All of Aaron_Nesmith-Beck's Comments + Replies

Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area
Scott referred to some failures to replicate in his post.

Scott referred to one failure to replicate, for a finding that a psychedelic experience increased trait openness. This isn't one of the benefits cited by the OP.

More on psychedelics & Openness []: Also:
Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area
most the professional world and voting populace have a very negative view on psychedelics
whilst the potential upsides might be sizeable, they likely don’t compare to the negative damage to EA that EA orgs publicly supporting such work would likely do.

I would push back against this somewhat. It's historically been the case that the general view of psychedelics is negative, but I think a case can be made that this is changing fairly quickly. Media coverage of psychedelics over the past ~5 years has been positive, e.g. The Guardian, The Wall Street Journ... (read more)

Cash prizes for the best arguments against psychedelics being an EA cause area
1.1) There's some weak wisdom of nature prior that blasting one of your neurotransmitter pathways for a short period is unlikely to be helpful.

The data doesn't support this, and generally suggests that 1-3 psychedelic experiences can have beneficial effects lasting 6 months or longer. See for example Carhart-Harris et al. 2018:

"Although limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from open-label trials, tolerability was good, effect sizes large and symptom improvements appeared rapidly after just two psilocybin treatment sessio... (read more)

Meditation and Effective Altruism

I second the recommendation of The Mind Illuminated, just as wholeheartedly.

Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

My take is that it only takes a strong enough worldview to resist this influence, and that most EAs/rationalists have one. I think this mostly just comes down to intuitions about 1) how strong of an influence a psychedelic experience can have on someone's worldview and 2) how strong of a worldview does the average EA/rationalist have. I don't think a strong psychedelic experience alone is enough to create bad epistemology, and that it probably also takes some environmental factors pushing in this direction, which EAs/rationalists generally aren&#... (read more)

My impression agrees with Issa's: in EA, psychedelic use seems to go along with a cluster of bad epistemic practice (e.g. pseudoscience, neurobabble, 'enlightenment', obscurantism).

This trend is a weak one, with many exceptions; I also don't know about direction of causation. Yet this is enough to make me recommend that taking psychedelics to 'make one a better EA' is very ill-advised.

Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

Thanks, I'm adding this to the original post now, along with some specific reasons an EA-aligned person might want to attend.

Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

I agree that openness doesn't seem uniformly good, despite being obviously good in some ways (i.e. all creativity loads onto openness).

I agree it seems possible that psychedelic use could lead to pseudoscientific or unscientific thinking. This is pretty widespread in the psychedelic community, which might suggest a connection, although it's hard to know which direction the causality is going (perhaps both). I don't see this as a risk for EA/rationalist types though, and would argue that pretty strongly.

(Also FYI, the findings from the 2011 paper SSC references haven't been replicated.)

6Scott Alexander3y
Thanks for the link to the Enthea paper, I'll check it out.

I don't see this as a risk for EA/rationalist types though, and would argue that pretty strongly.

Would you be willing to supply this argument? I am very curious to hear more about your thinking on this, as it is something I have wondered about. (For the sake of transparency, I should mention that my own take is that there is a significant risk even for EAs and rationalists to be overtaken by unscientific thinking after strong psychedelic experiences, and that it takes unusually solid worldviews and/or some sort of personality trait that is hard-to-describe in order to resist this influence.)

Here's more on one failure to replicate the Openness result: [] (More research needed, as always.)
+1 I'm very bullish on more big-five openness in the rationality & EA communities, personally.
Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

Fair enough! I probably should have pointed out those reasons in the original post (although I did link to the paper on psychedelics and creative problem-solving). I probably also unconsciously assumed those reasons are more obvious to most people than they are, because I'm thinking about this stuff all the time.

Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

See also Krebs & Johansen 2015 for similar results with a different data set:

Using a new data set consisting of 135,095 randomly selected United States adults, including 19,299 psychedelic users, we examine the associations between psychedelic use and mental health. After adjusting for sociodemographics, other drug use and childhood depression, we found no significant associations between lifetime use of psychedelics and increased likelihood of past year serious psychological distress, mental health treatment, suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans and suic
... (read more)
Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica
Maybe I'm missing the point and the post is just saying that there's a cool thing you can do with other EAs, not trying to claim that it's an effectively altruistic use of resources.

Definitely more so the former than the latter, e.g. "I’m posting here because 6 EA-aligned people are planning on attending our first retreats (June 5-8 and June 9-12, 2019) so far."

Like Milan I think there are good arguments for psychedelics as Cause X, and nested in that good arguments for why starting a retreat could be an effective thing to do. But ... (read more)

Right. The stuff about psychedelics as Cause X was maybe a bit of a red herring. You probably know how to sell your business much better than I do, but something which I think is undervalued in general is simply opening your pitch with why exactly you think someone should care about your thing. I actually hadn't considered creative problem-solving or career choice as reasons to go on this retreat. My earlier comment was a reply to the challenge of 'how this post is substantively different from previous content like...' and this now seems fairly obvious, so I probably have little more useful to say :)
Re: psychedelics & psychosis risk, see Krebs & Johansen 2013 [], a study of National Survey on Drug Use and Health data (n = 130,152) which found: Unfortunately, it's not a randomized, forward-looking trial. I personally give high-quality retrospective survey research like this some weight when thinking through the risks associated with psychedelics. (And more research is needed, as always.)
Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

Understood. I don't spend a lot of time here so may have misjudged appropriateness.

Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

That's correct (not a deliberate omission). $1700 for 4 days is roughly on par with other, similar retreats. We're planning to add low-income/sliding scale options once we've launched and are holding regular retreats.

Thanks! Sorry for the slightly combative tone in my earlier comment.
Legal psychedelic retreats launching in Jamaica

That might make sense for people in Europe. For most people in North America, the Caribbean is more easily accessible than the Netherlands.

Other reasons someone might prefer a retreat:

- Have the experience in a group setting with people who share the same outlook and intentions

- Guidance from experienced facilitators

- Optimized setting (pre-selected music, access to private natural space)

- Pre-prepared preparation and integration activities