Curiosity – Caffeine Is Bad

Here’s my attempt to summarize your position:

The only moral caffeine is my caffeine. Caffeine is bad in general, and other people ingesting caffeine are making mistakes. I have super good logical reasons to ingest caffeine, but they don’t.

That’s similar to an article that was recently linked at this forum: “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion”.

I guess I wasn’t clear about the context of my post:

Elliot’s articles did not convince me that caffeine is bad in general or for me specifically. I’m currently undecided about both of those.

What Elliot’s articles convinced me of is that I should pay more attention to caffeine than I had been, and re-examine if it is good or bad for me.

You’re trying to interpret some kind of conclusion (or extra information) in ET’s mind instead of reading what ET said and figuring out what it means. This is a common issue that leads to misunderstandings. A lot of people do it.

Writing always has a limited amount of information, and it’s important to understand both what it says and also what it doesn’t say. The actual thing ET said is simpler and more limited than the sort of interpretation you’re aiming at. You should start by looking at the words and figuring out what they say. Focus on interpreting specific words.

If you understand all the words and ET (or anyone) hasn’t commented on X, then (as an initial and usually correct conclusion) the writing didn’t say something about X. You generally shouldn’t become confused due to your expectation that X would be talked about. And you shouldn’t go out of your way try to interpret the words as being about X because that leads to misinterpretations. Even if you think X is the key issue, other people might disagree. Or they might agree X is the key issue but still share some comments about some other issues.

You talk about what “[ET] mean[s] here [in the quote]“. That shows confusion where you think ET is talking about the issue you’re trying to understand. You didn’t ask for additional thoughts or comments. You didn’t ask for new information or more details. You presented this as you trying to understand what ET already said, not as you asking for new stuff. But he didn’t say the thing you’re looking for in his words. You’re trying to read in something that isn’t there. You’re focusing on high level concepts that you start with instead of starting at the bottom by analyzing the meanings of the words, sentences and paragraphs.

In short, ET said what he said and nothing more, and you should learn to read more literally and do text analysis. You should participate in some of the community activities that ET is facilitating to help people learn. If you clearly knew what ET’s words did and didn’t say, instead of it all being vague in your mind, then I don’t think you would have responded the same way.

Besides interpreting what ET (or anyone) says in a more literal way that better judges what is and isn’t included or stated, it’s also helpful to put some of your own thought and effort into your questions. Your question was lazy and low quality. If you want help with a thought process, you should share more about it. What are your thoughts and goals on this subject, and where did you get stuck that you want help with? (ET has said things like this multiple times, and it’s disrespectful to ignore him about it (while also not saying you disagree and arguing the point, nor saying you have trouble doing it and explaining the problem)). You seem to want ET to say lots of opinions while you say none, and do lots of customized work for your benefit while you do little work, which is problematic especially when you ask non-neutral questions that suggest you maybe disagree with some things for reasons you didn’t give.

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40 posts were split to a new topic: Undermining

I noticed this diet FAQ recommends that everyone quit caffeine even if they have no health problems and aren’t doing the diet:

How Do I Get Off Coffee/Caffeine?

Getting off caffeine cold turkey can be extremely unpleasant and cause caffeine withdrawal. If you’re used to drinking coffee or tea all the time, figure out what amount of caffeine you’re consuming. 1 cup of coffee/ 1 espresso = approx. 64mg caffeine, 1 cup of tea = approx. 26mg caffeine. Switch from coffee/espresso/tea to caffeine pills. Caffeine pills generally have 200mg of caffeine so you’ll need get a pill cutter and cut them in half or a quarter to get the dose right. Start with the same amount of caffeine in pill form and then over the next few weeks wean down and off them, comfortably. The caffeine pills are available at most pharmacies or on Amazon. Pills are much less likely to cause an autoimmune response than coffee, and are much easier to get off of.

Can I Include Caffeine In The Diet?

