullets in the revolver? If not, a 30% chance of being metabolically healthy should not reassure you either.
But it gets worse.
In this study, MHO evolved to normal obesity in almost fifty percent of patients at a median of twelve years follow-up. In this study, it was 44% of patients at nine years follow-up… but those are just the appetizers, so let’s skip the foreplay here – it’s time to look at a meta-analysis that compiles dozens of studies.
Given a decade, 85% of obese people are metabolically unhealthy. What do you think happens in another decade or two? How much do you want to bet on winning rounds of Russian Roulette over and over and over again?
Semi-Bad Argument #9: Just Use BF%
It is true that body fat percentage would gives you a better picture of your health than BMI. Here’s the problem – how do you measure it?
A truly accurate measurement would require the use of an MRI, but using them for this purpose is a non-starter. No one is going to use MRIs to measure fat, it would be absurdly expensive and wasteful.
Every other method of measurement is plagued by some level of error – potentially a serious one. Even the DEXA scan, which is the next best method(from a cost-to-benefit perspective), is not quite as perfect as we’d like.
If we’re criticizing BMI because it can give you an incorrect result, the same can be said of every other practical method of body fat measurement… and, it doesn’t matter in practice, because we don’t have an epidemic of bodybuilders. We have an extreme epidemic of overfat people – which brings us to the last point.
THE REAL FLAW OF BMI
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. What is the actual flaw with BMI? To get to that, I’ll need to introduce some background.
What you’re seeing on screen is a chart of the relationship between BMI and body fat – as determined by a DEXA scan.
Now, let’s make this chart a bit more clear. Above this line, we have overweight people by body fat, which is generally given as 17 to 18% in the literature. This line? Obese by body fat, 25% for males. The 25 and 30 markers for overweight and obesity by BMI are also shown.
Let’s get started with people who are false positives. How many people who are obese BMI but lean by body fat percentage do we see? NONE. Zero. Nada. Not even one. Now, I’m not saying that real people like that don’t exist – IFBB pro bodybuilders are, of course, real people. Consider, however, how rare they must be. This chart contains information on seven and a half thousand people, it’s based on NHANES data, a representative survey on the people of United States – and not one person in this group is “obese lean”.
Try to appreciate the magnitude of this situation. If you choose a random, representative sample sample of over seven thousand people, you might find that not even one of them is obese lean, as has happened here.
Now let’s take a look at these guys. Overweight, but lean. I call this the superhero group – if you’re in here, you can play a superhero in a movie. How many of them are there? 23. In this entire huge sample, you have twenty three people who are a true false positive. One in three hundred.
Now this? This is more of the supervillain group. These are the guys who are monstrously muscular, to the point where they are obese by BMI, but only overweight by body fat percentage. They’re still not healthy, but maybe not quite as unhealthy as BMI says. How many of these guys are there? 21.
In this entire huge sample, you have about 0.5% of people for whom BMI is slightly misleading.
Which leaves us with these people. Uh oh. We’ve covered false positives, now it’s time for false negatives.
These guys are normal weight by BMI, some are even underweight by BMI – but overweight by body fat percentage. There’s nearly seventeen hundred of them, 1691. This group is obese by body fat percentage, but they have a normal BMI. There’s over a thousand of them(1050).
This group is overweight by BMI, but obese by body fat percentage – there’s 1828 of them.
So what’s the takeaway here? What’s the real flaw in BMI? BMI is too nice and lenient. 4.5k out of 7.5k people – that’s sixty percent – are fatter than BMI says they are.
Greg Doucette and Mike Israetel recently had a conversation about “cardio efficiency”. While THEY are not confused about the topic and understand it themselves, many people are and I thought I’d do my own take at explaining why and what others get wrong.
Greg Doucette and Mike Israetel recently had a conversation about cardio efficiency. While THEY are not confused about the topic and understand it themselves, many people are and I thought I’d do my own take at explaining why and what others get wrong.
Cycling is perhaps the best example to use here, because there, we can measure the mechanical power that you put out, the true work that you do – and this work directly translates to calories burned. If you’re putting out 200w of power, you’re burning 720 kcal/hour, it’s more or less that simple. This conversion rate essentially never changes for an individual cyclist and if it does, the change is so small that it just doesn’t matter.
However, the real world results that you get can vary hugely – because real world results are based on both your mechanical power and your technique.
For example, if you’re riding a city or mountain bike in an upright position, that 200w of power is going to allow you to go at maybe 28kmh. Ride in the hoods on a road bike, however and you now ride at nearly 32. Drops get you further, 34. Got aerobars? Now you’re doing 37kmh. If you added even more extreme scenarios – like pulling a car or drafting behind a bus, 200w might translate to 5 or 100 kmh.
This value never changes, but these values can vary wildly. This is why people get so confused about this issue – the ability to directly measure how much mechanical work you’re doing is mostly available to cyclists and on some stationary machines. In almost all other sports, you are forced to rely on indirect measurements, like speed, distance and heart rate – which are an imperfect approximation for calories burned at best and disastrously misleading at worst.
In particular, I think it’s heart-rate based calorie counters that are the most to blame for this misconception. Out of shape people start out jogging at 170 beats per minute, a couple months later they can do 140 and, given time, maybe even 110. That doesn’t mean you’re burning less calories, in spite of what your simplistic watch might tell you – it means your heart got stronger, so now it can do more work per beat.
Yes, your efficiency in terms of real world results can improve – as your experience on a bike improves and your technique gets better, you are going to be more capable of adopting those aggressive positions for a greater length of time, getting more bang for your watt. In many other sports, you can gain similar technique and efficiency improvements.
But your cardio engine doesn’t get worse. It’s not like day 1, you can do 200w and six months later, you got more efficient, so now you can only do 180. That just doesn’t happen, unless you get injured or something.
There’s a reason I’m using the word engine here – because it’s very analogous to a literal engine. The same engine in different car frames could burn the same amount of fuel, output the same power and get very different results, depending on how aerodynamic the vehicle was.
Okay, time to get our science hats on. What we’re talking about here is called gross efficiency – that is, the ratio of calories burned to your mechanical work done. Is this ratio trainable? Can it change? Well, it depends on who you choose to listen to. There are a bunch of studies that find no difference and there are a bunch of studies that do find a difference.
However… Even in those studies that do find a difference, it’s only important for scientists and extremely competitive athletes. For you, the average listener at home, the possibility of going from 19% gross efficiency to 21% gross efficiency if you train with the intensity of a competitive athlete preparing for race season just doesn’t matter.