Caffeine, Drugs, Food Additives (and Inadequate Civilizations)

I advise against using caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and marijuana. Be careful with all drugs. Our society in general is inadequately cautious about drugs, especially regular, repeated, longterm usage.

Perfectionism is unnecessary. Irregularly having a bit of caffeine isn’t a big deal – e.g. decaf tea, a caffeinated soda, a chocolate bar (chocolate contains caffeine) or decaf coffee made with a good method (some decaf coffee still has significant caffeine). Similarly, using some wine when cooking a sauce is OK (most of the alcohol cooks off but not literally 100%).

Guarana is a plant with caffeine.

the high concentration of caffeine is a defensive toxin that repels herbivores from the berry and its seeds

That sounds maybe bad to eat…


In the United States, guaraná fruit powder and seed extract have not been determined for status as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration, but rather are approved as food additives for flavor (but not non-flavor) uses.[16][17]

Wait, wtf? Our government is so dumb? They’re like “we have no idea if it’s safe, so you can’t sell it as food, but feel free to use it as a flavoring in food”.

So I started looking into decaffeination methods for tea and coffee again/more. And it’s disturbing.

Here’s what I’ve found:

decaf tea uses 1 of 3 methods:

solvent, CO2, hot water.

if it says “organic” it’s c02. hot water isn’t certified organic. idk why.

legally, decaf tea or coffee must remove at least 97% of caf. otherwise you can’t call it decaf.

the hot water method only removes like 85% of caf, so I think it’d have to be sold as “reduced caf” (and non-organic), so it just isn’t being used even though I think it’s safe, cheap and good.

the CO2 method is also good from what i’ve seen so far. lipton and twinnings use the solvent method for their decaf tea.

decaf regulations are not enforced well and aren’t followed consistently. this is apparently just a general complaint about the industry.

i found that lipton doesn’t care about following the law:

Decaf Black Tea | Lipton

Hi Myreall, thank you for contacting Lipton. The term decaffeinated refers to the removal of caffeine from the tea leaf; therefore, this process lessens the amount of caffeine left in the tea. Decaffeinated products contain caffeine but a much smaller amount than their regular caffeine counterparts. The Lipton Decaf Black Tea contains less than 5 mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup serving. Feel free to reach out to our team at 1-888-547-8668 if you have any additional questions. Thanks!

Since a cup of tea generally has under 100mg of caf, they need to get it down to 3mg or probably less to call it “decaf”. I did see black tea as up to 120mg of caf on some chart, which still isn’t the 167+mg necessary for under 5mg to legally be “decaf”.

Lipton also answered what method they use for decaf (my bold):

Hello David, We use a decaffeination process that retains our signature flavor. We use the ethyl acetate method to decaffeinate our tea. The process involves ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine out of the tea leaf; afterward, the ethyl acetate is removed from the leaf, and the leaves are dried. There are no safety concerns with the use of ethyl acetate. Ethyl acetate is an organic compound found in tea leaves, fruits, and coffee, and is one of the most popular ways to decaffeinate tea and coffee. I hope this was helpful!

Similarly Twinnings says:

Twinings teas are decaffeinated using the ethyl acetate method, which is one of the most popular ways to decaffeinate coffee and tea. After the tea leaves are moistened with water or steam, the process selectively absorbs caffeine and removes it from the tea. Afterward, ethyl acetate is removed, and the leaves dried. Ethyl acetate is an organic compound that is found in tea, coffee, and fruit, and provides for a safe and effective decaffeination method.

Is this safe? Lipton says it’s we should accept it as safe because it’s “one of the most popular ways to decaffeinate tea and coffee” and has “no safety concerns” (that statement is egregious fraud, isn’t it? it is obviously factually false that there are “no safety concerns”. Twinnings instead said it is “safe” which isn’t such an absolute statement, and also is about the product itself instead of the allegedly non-existence of concerns, so it doesn’t seem like fraud unless they actually knew it was unsafe or should have known.)

Lipton also said:

Ethyl acetate is highly flammable, as well as toxic when ingestion or inhaled, and this chemical can be seriously damaging to internal organs in the case of repeated or prolonged exposure. Ethyl acetate can also cause irritation when it comes into contact with the eyes or skin. My question is how much ethyl acetate is left on the tea leaves, as it is impossible to remove 100% of this chemical?