If you’re suffering from a mood or sleep disorder, I would seriously recommend cutting caffeine completely. I would recommend cutting caffeine for anyone regardless of health problems. It’s a drug and it gives people an up but it’ll also give you a comedown, and can impact mood, energy, and sleep quality. If you feel you absolutely need caffeine and you’ve recovered from your illness, caffeine pills are recommended over coffee or tea.

The Gluten Lie by Alan Levinovitz:

Chlorine-bleached paper tea bags contain dioxin, a known carcinogen that can seep into your hot liquid.


EDIT: Levinovitz apparently doesn’t think this is a real problem, but it’s a real thing companies do and various websites do say it’s a problem.

Progress update:

I have still not resumed intentional or large incidental cafffeine. Some days I have zero or near zero small incidental as well.

Sleep quality in general remains unchanged since mid-July. I wake up 4-6 hours after going to bed, every night, and find it difficult to fall back asleep. No apparent effect on that from varying amounts of small incidental caffeine. Have tried different bedroom temperatures, including some quite cold (high 50’s) with no improvement. Have tried benedryl at bed time, no improvement. Benedryl on waking after 4-6 hours of sleep does let me fall asleep again in about 1/2 hour, but then I don’t wake or want to get out of bed at my normal time of 8 hours after bed time. Plus it’s not something I’d want to do regularly even if it worked, as it merely substitutes benedryl for caffeine.

One thing that’s changed since I established my intentional caffeine policy several years ago is that I now need to be awake at far fewer specific times. It used to be if I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, I just had to stay awake until the next night regardless of how tired I felt later. That was a big factor in my decision to do intentional caffeine in the mornings as that allowed me to usually get a full 8 hours of sleep at night. With my life situation now it’s usually feasible for me to just stay in bed later in the morning than 8 hours after bed time, or take a nap later in the day if I feel tired. So I may decide to just accept waking after 4-6 hours every night and then get more sleep later in the day.

I went cold turkey from caffeine for a little over a month but I now have fallen back into using it for almost a month. I consider this a failure and an illustative example of lacking control over my life.

The only withdrawal I had was a minor headache for one day after stopping. I actually felt better in some ways for much of the month. My energy levels weren’t higher but they were more steady throughout the day. I think I slept a bit better too.

My relapse was initiated with a cup of coffee to cope minor sleep deprivation (~4 hours sleep that night) and trying to get going that morning. The sleep deprivation was also a result of lack of behavioral control. I stayed up late the night before doing something (forget what…but it was probably reading a book, something online, or watching videos). After the initial relatps, I had a cup of coffee every few days to every other day for a boost in the morning.

Now, I have been back at 4-7 cups of coffee a week for the last two weeks or so. I will try to taper off this time. I’m going to try to avoid caffeine on my more relaxed days or when I got a great night’s sleep. I will also try to sleep better (though I usually do get 8 hours). When I really want caffeine, I’m thinking that I will try to have only smaller servings, like a half-cup or less. I plan to look into Alan Carr’s work and try some strategies from that as well.

At this point, people should beware because I’m caffeinated and not in control of my consumption.

Interesting. For me caffeine has never been about morning energy, so I haven’t experienced the particular problem / temptation that you did.

It’s been many years since I had any voluntary sleep deprivation (staying up later than 8 hours before I need to wake up, by choice). What I do have is things that happen to wake me up or keep me awake and result in sleep deprivation, like:

  • Noise outside or inside my house (storms, police helicopter flying around, freezer alarm if the door was left open, smoke detector battery or EOL chirps, power outage causing UPS to beep)
  • Physical things like being ill, sore, allergic, hot, or needing to shit in the middle of the night
  • Waking early and not being able to go back to sleep

Those are the kind of things that, when I was on intentional morning caffeine, would result in noticably less lost sleep (I’d go back to sleep faster / wouldn’t lie in bed awake until morning).

When these things happen sometimes I try to sleep more in the morning by getting up latter than planned or going back to bed. That approximately never works (caffeine or not). I find that I basically can’t sleep in the morning between my normal wakeup time & lunch.

