Many of you asked for the recipe of the vegan chocolate brownies that were apparently based on kidney beans, apple, banana, and oats. Here we go:
I followed the recipe by "cake INVASION!". But I replaced parts of the sugar(s) with sweetener and a banana, left the chocolate frosting off and added some peanuts. Also I replaced the apple pulp by simply blending in a fresh apple. Because the banana added additional liquid, I reduced the amount of plant milk.
As a teenager thinking deeply (as I considered it back then) about philosophical topics, this question struck me as significant: "If love is caused by hormones...is love real then?" My intellectual answer back then was no, but over the years I got an intuitive understanding that something being "caused by hormones" doesn't make it less of a thing. Maybe you never thought about this question, or never considered it relevant, or knew a better answer all along. However, I found it troubling back then!
And it took me many more years (without actively searching for an answer) and to accidentally stumble upon ideas from philosophy of science to finally make coherent sense of the question and give a satisfying answer.
In (psychological) scientific analysis you can look at a phenomenon (anything from addiction over memory or happiness to love) on various levels of analysis. You could start at atomic or even subatomic level to understand the matter things are made of (but usually that's not relevant for psychological phenomena). You can look at molecules and macromolecules (proteins, hormones...) or at cells and neurons, you can ask how different neurons or cells interact in a certain phenomenon (systemic level) or you go directly on the behavioral level of the individual or the inter-individual or social level. It of course goes further "up" (community, culture, anthropological...).
So, something can correlate with a certain release of hormones on the molecular/cellular/systemic level AND also have behaviour by a person on the whole organism/individual level. One thing is not one thing or the other, the scientific question determines whether the answer is "the release of oxytocin increases" or "Alice spends more time around Bob". It's not "either...or", it can be both.
Which level "causes" the effect on another level is a whole different question and the causality between different levels is not always from "lower to higher" or always from "higher to lower", depending on the phenomenon it can be the one or the other or it can be both. For example if you are constantly thinking negative thoughts your hormones might also change, while injecting hormones can also change your thinking.
So "one level is not more true than another level" and "causality is not straight-forward either".
Then there is this "easy" topic of your subjective experience. This thing, also called consciousness, phenomenology, Dasein or many other words is basically inaccessible to anyone else but you. The problem how to go from observable things to subjectivity is the "qualia problem" or "the hard problem of consciousness". While some philosophers argue this phenomenon doesn't really exist, well, just look at the screen while reading this article, focus on your body, feel it. Do you feel something? Do you feel yourself existing? Well, that's how my argument goes.
Is love real then? The phenomena changes your behaviour as a person, can be measured in your hormones and changes your experience in the world. It is real on multiple levels, so yeah, don't worry, it's pretty damn real.
Some philosophers argue, however, that "lower" levels are "more real" than other levels, this is called reductionism. (The term can also mean something else, as always in philosophy)
...but you can support the process of creating it.
Money isn't the most crucial thing in life.
And more money will not make us happier. There is robust evidence that increasing the money in one's possession only has a positive effect up to a point. Then it diminishing marginal utility. Easier understood, from having no money at all to making 10k a year makes an enormous difference, additional 10k are not felt anymore at all when the person already owns multiple millions. This is called the "Easterlin Paradox." And the point of saturation is already at a very average income.
However, if spending money doesn't make you happy or even unhappy, then you are spending it wrong.
Some things positive psychology also has found out about money, roughly summarized, are:
I massively reduce consumerism. Actually, quite to the contrary, my anti-consumerist attitude was so strong it has kept me from buying many things that would have been valuable to my life on a multitude of dimensions, and I had to work with my beliefs to get open to purchasing options and their value in daily life. I actually had to get free to the idea of spending money at all.
I think it is essential to find a healthy balance in what one buys and why. To fill emotional emptiness, boredom, and an existential void is a simple strategy (it does not work). Many products hurt the environment, human rights and maybe even on your mental health.
But I also have to admit that there were and are indeed some purchases, that vastly made my life better and contributed value to me.
The rules to differentiate whether something belongs to the perverted consumerism category or to the value-adding group are complex and not binary. Some of the items that added value for me, might not be useful for you, as you have different things you want to do, experience and create in the world.