The amount of ethyl acetate left in the final product is nominal and harmless. Ethyl acetate is a naturally occurring compound found in fruits such as bananas. Bananas are non-toxic and non-flammable when consumed under ordinary circumstances by reasonable people (and apes). You should have as much concern over the ethyl acetate in your decaffeinated tea as you would about your bananas exploding. Hope this calms your concerns!

This seems misleading since I believe Wikipedia when it says:

[Ethyl acetate is] poisonous when inhaled or ingested.

We’re talking about a solvent used in glues and nail polish remover.

Since that sounds bad, I’m wondering if I’m better off drinking regular green tea than decaf tea made with ethyl acetate. You know what I’d prefer to that? The hot water method. That sounds cheap, safe, and good enough. I’d much rather get rid of 85% of the caf than none. Our civilization is really dumb sometimes. So far I don’t know how/where to buy any CO2 method decaf tea either.

Apparently they like to write “naturally decaffeinated” because ethyl acetate is extracted from a fruit. On a related note, I’m skeptical of Stevia, Monkfruit and some other plant extracts. Just because a whole plant is OK doesn’t mean some concentrated extract is.

Food labelling requires stating added caffeine (like for energy drinks that add it on purpose) but doesn’t require information about caffeine that’s there normally (like in tea or coffee).

So far I’ve been unable to find out what method Safeway’s Signature Select brand uses for it’s decaf green tea. Refusing to give information about the food you’re selling is apparently a thing. Lab testing is often required to find out what big companies are selling.

Starbucks says:

How Is Decaf Coffee Made?
The decaffeination process begins with green coffee beans after they are harvested. The green coffee beans naturally have a hard interior and exterior when first picked from the trees. Once picked, there are three primary ways to create decaffeinated coffee: the Direct Contact Method, the SWISS WATER® Process and the Natural Decaffeination Process. Each of these methods provides a safe and effective way to remove 97% or more of the caffeine from the coffee beans, per the high standard put in place by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration.?

The Direct Contact Method is the most common way to decaffeinate coffee effectively. During this process, green coffee beans are steamed to open their “pores.” Once the beans are sufficiently softened, a solvent is added to the mass of wet beans. Caffeine molecules then bond with the solvent, leaving the bulk of the other flavor compounds intact. Once the caffeine has been removed, the beans are washed, steamed and roasted at over 400°F to evaporate all liquids used in this process.

The SWISS WATER® Process removes caffeine from green coffee beans by soaking them in warm water to create “flavor-charged water.” That water is then run through an activated charcoal filter that captures the caffeine molecules. No solvents are applied directly to the coffee bean, but the carbon filter essentially filters out the caffeine. Then the coffee beans are soaked in the flavor-charged water to reintroduce the flavors to the coffee.

The Natural Decaffeination Process starts with water-soaked green coffee beans sealed in a stainless-steel tank. Liquid carbon dioxide is forced into the tank at a very high pressure. This process draws out and dissolves the caffeine, leaving larger flavor molecules behind.

Regardless of the process chosen, one step that’s always shared is that the beans are prepared by soaking them in warm water to soften them prior to roasting. This increase of moisture makes the caffeine more easily removable while still preserving the flavor you love in the bean. Once the caffeine is extracted or dissolved, our skilled roasters bring out the aroma, acidity, body and flavor within the decaffeinated beans. Voila! You now have a delicious decaffeinated cup of your favorite Starbucks® coffee.

This is very misleading. They only use one of these methods and they don’t say that nor say which one it is.

Starbucks uses methylene chloride for their “direct contact” solvent. They at least admit this (elsewhere) rather than refusing to say. I saw it in an article and

Is methylene chloride bad?

Methylene Chloride | Uses, Benefits, and Chemical Safety Facts

Methylene chloride is most prominently used industrially — in the production of paint strippers, pharmaceuticals and process solvents.

  • Methylene chloride also is used in processing spices, creating hops extract for beer and other flavorings for the food and beverage industries.

So all sorts of spices I buy could have it, too…

OSHA’s Methylene Chloride Standard sets a permissible exposure limit of 25 parts of methylene chloride per million parts of air over an eight-hour period.