I also find that unless the deprivation was particularly extreme (like I got 3 hours or less of sleep the whole night) I don’t notice even feeling tired - again, caffeine or not. Like, pretty much whatever happened the night before and whether I drank caffeine or not I’m good till at least lunch. After lunch is when I feel tired if I’m sleep deprived & if circumstances allow I can definitely take afternoon naps. But when circumstances don’t allow for an afternoon nap I am not tempted to use caffeine to solve the tiredness problem because I know it’d just keep me up later that night and cause schedule rolling. So I just tough it out until evening and maybe go to bed a little earlier than usual.

There are lots of people who seem to be not like me in regard to morning energy, probably even the majority though I haven’t done any kind of count or study. I don’t know what causes the difference.

There hasn’t been any significant change in my caffeine intake since my last progress update. Still haven’t had any intentional caffeine or any large incidental sources. Some days I think I have literally zero / can’t identify anything that has any caffeine. 3 days in the last month I had a single cup of decaf tea. About half the days I had some kind of chocolate, usually as a component of ice cream. As far as I know that’s it. Still not sleeping as well at night as I did while on intentional caffeine, but it’s not a significant problem in my current circumstances.

Came across this today: How Many Cups of Coffee You Should Drink Per Day, According to 'Science' | Lifehacker

How Many Cups of Coffee You Should Drink Per Day, According to ‘Science’

Two to three cups for longevity, maybe

This comes from a study of older people. I think (but only from anecdotes and vague recollection of some studies) that longevity is highly correlated with working vs. being retired. I’d also guess that coffee drinking is highly correlated with working vs. being retired. My tentative guess would be that working instead of being retired is a good indication you’ll live longer and also that you’ll drink coffee, rather than coffee drinking causing you to live longer.

To be fair, they do mention a couple times in the article that causality has not been established. But my guess is the author and most readers think correlation is almost as good / the best we currently have so OK to basically act as if causation is established.

They highlight a couple of other options:

Three to four cups for other health outcomes

No “maybe” on this one, even though it’s more extreme than the first and there’s more problems discussed in the details.

Four cups or less, to be safe

Zero is not discussed much as an option to seriously consider. It’s only given lip service earlier in the article if you’re not already a coffee drinker:

The author of that analysis said that people should not start drinking coffee because of these results, but that if you already drink coffee, it “can be part of a healthy diet.”

Some updates with the change in season:

I haven’t changed my caffeine policies/consumption since the summer (no intentional or large incidental sources; some days I have some from a small incidental source and some days literally zero).

With the longer nights, I find the waking problem at night is worse than it was during the summer months. It’s now pretty ordinary for me to be awake between 3 and 5 am. I have just adapted to this since it’s no longer disruptive to my work activities. I just get some stuff done while I’m awake and then go back to bed in an hour or two. I think if I still had ex: meetings scheduled at 6am I would have chosen to go back on intentional caffeine to regulate my sleep schedule.

With the cooler weather I found myself wanting warm drinks in the morning more. Herbal or decaf tea is OK but lacks the body and complexity of coffee and I tire of it quickly. I have a couple of problems with decaf coffee: first is that there’s still a significant amount of caffeine in it - more than decaf tea I think. Also there’s an aftertaste in decaf coffee that I don’t care for.

I have tried a few alternatives I like:

Cacao: for example
Pros - Low caffeine (though hard to tell exactly how much). Nice chocolatey taste & smell with more complexity and added flavor compatibility than tea.
Cons - Lacks the body and flavor concentration of coffee. Contains theobromine which I don’t know about and could be bad. However I have not noticed any effects on either alertness or sleep cycle from cacao.
Notes - They claim cacao “brews like coffee”. It most assuredly does not. I initially tried to brew it like I used to brew coffee and it was horribly weak. Unlike coffee, cacao is slow extracting and basically impossible to over-extract. I got the best results with a french-press style brewing method and 10 minutes steeping time in the microwave at 10% power to keep the water near boiling. And still, flavor additions are necessary for it not to seem weak.