As some people, like Rob Wiblin, did before me, I will share my list with you, because some ideas might add value to your life as well. Maybe you can also translate the principles behind them for your situation.
Here is Rob's post: "Things I recommend you buy and use, Rob edition"
Which is inspired by "a blog post by Sam Bowman about 35 things he recommends his friends consider buying and using".
My list is not a direct suggestion for things to buy, but maybe it is useful nevertheless. Here it comes:
1) I love my Vitamix. It is a 600€ blender. What do I like about it? It is incredibly reliable, and I use it multiple times a day, on average, probably once a day. I make green smoothies with it, and it gets very creamy without much effort on my end. I do ice cream out of frozen fruit with it to eat as a lunch in summer (which means less sugary ice cream). I do nut milk that doesn't even have to get filtered because the parts left of the nuts are unnoticeable. It can even produce nut butter in minutes (I have tried it with a kitchen machine before, and it took forever and was very frustrating). I also blend my protein shakes with it. It has a long warranty of 7 years. Using cheap blenders in that time would likely even be more expensive, as they break down quickly. The Vitamin is a very high re-sale value because of the significant demand for second-hand pieces of that brand. This convinced me to get it, as I could have resold it well. I haven't regretted it and will not sell it any time soon. It has had a very positive influence on my healthy eating (more green smoothies, fruit ice creams…) and on everyday convenience.
2) My Ipad (Version 6 from the year 2018) with the Apple Pencil has made a big difference for me. I use it with the PaperLike sticker on it that makes it feel like paper instead of glass, you feel more texture while writing and drawing. For university, I have all my textbooks on it, can directly mark the books without feeling guilty and them being way lighter weight (good for my back!) and always available in that format. The split-screen allows reading a book or presentation on one side and making notes in an app (I use GoodNotes) on the other one. When I don't have to write something specific (which I would need a keyboard for), then I often go to university or to a studying session solemnly with my Ipad. I also draw on it creatively, use the GoodNotes App for making a daily schedule that I draw in the morning and many other things. A friend of mine once made the joke, that he always was suspicious about advertisements for apple products and technical products in general, where people get very empowered to create and be better by this new tool they are using. But since he has seen my relationship with my Ipad he changed his mind and sees that this can actually be true, I am basically like straight out of an advertisement when I look at all the functions this tool serves me. After two years of using this iPad and reaching its processing limits I now finally upgraded to an IPad Pro, that I purchased second-hand on refurbed.
3) Before I had my breast augmentation, I had negative stereotypes about people who would get one. I also assumed nobody I knew would ever have one and finally having someone in close proximity making the decision, a befriended girl from the gym, was a massive influence on my change of mind. I had struggled with my body for years and I would always have preferred to be that slim elf kind of type. But now that I had to live with wider hip bone structure, easily built muscles and a small upper frame, adapting the proportions seems like a good idea. I also lost basically all body fat in the breast area due to strength training, I definitely "maxed out" my natural potential. But I wanted to continue feeling feminine while also building more muscles and getting even stronger.
The reading of papers of my then-boyfriend did about the happiness of people who decided for a surgery turned out that people usually regretted not going bigger (if they chose less than 400ml), which also made me opt from my initial size wish to double the volume. It initially seemed insane but turned out to be the right decision indeed. The stereotypes people around me and I had ("only strippers and sex workers do this" were also disproven by statistics, the primary client for these and similar augmentations are average middle-aged women, often after having had their children!).
I didn't regret it ever since. I feel more at ease with my body; even when I gain some kilos, I no longer have to worry about getting out of proportion (wide hips and still relatively smaller upper frame).
I feel feminine and motivated to gain more biceps because it will not overpower the rest of my appearance.
In general, I think beauty is not a comparative good and, therefore, not a zero-sum game. We do not have to accept things if they simply are not beautiful to us and can be easily changed. There are so many things we will have to come to terms with (like mortality and aging). My breast implants and the surgery was the most expensive thing I ever bought.