I was trying to figure out if it’s poisonous. That sounds probably pretty poisonous… 25 parts per million is a low amount.

Methylene chloride poisoning incidents during paint stripping operations and bath tub refinishing have demonstrated that inhalation exposure at extremely high levels can be fatal to humans.

OK so it can kill you.

Effective November 24, 2019, it will be illegal to manufacture (including import), process, distribute or sell methylene chloride in paint removers for consumer use. EPA found consumer uses of the chemical in paint strippers to pose unreasonable risks to human health.

So you can’t put it in paint removers for consumers anymore, but it’s still OK to use for our decaf Starbucks coffee!?

CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

Methylene chloride may be present in food under the following conditions:

I’m not sure if it’s banned from all other foods that aren’t mentioned here or if it’s allowed in them without limits. They should write this stuff more clearly.

In spice oleoresins as a residue from the extraction of spice, at a level not to exceed 30 parts per million

That’s more than the 25ppm limit in the air from earlier.

In coffee as a residue from its use as a solvent in the extraction of caffeine from green coffee beans, at a level not to exceed 10 parts per million (0.001 percent) in decaffeinated roasted coffee and in decaffeinated soluble coffee extract (instant coffee).

That’s 40% of the air limit. And what is being done to measure and make sure Starbucks doesn’t have too much? It’s hard to be comfortable with this without knowing who is measuring what, on what schedule, with what methods, etc., to make sure this law is actually followed. Starbucks ought to be measuring this stuff themselves and sharing information about their safety procedures (if they have good ones…). Instead I’ve repeatedly read companies saying stuff like “we have very high safety standards since we follow the laws [and nothing more]” with no details to convince me they actually do follow the laws or that they put any thought into whether the laws are actually good/high/safe/appropriate standards.

I found a reason this is allegedly safe:

What Is Decaf Coffee? Does It Really Have Less Caffeine?

When the coffee is roasted, both the solvent and the caffeine are burnt away. (The boiling point of methylene chloride is about 100 F and Starbucks roasts its coffee at 375 to 475 F.)

This page also says:

a [Starbucks] Pike’s Place blend contains 310 [milligrams of caffeine]


a grande decaf Pike’s Place brewed coffee contains 25 milligrams of caffeine.

25/310 is 8% caffeine remaining, which would be illegal if true. A drink with 310mg of caf needs to get under 9.3mg of caf (3%) to be “decaf”. The article authors don’t seem aware that they’re accusing Starbucks of breaking the law. Kind of like Lipton seems unaware that they publicly post claims that they break the law.

The article authors also seem unaware that it’s a “Pike Place Ground Roast” from Starbucks. That’s “Pike” not “Pike’s”. I just wanted to verify there is a drink from Starbucks by that name, to do some basic fact checking, since I don’t remember hearing of the drink before. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t confused in case e.g. Pike’s Place was a different coffee shop that was also being discussed in the article. (Actually Pike Place is a market in Seattle and the first Starbucks was opened there.) I wasn’t actually trying to catch them out but I did by accident which is kinda sad.

Anyway, tons of stuff sucks and is a lot of work to look up effectively (I still don’t have good answers).

I don’t think we should process foods with poisons unless we have a really clear idea of what we’re doing and a really important use case. For decaf tea and coffee, it looks pretty clear to me that we don’t know what we’re doing enough and also don’t have a compelling use case (because we have safer alternatives that just cost a little more):

So these decaf teas, which are sold in large chain stores, look OK:

celestial seasonings; stash; yogi; bigelow (green tea only)

Also this part of the post was sad/funny:

Ethyl acetate is a naturally occurring compound created from the fermentation of sugarcane. Although this technically makes it “natural,” for efficiency the ethyl acetate used commercially for decaffeination is entirely synthetic.


Frequently Asked Questions | Yogi Tea

Decaffeinated: Indicates a tea made with some amount of decaffeinated Green Tea leaves, and contains some small residual amount of caffeine. The decaffeinated Green Tea leaf used in our teas is decaffeinated using an all-natural, non-toxic chemical process called Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (or CO2 processing). This all-natural process does leave behind a residual amount of caffeine (approximately 5-10 mg per tea bag). The exact amount of caffeine is detailed within the Supplement Facts panel on the right side of our tea cartons.