Chicory: for example
Pros - No caffeine (literally zero from what I can tell). Flavor concentration and body very similar to coffee. Seems easy to brew, actually does brew like coffee but more forgiving wrt temperature and duration. Compatible with similar added flavors as coffee.
Cons - Smell is muted and somewhat unpleasant which detracts from the beverage. Has a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but that could be my inexperience with brewing (I need to experiment more).
Notes - Most people talk about combining chicory with coffee rather than having just chicory. I think that might mainly be because the coffee would provide a pleasant smell that chicory lacks; chicory is really not lacking in the flavor department at all. I haven’t tried but am planning to try mixing chicory with cacao and also with decaf coffee to see if that improves the experience by improving the smell while keeping the caffeine level lower than straight decaf coffee would be.

Robust tea preparation: for example decaf spiced chai + cream + vanilla, hazelnut, or maple flavor extract
Pros - Easy to make, pleasant smell and significantly more robust and flavorful than normal “tea”.
Cons - Still has some caffeine (a decaf black tea is the base). Not compatible with as many flavor additives as cacao or chicory.
Notes - I think it’s common to add cream to black tea in UK, Australia, and NZ (which is where I got the idea) but not in America. Not sure why as it improves the flavor compatibility and mouth feel of tea significantly. I hadn’t heard of adding flavor extracts to tea+cream but gave it a try and liked it with some and not others (caramel, mint, and chocolate did not go well). I have heard of brewing a black tea and a mint herbal tea together to get a more complex mint tea but haven’t tried that yet.

another option

Thanks. I’d be interested in your impressions of Teeccino if you’ve tried it. From the description it looks like Chicory + some other stuff. I’m especially curious about how it smells after brewing.

One of the varieties (Java) says it uses dates&figs for sweetness. I already sweeten my Chicory with fig sugar/allulose, which is good in drinks generally and I think goes well with Chicory. However it doesn’t noticeably add to the smell. If you smell the bag directly, ya, it smells like figs but the small amount in a drink isn’t enough to notice.

From the article:

Plus I did tell everyone 5 years ago that I think coffee is bad. So not disclosing coffee drinking after that is problematic.

I have a knee-jerk negative response to this. It’s possible I’ve not understood it right.

Are you saying that everyone who takes part in discussions with you should disclose any drugs they are taking and if they are sleep deprived? That feels very intrusive, possibly because at least caffeine is a very common conventional thing, it seems “normal”. Also it seems like you expect everyone to know that you said that in the past which seems unreasonable to me.

My negative reaction might also be owing to the word “problematic” which is often used to mean “problematic language” and can be used in a very intrusive passive-aggressive controlling way.

It might instead be that what is meant by the quoted line is: it should be disclosed in conversations where progress gets stuck and there are subconscious issues which you have to brainstorm, in which case it does seem reasonable. It might be something that you need to bring up rather than expecting the person you’re talking to to know what you do about caffeine etc.

To me, “problematic” is a fairly mild word which just means there’s a problem there. I don’t think the context you’re talking about is standard – to me that sounds related to being a kid and dealing with parents or teachers. It could vary by country or region.

Did you read the whole article? I talked about that.

If someone has been around for less than 5 years then I wouldn’t generally expect them to know about something from more than 5 years ago unless it was particularly emphasized (like e.g. Paths Forward). I was speaking casually/informally there in a context where multiple people involved in the discussion had been actively around for more than 5 years. There were definitely some people who heard me criticize coffee 5 years earlier, were ingesting lots of caffeine, said nothing, made no changes to their behaviors, and kept asking me for lots of help.

Doesn’t it being common and conventional make it less intrusive to ask about? Asking people to disclose cocaine habits would seem more intrusive because cocaine use is less normal to do or to share with others.

Coffee is actually something that, in conventional/offline relationships, would be visible to me, not private. There’s a broader problem where people use internet-enabled privacy to hide learning-relevant information that they wouldn’t hide in offline relationships. Another example is hiding negative facial expressions. People will tell me they are absolutely definitely not tilted – while I could see it in their face if I was in the room, and they could see it in the mirror or feel it. They wouldn’t say it to me face to face because they’d be obviously lying and they know their face isn’t neutral, but they do say it online. They should not do that.