4) Similarily micro-blading was a good investment for me. Because of growing up in the effects of the 90s taste of tiny eyebrows, I had plucked them out long enough to have not many left. I got my eyebrows microbladed, and it simply made my face look more put together without having to put any effort into it when getting out of bed. It was expensive and the effect only lasted a year, but I will continue to do it every now and then. The slight effect left of it after some time is also a useful help in drawing them.
5) Other than that the major transformation I did to my body composition, was not silicone or some slight color cut into my skin. It was getting serious about lifting weights. A good investment here was to take some personal training lessons to learn the technique of compound exercises properly from the start. Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, military press and so forth. As well as meta level knowledge about planning ones training. Investing in learning fitness skills and advancing ones fitness journey seems like one of the absolute most essential investments I can think of. I sometimes hear that "for me it is easy because I like working out", but "learning to like it" took me multiple years and I worked very hard on it with support of experts. I wasn't born "sporty", quite the opposite, I mostly sat at home and still find it challenging to see sport as part of my identity. But I do indeed love it now and yes, it made sense to pay people on the way to teach me how to do so.
6) And then, of course, I got a gym membership at a gym I like. Pardon, love. Upgrading from a regular fitness chain to IntelligentStrength (DAS Gym) was an excellent decision for me. Next to the need for a healthy body and feeling good in my skin it also fulfills social needs and inspires me by being surrounded by driven and insanely awesome people regularly. Money well spent.
7) One invention I regularly consume is dry shampoo. With long hair and other meaningful things to do than to wash them every day, dry shampoo truly is a game-changer in comfort to me. I usually use the brand Batiste (I have tried and disliked other ones). It is good to know that I don't have time pressure in the morning because of my hair looking slightly greasy.
8) One item I got from my flatmate is a pregnancy pillow. No, I did not get pregnant from my flat mate, hear me out! It is basically a long pillow that you can cuddle between your arms and one leg on it, as if you would cuddle with another person. It makes it more delightful to sleep with my new breasts (can't sleep on my stomach anymore) and in general, it's just such a comfortable sleeping position. I tried the one of my flat mate first and then couldn't resist to get one on my own. I have posted this on Instagram before and someone bought it as well and was very happy about it as well. It's hard to put in words how nice it feels to sleep with it.
9) I lived rather frugally for a while and thought drinking out was an obvious thing to safe on, as the same coffee is just so much cheaper when you drink it at home. Only after allowing myself to also take qualitative judgements into account, did I notice, that I do not really buy the coffee. I bought the "right" to sit in a beautiful place, that I can soak up into myself and that makes me happy and enjoy life. I am more mindful about what I am truly buying here now, when I do so. It is not the cup of coffee. I choose my cafes accordingly. But I do buy them regularly now, usually to work somewhere for some hours with my laptop or to read a book. Or to observe other humans. Aesthetic places make me happy. I buy an experience, not a drink.
10) My mother once gave me a style and color coaching as a present and it was so useful, I would get it for myself now, if I had to. The rules of thumb for colors, cuts and style made my choices in stores so much more informed, that I bet I saved more money on stuff I didn't buy, that would not have suited me, than the cost the coaching. It also saves me time and rumination about what style to get.
11) Opting for a relatively classic wardrobe with some "extra" or "trendy" pieces. Classics last you for a long time while trends make you continuously crave for something new. Planning my wardrobe and being strategically about some core pieces that I invested more money into, was a good decision.
12) Other things worth paying money for are travel, especially when it is about visiting family and friends.
13) If you ever wondered whether you are entirely sane, finding a good psychiatrist and psychotherapist is worth the money, too. And with that I mean: If you are continuously unhappy, experiencing suffering, think or get told you behave strongly (negatively) outside the norm in some life areas…
14) Helping others. I donate money I own to effective GiveWell charities and I gave up a lot of earning potential by working for an NGO (which is counterfactually like spending money?). This is one of the most meaningful things I can think of. And in the end I alway want to live eudaemonia, not hedonism.
15) Education, books, workshops, conferences.
16) Man, there are so many small things that now come to mind. Like those very reliable knives from IKEA. Love them. Might add more little things like those over time!