That isn’t 5-10mg remaining is not 97% caf removal. Another company just openly ignoring the law, in writing? (The law seems stupid btw and I don’t need such a high degree of caf removal from my tea.) Maybe I should look up whether that’s really the law. I just think it’s notable to have clear examples of how widespread it is that no one actually follows laws very consistently.


Decaffeinated Tea – Celestial Seasonings - Hain


Get everything you love about black and green teas without any of the caffeine.

That’s pretty egregious fraud isn’t it? Logically. But I think we live in a world with societal standards where this isn’t fraud at all, let alone egregious fraud, and no one really cares?

Similarly I was reading today about how financial ratings agencies routinely engage in fraud and break laws:

Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

See the stuff about Egan-Jones.

I think maybe 97% caf removal to legally qualify as “decaf” was a lie repeated by multiple websites.

FSSAI Drafts Standards for Decaffeinated Coffee and Revises Standards for Packaged Drinking Water

This is a 2018 draft which limits decaf coffee to 0.1% caffeine by dry mass.

Caffeine (anhydrous) percent. by mass, Max 0.1

The Truth About How Much Caffeine Is In Your Decaf Coffee | HuffPost Life

The decaffeination process usually removes 94 to 98 percent of caffeine from a coffee bean, according to Mental Floss. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have any regulations around what can be called decaf, the baseline is typically a coffee that’s had about 97 percent of its caffeine removed, spokeswoman Deborah Kotz told HuffPost.

That was written in 2017.

For their study, researchers sampled decaf coffees from 10 different establishments in two states. The most caffeinated cup of decaf they found contained 13.9 milligrams of caffeine, about one-thirteenth of the average caffeinated cup.

What we think of as a “cup” of coffee is very roughly 100mg of caf. Some drinks from e.g. Starbucks can be over 300mg. There’s a common recommendation not to drink over 400mg per day but averaging under 20mg/day sounds wiser to me. Some people drink 5+ cups of decaf coffee per day and don’t realize that’s a meaningful amount of caf like 50mg. A can of coke has 32mg. Some people drink 5+ cups of regular coffee a day which sounds like an awful idea.

Espresso, which is prepared differently than regular coffee, varied too: Decaf espresso shotsfrom the same batch of beans had between 3 and 15.8 milligrams of caffeine, the study found. An average espresso shot contains 63 milligrams of caffeine.

Bigelow uses the CO2 method for green teas but not for black teas:

FAQ on Bigelow Teas - Bigelow Tea

We use a natural ethyl acetate process to decaffeinate our Black Teas. In the ethyl acetate (EA) decaffeination process, the tea leaves are moistened with water and ethyl acetate, an FDA approved solvent. The leaves are then dried and heated. The caffeine in the moistened leaves bonds with the ethyl acetate. During the drying process, the ethyl acetate and water is evaporated, taking the caffeine with them.

All decaffeinated dry tea leaves typically leave a caffeine residue of 0.1 percent - 0.4 percent. We periodically test our brewed decaffeinated teas (as prepared) for caffeine content and the results tend to be within that percentage range. No other residual substance testing is done.

So, first of all, they are openly admitting to having more caf than the 0.1% allowed by the draft law for “decaf” coffee. I don’t know if the law passed or what was done for tea.

Second, what do they mean that they test “brewed decaffeinated teas (as prepared)” when they are talking about 0.1%-0.4% caf in the dry tea leaves? How do you test brewed tea and determine it has caf content within a range for dry tea leaves?


During the drying process, the ethyl acetate and water is evaporated, taking the caffeine with them.

No other residual substance testing is done.

They admit that they make no effort to test/measure whether all the poisonous ethyl acetate actually evaporated as they hope (and claim in customer-facing writing) that it does.

DD told and taught me basically to trust society and companies to be competent, reasonable, modern, scientific, etc.

He’s wrong.

You can’t trust processed foods or or tons of mainstream medicines/surgeries/etc. Companies will just process foods with poison and be like “we think the poison evaporated away though we didn’t bother testing that”. We live in a fucked up world.

