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Thanks for the Mobius prize!

Posted by nootrope , 09 June 2008 · 656 views

Today I picked up from my ex-housemate my check for the "Mobius award" for blogging here. Thank you, Immortality Institute!

Supplements

I had a look in a paper notebook I've been keeping for a while, and it seems to me as if I was more on top of things back in September: I was coming up with more creative ideas and was being more precise in describing them and looking at their consequences. I wasn't working then, and had the luxury of taking a daily hike; now my job requires that I get a multitude of details right in setting up and adapting my supervisor's computer program. So there may be aspects of my life other than nootropic supplements to look at. But still, the feeling that I've been sliding a bit towards mediocrity has made me think again about how I'm managing myself.

I'm wondering whether bacopa is really doing much for me. I started taking it in January. Perhaps it has been of more benefit in lowering my anxiety than in improving cognition. I had tapered down to a negligible dose of my mood stabilizer/anticonvulsant, and while my mood was nevertheless fine, maybe I used up some mental energy staying that way. Now I'm taking less bacopa and a low but non-negligible dose of the anticonvulsant.

I still think ashwagandha is a great supplement and part of why I've been doing so well since September. But I'm also back on R-ALA/ALCAR (for those supplement buffs who need only the initials), fish oil, and evening primrose oil. I'm looking at other adaptogens: Siberian (eurethro) root (which I was on in September) and rhodiola (which I plan to be very careful with, as I've read it can be over-stimulating.)

For a while I had been interested in all the medicinal mushrooms that could improve immunity; I tried a run of reishi. I even found some fresh Lion Mane's Mushroom in a local Whole Foods (they sell it under the name pom-pom, however). It was yummy! I'm enthusiastic about including in my diet beneficial plants that can be easily overlooked: mushrooms, spices, and herbs.

Exercise

I took the weekend off from the gym, but I thought I'd note that my workout strategy is an unusual one compared with what I've followed most of my life. I had session with a personal trainer, and she wants me doing a large number of "reps"--15 to 20. I used to read the online weightlifting discussion boards, and they always suggested 6-8 reps. Even before meeting the personal trainer, I'd been thinking that I was too slanted towards the weightlifters/bodybuilders because they were the fitness buffs most likely to write in serious detail about what they did in the gym. But I'm looking for general fitness. She also had me go through a very extensive stretching routine.

I spent a couple of years without much regular use of a gym. I did a lot of walking and dancing though. I'm a little surprised now that at 40 I can still build up muscle pretty quickly. Large numbers of repetitions suffice for noticeable improvement.

Futurism / Singularity

Metafilter,
one of my favorite online discussion groups, pointed me towards a discussion of The Singularity in IEEE Spectrum magazine. I also came across a Bloggingheads TV show featuring science journalist John Horgan (The End of Science) interviewing Elizaier Yudkowski (of the Overcoming Bias blog).

It's interesting food for thought, and the purported Singularity is far enough in the future that one can pronounce one's opinions (as fact!) without true reality-checks.

I tend to be skeptical of Yudkowski's point of view, that intelligence can be replicated in a "optimized" way completely independently of the architecture that our brains are built on. I think certain "Singularitarian" points of view have their own anthropocentric bias (devaluing non-human animal intelligence), and value science culture over humanistic culture in a biased way. The concept of "optimal" intelligence seems to me to need real scrutiny. Observing myself closely as I respond to "nootropic" supplements has only reinforced to me that thinking and feeling come in many forms and that they respond in interesting ways (hard to categorize) to biology.

I don't have any coherent convincing argument for my skepticism, only a number, really, the number connecting microscopic and macroscopic worlds, 6.02x10^23, Avagadro's number. I just kind of whistle and say, "Gee, that's big--biological systems are very complex!"

But computer and bio tech are certainly accelerating.

The central purpose of this place, the Immortality Institute, I think is less speculative. Certainly some animals live longer than others, and Calorie Restriction has been shown to increase the life span of some animals. I didn't respond that well to resveratrol (evidence shows it may activate sirutins, as does CR, to increase life span as well). A longer life span isn't immortality of course, and de Grey's provocative position to look at natural death as something unacceptable is an interesting spur to action, but I'm not so optimistic that death from natural causes will be completely wiped out soon.





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