Re: Supplement Information

Anders Sandberg (
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 00:33:01 +0200 (MET DST)

I agree with Lee about the lack of good information about supplements.
Unfortunately there is a huge gulf between the people doing actual
research (which is often quite misinterpeted; just reading a medline
abstract supporting it doesn't prove substance X makes you smarter) and
the people selling and using "smart drugs" and supplements. I'm reading
Gilovich's _How We Know What Isn't So_ right now, a book about how we are
often misled by our flawed reason, and almost every pitfall I read about
are represented among the enthusiasts. Tragic.

On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> I'm not even looking for fancy university-funded doctor-performed
> research, just some basic honesty. Informal experiments among
> friends--but with placebo controls, measured effects, and complete,
> honest disclosure of results and methods sufficient to allow any
> reader to compute statistical significance and judge its value.

I agree that this should be done. It will not likely be strongly
significant (you need plenty of subjects for that), but at least it is
better than the usual "I've tried it and I feel great!". Of course, doing
a good mini-study isn't entirely trivial since there are plenty of
pitfalls, but it can be done. Maybe we should try writing a
"laytranshumanists's guide to testing" explaining how to do a double-blind
placebo study and analyze the data?

> Let's take some simple "smart drug", for example. How hard would
> it be to find a dozen people, give them some simple cognitive skill
> tests, then give half the drug and half a placebo, give the tests
> again, and print all the numbers? We could do it in a few hours
> at a party, and repeat the ones that showed promise to get better
> sample size. The fact that numbers like these are never printed
> makes me suspicious of the whole supplement industry.

This is a good example why it is easy to get fooled by small studies. In
the above case, you implictly assume that the drug will have effect quite
immediately (most medical models suggest it takes weeks), and if you are
not doing it double-blind you are quite likely to influence the subjects.
But the general idea is sound. We at Aleph have been thinking of doing
"consumer testing" of smart drinks like Magic or Red Bull, comparing test
results before and after, and adding comments about taste, price and
nutrients. Maybe we transhumanists could work together on something like

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
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