DD thought hotdogs, white bread, and basically every food at a regular grocery store was perfectly safe.

Eliezer Yudkowsky has a better perspective which I’ve talked about and agreed with before: we live in an inadequate world. It’s something I find people usually don’t want to talk or think about.

I actually see a ton of victim blaming online where I think the motive is refusing to believe that the world sucks or big companies suck (and they, the victim blamer, are actually at risk) so instead they blame victims. People want to think that if you get a bad result you must have done something wrong and unusual, so since they do reasonable things they are safe.

The story only ends there, however, if you’re fortunate enough to live in an adequate civilization.

we do live in an inadequate civilization

stranger: I think the key concepts you need are civilizational inadequacy and status hierarchy maintenance.

stranger: Excuse me, please. I’m just distracted by the thought of a world where I could go on and find 1,000 other stories as good as Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I’m thinking of that world and trying not to cry. It’s not that I can’t imagine a world in which your modest-sounding Fermi estimate works correctly—it’s just that the world you’re describing looks so very different from this one.

I’ve linked and talked about these before though I forget specifically where.

Speaking of inadequate worlds, widespread (white collar) crime, etc:

They did this to me in 2010. They opened up a Premium Checking Account under my name, and a new credit credit to fund the checking account. All without my knowledge or consent. I didn’t log into my account for about a year since I had switched to a credit union, so it took a long time to find out about it. The only reason that I found out about it is because I went to buy a car and when they ran my credit it wasn’t pretty. I had a year of delinquent payments that I didn’t know about. Took over a year to get the fraudulent accounts removed and my credit score fixed. Then it took 10 years for me to get a settlement check from the class action lawsuit, of which I only got $69.

WF is a horrible, horrible institution run by criminals and fraudsters. I keep my money as far away from that scum as I can.

This is just one example from a thread with many complaints about Wells Fargo. BTW, some of you may not know that WF was in the news recently for a major scandal. Wells Fargo account fraud scandal - Wikipedia They fraudulently signed people up for millions of accounts without their knowledge or consent.

The problem I have when I read something like this is that I’m doubtful that competitors like Bank of America are better. I don’t think “avoid WF” is a safe conclusion.

It’s like how I’ve tried t-mobile, sprint, AT&T and Verizon and they’re all shitty. If I found one was bad and/or read online complaints about it, and concluded that I should avoid that one in particular, I would actually have been wrong.

EDIT: I read some more of the reddit thread and some ppl r like “WF sucks. Why are you using them? That was your mistake. Use someone else like Ally.” They should search for Reddit threads and other info about Ally. Ally is horrific too.

EDIT 2: it’s disturbing how bad big companies are with identity verification and account access protections:

I had Wells Fargo bank in 2009-2010. I got a call one day from the bank manager who told me it was urgent that I get to the branch as soon as possible. I left work early to handle it.

When I got to the bank, the manager was immediately accusatory and almost shouting at me asking how I was going to pay back “the money.” Somehow my account was overdrawn by about $40k.

I tried explaining that not only did I not spend that much money, I couldn’t have in the time frame alleged (2 days) and that she needed to take another look. She was absolutely incensed by that point and threatened to call the police. I sat there for a couple of hours and finally, they found out what the issue was…

A roofing company in Orlando had just opened an account with them and because their tax ID was similar to my social security number, some putz linked the accounts.

I withdrew every dime I had and cancelled the credit card I had with them that same day.

Fuck Wells Fargo.

Should they question whatever clever reasoning led them to that conclusion, in the same way that most smart individuals should question any clever reasoning that causes them to think AAPL stock is underpriced? Should they question whether they can “beat the market”

This reminds me that DD thinks the stock market is approximately efficient and I now believe it’s horribly stupid and irrational all the time on a massive scale. (Tesla’s stock price is a good example.)

Not that you should try to beat the market. In general that’s a bad idea, particularly if it isn’t your career. The stupidity and unreasonableness of the stock market actually enhances it’s unpredictability, which is one of the things that can make beating the market hard. Also stock market outcomes are massively affected by government policies; just looking at information about the companies themselves isn’t good enough. Media coverage is a huge factor too. And besides, about beating the market: if you adjust your opinions in an “everything is worse than I thought” way, that does not exclude yourself and mean you’re suddenly superior to everything.