In any case, I think I’ve made a lot of progress towards solving these problems unilaterally by being a lot less willing to try to help anyone individually. I can just have a lower opinion of humanity and expect less from people. (On a related note, people often make wildly inaccurate assumptions about what actions by me take how much effort. This confuses them regarding social status evaluations – where amount of effort is relevant – among other things like what to ask for.)

Yes that’s how I always used to take the word before “problematic language” started being a thing. I didn’t mean to imply you meant it as anything like the intrusive-controlling way, I was just exploring possible reasons behind my response. It seems like I might have subconsciously allowed the intrusive-controlling use of the word to be too pervasive in my mind without realising it. Possibly something that infected me from social media (which I used to be more active on and care about, I barely use it now).

I did (though it’s possible I missed things).

I think it’s unambiguously stated that caffeine etc usage should be disclosed where progress gets stuck like that.

I’m unclear if you mean only that, or if you mean it should be disclosed at all times. Here are a couple excerpts that lead me to think you might mean at all times as they are more general statements.

Being drunk while posting would be more extreme and more unreasonable. But from a rational/logoical perspective, the difference is quantitative not qualitative. It’s less bad by degree to only have one beer instead of being drunk, but it’s the same kind of thing. Beer makes it harder for you to think straight. So do coffee, nicotine and pot.


It’s kinda like if people were trying to have conversations with me while drunk and didn’t disclose that they were drunk. I think a lot of readers would find that example pretty bad and see my point about how that would be mistreating me. Doing the same thing with caffeine, sleep deprivation, other drugs or smaller doses of alcohol is also unreasonable in a similar way to doing undisclosed drunk conversations. It’s the same issue qualitatively, just less bad as a matter of degree, but still bad.

Whether you mean full disclosure at all times, or just disclosure when facing a stuck problem, that will impact the context of some other questions I want to ask once I understand this point.

I wasn’t clear there. I didn’t mean that I think you genuinely expect that of everyone. But I’ve read quite a few of your articles and had the sense that you wouldn’t mean it that way as a result. In isolation, if someone were to read this article on it’s own or without much context, I think it could be easily misunderstood and this could be avoided e.g. if you replaced “everyone” with “them” (referring to the fans mentioned in the previous paragraph).

Yes, good point. “intrusive” is the wrong word. I was guessing at why I was having a strong reaction.
It’s hard to recreate my thinking behind it now, as I don’t have the same reaction reading it anymore. So the guess about intrusiveness seems to have just been a bad one.

I think even face to face people often lie and say they’re fine. I think there’s a lot of shame around getting angry, and it can seem like “losing” or an admission of fault to be the one getting angry in an argument where people are concerned with status.

I feel like I need to acknowledge this but I’m struggling to pick good words so this is probably going to be clumsy.
It seems sad. I guess it feels out of place to be sympathetic here, and I don’t want to be intrusive, but you have my sympathies. I don’t have a high opinion of the state of humanity myself. But within everyone there’s potential for boundless growth. Humanity remains the best thing that exists.

I have a feeling that you were making another point that I’m missing.

I have written thousands of things in a variety of contexts and there’s no way to avoid sometimes having misunderstandings with people who are less familiar with the context. While I usually specific more context than most authors, defensively always specifying all relevant or abnormal (for some reader) context is impossible. We always assume tons of unspecified context. There are often clues in my writing style, or explicit statements, which are sometimes missed.

So I try not to worry too much about it, which could be a large burden.

One of the things I’ve done about this is make two blogs and two YouTube channels. The CF ones are more formal, more aimed at a general audience, more careful to avoid confusing anyone, etc.

I think the following is adequately clear for setting the context of the statement about disclosure that comes a little later in the same section:

People try to learn philosophy. They get stuck. I try to brainstorm how/why they’re stuck and how to help. They sometimes try or pretend to try to brainstorm what’s going on too.