In summary, this are some areas I think are worth it for me:
In the startup ecosphere I often hear "ideas are cheap". Most of the ideas for projects of all thoughts I will never realise into a project, text, poem, blog, video, theatre play, product. But maybe someone else is so excited by one of them, that they actually want to work on it. I might do this myself in the future but currently have said no to working on all of the following ideas. Read them, have them, use them. Get inspired, get disappointed, laugh, work on it, motivate me to work on it if you think it's a good idea.
Podcasts are a beautiful invention and I understand their appeal especially in recent years. I spend too many hours every day looking at monitors which don’t just show me something but also block my view of the world around me. Having a stream of information coming through my ear, while I can still interact with my environment, is a game-changer. My typical times for listening to podcasts are while doing household chores or while going for a walk or while drawing. As I regularly get asked for which ones I can recommend, I decided to publish a list of my favorites.
Here are the ones I love and listen to very regularly:
Rationally Speaking with Julia Galef
“Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci.”
Making Sense with Sam Harris
“Join Sam Harris — neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author — as he explores some of the most important questions about the human mind, society, and current events.”
The 80.000 Hours Podcast with Rob Wiblin
“The 80,000 Hours Podcast features unusually in-depth conversations about the world’s most pressing problems and how you can use your career to solve them. We invite guests pursuing a wide range of career paths — from academics and activists to entrepreneurs and policymakers — to analyze the case for working on different issues, and provide concrete ways to help.”
Econ Talk by Russ Roberts
“EconTalk is a weekly economics podcast hosted by Russ Roberts. Roberts, formerly an economics professor at George Mason University, is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. On the podcast, Roberts typically interviews a single guest — often professional economists — on topics in economics.”
The Jim Rutt Show
“The Jim Rutt Show is an interview podcast series examining cutting-edge thinking in science and technology and the future of our economic, political and social systems and institutions. New episodes are released weekly, more or less.”
The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish
“The Knowledge Project Podcast with Shane Parrish helps you master the best of what other people have already figured out. Let’s Listen and Learn.”
Here are the ones where I have listened to at least one very good episode or like for other reasons:
The Portal by Eric Weinstein
“Welcome to The Portal. This podcast does something different. “
LSE IQ Podcast
“Welcome to LSE’s award-winning podcast, LSE IQ, where we ask leading social scientists and other experts to answer an intelligent question.”
The Tim Ferriss Show
“Tim Ferriss is a self-experimenter and bestselling author. In this show, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas.”
Erklär mir die Welt von Standard-Journalist Andreas Sator
“Was ist „Erklär mir die Welt“? Ein Podcast, mit dem du die Welt jede Woche ein bisschen besser verstehen sollst. Themen werden von Grund auf erklärt.”
A Mindful Mess by Daria Daria
“In diesem Podcast von dariadaria geht es um Persönlichkeitsentwicklung und nachhaltiges Leben.”
Andersmacher von Dr. Aaron Brückner
“Menschen und Marken, die in keine Schublade passen”
Lieblingsepisoden bisher: Max Scharpenack und Daniel Jung
The Mating Grounds Podcast with Tucker Max and Dr. Geoffrey Miller
“The Mating Grounds Podcast is a collaboration between #1 bestselling author, Tucker Max, and renowned evolutionary psychologist, Professor Geoffrey Miller, to teach men how to be successful with women, dating, and relationships. Through discussions and interviews with the worlds leading experts in human sexuality, psychology, animal behavior, genetics, and behavioral studies, they explain in clear and actionable terms precisely what men need to know about sex, dating, relationships, and women, and how to improve yourself in all of those areas. Plainly put: this is the advice that men wish they had heard when they were 16, that teaches them all the important lessons about sex and dating they are desperate to learn.”
The Partially examined Life
“The Partially Examined Life is a philosophy podcast and philosophy blog by some guys who were at one point set on doing philosophy for a living but then thought better of it”
Rebel Wisdom (especially the episodes with John Vervaeke)
“When our existing ways of thinking break down, it’s the rebels and the renegades, those who dare to think differently, who need to reboot the system.”
How I Built This
“On September 12, NPR launches a new podcast, How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz. The show features innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.”
The Infinite Monkey Cage
“The Infinite Monkey Cage is a BBC Radio 4 comedy and popular science series. Hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince, The Independent described it as a “witty and irreverent look at the world according to science”.”