I find caffeine, in general, problematic. Some comments:
I think people respond differently to it. I don’t know why that is.

For example, tons of people talk about needing caffeine to “wake up”, think clearly, get moving, etc. in the morning - which I’ll summarize with the term “morning energy”. I’d guess that morning energy is the #1 reason people cite for caffeine consumption. But I have tried different caffeine amounts (though never in doses exceeding ~200mg/day), for weeks or months at a time, and as far as I know I have never once experienced that effect.

If I’m avoiding caffeine as much as I can, when I wake up I get moving pretty much right away.

If I’m on some level of caffeine, when I wake up I get moving pretty much right away just the same. If I don’t have my usual caffeine dose for EX: 3 hours after I get up, it’s not a problem at all for me. I don’t feel more alert or clearer thinking after having the caffeine than I did before. If I have significantly more caffeine than I’m used to I can feel “jittery”, but that’s not a good thing / not a help.

Bottom line, I am pretty sure that caffeine is zero help to me in the morning whether I’m regularly having a significant amount of it or not. It’s possible all the people saying caffeine helps in the morning are lying, or having some kinda placebo effect, or something like that. Or it’s possible there’s some energy effect on me I’m failing to perceive. But I doubt it. I think caffeine affects other people differently than me wrt morning energy.

Caffeine will keep me up if I have a lot of it late in the day. I think that’s pretty standard.

More insidious though, caffeine will wake me up and keep me from going back to sleep as long as 12 hours after consumption. It stays around longer than drugs with pro-sleep effects (like benedryl). For example I’ve had a caffeinated dessert like tiramisu at dinner, taken a benedryl 2 hours later before getting into bed, and predicatably the benedryl wears off about 4-5 hours after that, the caffeine wakes me up and I can’t go back to sleep. So desserts like tiramisu I have learned not to have at dinner.

An effect I have that I don’t hear other people talk about much is caffeine sensitivity. I have, at times, attempted to maintain very low caffeine intake for months at a time. When I did, I found I became very sensitive to relatively small amounts of caffeine. One problem is foods I ate irregularly (like chocolate) would start to affect my sleep. Another problem as you (ET) said is that “decaf” means different things & different amounts than you might expect. And another problem is some recipes have more caffeine than you’d expect for the same “thing”: for example some chocolate cake recipes use espresso as an ingredient! And some flavors of ice cream etc. When I was trying to have low caffeine intake I ended up with what seemed to me like random sleep disturbances. I’d find myself awake at 3am, unable to go back to sleep, and in reviewing the previous day would guess that the cause was the chocolate, or the “decaf” tea that wasn’t as decaf as I thought. That could be misattribution but I don’t think so. One reason is that it stopped happening as soon as I started deliberately getting some caffeine again.

I think, for me, around 100mg of caffeine sometime in the morning results in me sleeping better at night. I wake up less or, if I do wake up, go back to sleep easier. The form doesn’t matter. I’ve tried coffee, black or green tea, chocolate covered coffee beans, and caffeine pills. All seemed to have approximately the same effect, although it takes 2 cups of tea, and even one cup of light roast coffee makes me feel jittery. I’ve heard light roast has more caffeine, so I think that’s why and I avoid it.

But even that isn’t great. After a while (1-2 months) the effect diminishes and I start sleeping worse. I could up the caffeine at that point and probably get the effect back, but I already know that’d be an ultimately fruitless approach. So instead I taper off for a week or so. The chocolate covered coffee beans are good for that, as I can just gradually reduce the amount. If I reduce too fast I get headaches. Once I’m off then I can stay off for a while before the sensitivity comes back, but my sleep isn’t as good.

Anyway, I think if it was reasonably convenient to get to and stay at zero caffeine that’d be best. Since it’s not, I think the next best option for me is to be relatively deliberate about consuming an intentional amount.

How long have you tried avoiding caffeine for? Full withdrawal from addiction can apparently take months for some people.

a comment at claims to still not be 100% recovered 9 months after quitting caf.

this one says they’re fully recovered but it took nearly 2 years

My own experience is that I don’t seem to have issues with irregularly having under 100mg of caffeine. Also I can have some caf at night (e.g. a tea) and sleep fine. I’ve never been a coffee drinker.

