One or two research groups have published work on carbon dioxide and cognition. The state of the published literature is confusing.
Here is one paper on the topic. The authors investigate a proprietary cognitive benchmark, and experimentally manipulate carbon dioxide levels (without affecting other measures of air quality). They find implausibly large effects from increased carbon dioxide concentrations.
If the reported effects are real and the suggested interpretation is correct, I think it would be a big deal. To put this in perspective, carbon dioxide concentrations in my room vary between 500 and 1500 ppm depending on whether I open the windows. The experiment reports cognitive effects for moving from 600 and 1000 ppm, and they are relatively large compared to interindividual differences.
I haven't spent much time looking into this (maybe 30 minutes, and another 30 minutes to write this post). I expect that if we spent some time looking into indoor CO2 we could have a much better sense of what was going on, by some combination of better literature review, discussion with experts, looking into the benchmark they used, and just generally thinking about it.
So, here's a proposal:
- If someone looks into this and writes a post that improves our collective understanding of the issue, I will be willing to buy part of an associated certificate of impact, at a price of around $100*N, where N is my own totally made up estimate of how many hours of my own time it would take to produce a similarly useful writeup. I'd buy up to 50% of the certificate at that price.
- Whether or not they want to sell me some of the certificate, on May 1 I'll give a $500 prize to the author of the best publicly-available analysis of the issue. If the best analysis draws heavily on someone else's work, I'll use my discretion: I may split the prize arbitrarily, and may give it to the earlier post even if it is not quite as excellent.
- I reserve the right to call off the whole thing at any time during the next week (April 5 - April 11), if there is a simple reason why indoor CO2 is not practically relevant / these results are grossly misleading and someone brings it up in the comments.
- The metric for quality is "how useful it is to Paul." I hope that's a useful proxy for how useful it is in general, but no guarantees. I am generally a pretty skeptical person. I would care a lot about even a modest but well-established effect on performance.
- These don't need to be new analyses, either for the prize or the purchase.
- I reserve the right to resolve all ambiguities arbitrarily, and in the end to do whatever I feel like. But I promise I am generally a nice guy.