Future Thinkers (especially the episodes by Daniel Schmachtenberger)
Future Thinkers is a media platform, community, and education portal dedicated to the evolution of society, technology, and consciousness. By hosts Mike Gilliland and Euvie Ivanova.
I am excited to discuss episodes or to hear your thoughts on them.
"Who are Your People?"
Santino Maguire inspired me by asking me the excellent question "Who are your people?" and (roughly) "what communities are they associated with or to find in?"
Thinking further about this question resulted in immense gratitude as actually today is one of the days where I interact with all three communities in Vienna, that are "my tribes":
(Today's talk there is by Mirta Galesic from the Santa Fe Institute about this topic: https://www.santafe.edu/rese…/projects/science-belief-change)
"The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change."
Locally this community also has a big overlap with the animal rights and vegan community, and, yes, surprisingly, the strength training community.
Yes, all three groups are fallible in some ways. There are people in the science and rationality community, who neither think very rational (or have a straw Vulcan conceptualisation of it) nor have ethical values I agree with. In the Global Shapers Community, I see both people who have values I don't agree with as well as a lack of epistemic responsibility. And in the effective altruism community, there are people who either lack the evidence-based/science-based part or completely neglect to take any action (no, reading books and writing Facebook posts/blogs and having internal meetings is not taking action).
Why do I stick around?
“When a wise man points at the moon
I think together they point in the right direction.
They try to approximate the right goals in the right way. And I am incredibly happy to have them.
They are "my people".
Who are YOUR people?
24 Books that have profoundly Changed me
In no particular order
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. - RALPH WALDO EMERSON
“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
“In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
“The real purpose of the scientific method is to make sure nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you actually don’t know.”
― Robert M. Pirsig
“The past exists only in our memories, the future only in our plans. The present is our only reality. The tree that you are aware of intellectually, because of that small time lag, is always in the past and therefore is always unreal. Any intellectually conceived object is always in the past and therefore unreal. Reality is always the moment of vision before the intellectualization takes place. There is no other reality.”
― Robert Pirsig
On "The Elephant in the brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life" by Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler
"According to the reciprocal-exchange theory, conversations should be free to bounce around willy-nilly, as speakers take turns sharing new, unrelated information with each other. [...] Either listener might ask follow-up questions, of course. But as soon as their curiosity had been satisfied, they might be expected to turn around and share some new information of their own, regardless of whether it pertained to the previous discussion.
But this is not what human conversation looks like. Instead, we find that speakers are tightly constrained by the criterion of relevance. In general, whatever we say needs to relate to the topic or task at hand. Conversations can meander, of course, but the ideal is to meander gracefully. Speakers who change the topic too frequently or too abruptly are considered rude, even if[…]”
“And so it is with conversation. Participants evaluate each other not just as trading partners, but also as potential allies. Speakers are eager to impress listeners by saying new and useful things, but the facts themselves can be secondary. Instead, it’s more important for speakers to demonstrate that they have abilities that are attractive in an ally. In other words, speakers are eager to show off their backpacks.”
“If we return to the backpack analogy, we can see why relevance is so important. If you’re interested primarily in trading, you might ask, “What do you have in your backpack that could be useful to me?” And if your partner produces a tool that you’ve never seen, you’ll be grateful to have it (and you’ll try to return the favor). But anyone can produce a curiosity or two. The real test is whether your ally can consistently produce tools that are both new to you and relevant to the situations you face. [...] His backpack, you infer, must be chock-full of useful stuff. And while you could—and will—continue to engage him[…]”
the "criterion of relevance" as a constraint to signalling in conversations is not a proxy (signal) for the "size of the backpack" but instead shows a very concrete and rare skill: the ability to transfer and use knowledge one has to someone's benefit. I don't care about the number of tools someone has if he lacks the ability to use the appropriate tool in a given situation. The usefulness of someone's backpack is the product of the size of the backpack and the ability of the person to hand me and use the needed tool in a given situation. To produce relevant content is not just a signal, but a skill. I think Hanson and Simler took the signaling hypothesis too far in this case.