Are you in general optimistic or pessimistic? I’m not talking about the BoI theory of optimism. I’m talking about the common sense theory. Do you believe things will get better? I think you’ve made the point that people being bad at reasoning is one of biggest reason for all the problems in the world. I agree. Do you see progress happening there? Are people getting better at reason. Given how few people stick with CF, the battle for rationality seems lost. I found an article which shows that from the very beginning your goal has been to do the moral thing. CF are the most rational ideas I know of (I haven’t done even close to a comprehensive survey to find all the rational communities out there but I would guess I have a somewhat basic understanding of most of the big communities out there that are supposedly interested in reason/ideas). Doesn’t the lack of progress make you pessimistic? Don’t you think that progress is very hard to make and probably any good progress isn’t gonna happen? What do you work for then? What motivates you to keep going? Why do you keep going?

I have another related thing to say. Most of the times after reading your analysis of about how bad things most things are out there my pessimistic view further deepens (your analysis almost always convinces me that things are indeed bad). My answer for the question that I asked you (What do you work for then? What motivates you to keep going? Why do you keep going?) strengthens in the negative side. I don’t feel like working for anything because I already feel that positive outcome is not likely.

My goal with saying this is that, assuming you are indeed optimistic, I want to understand why and how you are optimistic?

Several years. I don’t know how many but it was more than two. But my avoidance was not super effective. I knew decaf stuff had some caffeine in it but no idea how much (or how much it varied). I learned about desserts only after they “bit” me a few times and I noticed. And even after I knew I’d still sometimes have them cuz I liked them.

If you go read the Ally threads with someone’s horror story, they are full of people defending Ally and saying the person was wrong to have not fully read and understood the terms of service. Or saying that what Ally did sucks and is difficult to deal with, but they don’t really have many options and it’s your own fault if having your one bank account makes you unable to pay bills because you should have back-up sources of funding.

So they they are still victim-blaming, but in a different way. With WF they say you should know better to have ever used WF at all. With Ally, they defend Ally and assume any problems you have with them are either because of your own incompetence or because Ally was doing something that they had to do that wasn’t any worse than any other bank would have done.

(I got this mostly from reading r/personalfinance where they are fans of Ally.)

Do you routinely get enough sleep?

Yes. Sleep is scheduled for at least 8 hours daily, and it’s extremely rare for me to incur on that schedule by setting an alarm for less than 8 hours after I actually go to bed. And I routinely fall asleep quick. When I don’t get enough sleep it’s almost always because I woke up too early and couldn’t go back to sleep.

I am often called (and have come to think of myself as) a “morning person”. Even if for example I woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep, I’ll be plenty alert & energetic at 9am, caffeine or no. If I get lethargic due to lack of sleep it’s generally after lunch.

Varies by issue. And that isn’t generally how I think about things. Pessimism/optimism is a degree spectrum, not decisive conclusions about goals and breakpoints.

I like rationality. I am curious. I want to understand things. And I do make progress. I’ve figured new things out this year, and I did it last year too, and the year before, and so on. Some of it is personal progress (new to me) and some is progress for humanity (new to everyone).

What else would I do? What would be more fun? I think philosophy is more fun than video games, novels, TV, etc.

I’m not writing/creating primarily to get things from other people, to influence them, to help them, etc. The primary thing is doing activities I like. I’m not relying on other people to motivate or reward me.

Things aren’t that bad: I think society is likely to keep feeding me and won’t violently assault me, for decades, continuously. I think chances are good that my money will still have value and grocery stores will keep operating and sell me good food that I can afford. And I’ll have adequate housing too – walls, roof, heat, cooling, electricity, indoor plumbing, internet access, etc.

Similarly, I did find some tea brands I can buy that make decaf with the CO2 method. So I have a solution that’s OK for me.

I advise against using caffeine


I think the issue might be that you are getting enough sleep, and many other people aren’t. (Also the thing about feeling like a “morning person” could be part of it.)

You say later that:

So if someone was tired/sleepy in the morning, and caffeine helped to keep them awake, that seems to be the same kind of effect that you are talking about getting from caffeine.