Meanwhile they’re on drugs and they aren’t disclosing that!? Maybe that’s why they’re stuck!

I told a story then I commented on that story.

It’s certainly possible to misunderstand and could be made clearer. But I did try to explain a context there that I had in mind. When I wrote:

So not disclosing coffee drinking after that [that = my podcast criticizing coffee] is problematic.

That was not anything like a universal, generic, contextless statement. It was a statement about the specified context I was currently discussing. Repeating the same word (“disclosing”), as well as the word “Plus” at the start of the paragraph, both help clarify it’s related to what came shortly before.

Also “after” can easily be read to to refer to relevant people’s responses at the time, not to mean indefinitely in the future for anyone. If someone was stuck and seeking help, etc … the whole described context applied to them … then I posted negatively about coffee … then they didn’t disclose after that … then they kept being stuck and kept asking for help for additional years … that is problematic. I think that actually happened with multiple people but I still don’t have very accurate information about who did what when for most people.

There were also other clarifying parts like:

I feel kinda like I have to police people’s entire lives or they’ll just massively sabotage their philosophy learning. But that isn’t my job, nor my place, and I don’t want to do it. Plus they put work into preventing me from policing their lives. They don’t regard that as help and don’t want it – at least that’s how they often act regardless of what they say. If they really seriously wanted help then, among many other things, they’d post hours of raw video of their learning activities and samples of other stuff in their lives. Which is something I’ve absolutely brought up before repeatedly and everyone just ignores me and doesn’t want to do it or talk about it or talk about why they won’t do it, etc.

Bold added. This indicates I don’t want or expect lots of disclosures about tons of things from ~everyone I talk with. It also helps clarify that the lack of sharing relevant information from some highly involved long-term posters is not accidental, and I was already aware of it in general.

That’s not intrusive, out of place nor inappropriate. It’s a reasonable response. The coldness, weirdness and lack of praise from some long term posters is bad; don’t copy their cargo culting (inaccurate copying without understanding) of me or whatever it is that creates a bad vibe. I’ve considered getting rid of all the veterans in order to get a more normal forum atmosphere but that plan has major problems. I’ve tried asking them to change but that’s been ineffective. I think if new people came at a rate faster than one at a time it would help, but no one is helping with marketing or sharing much, most of the world doesn’t want ideas that contradict a bunch of what they currently believe, and also a bunch of people are trying pretty hard to keep me obscure (but I’m not sure if that actually matters – I’ve never seen people or discussions in their larger community that actually seemed very good that I’d particularly want to have … I seem to get better people but there aren’t enough of them. Or maybe a bunch of better people reject the dumber community but don’t find me and just don’t talk anywhere I can see that they exist – maybe the bad Popperian communities are just filtering out almost everyone good so that those people just give up on Popper and look elsewhere. idk. Despite being good I had much lower standards when I was new, and that’s gotta be fairly common. Anyway it’s hard to tell how common good people are – anyone who might ever do anything philosophically productive.).

Anyway this is one of the many cases where writing a lot is easier than writing something short and I’m not gonna edit. I have a lot of writing skill automatized and this just replaced some time watching TV or playing video games. That’s one of the major reasons I’ve tried to have a more active forum: because a lot of forum discussion is really easy for me because I already created a lot of skill and automatization related to it. So even if the discussion isn’t great, the cost/benefit often works out for me due to low costs. But as I’ve learned more it’s gotten really hard to get much benefit from e.g. EA or LW level low quality, or worse twitter, or more broadly from the kind of comment section all over the internet where people tend to speak to you 1-3 times (weighted towards 1, not equally weighted) and then just stop so the conversations never go anywhere.

Ok, it hadn’t clicked for me what “that” meant. I was thinking something of an interpretation like “I said this five years ago you should all know this now after that date” but it’s actually more like “anyone who’s seen that podcast (which I happened to make five years ago) should know this now”. I think that was the root of my problem.

I want to improve on reading comprehension. When it comes to long articles I know I can find it difficult to integrate the whole thing. I’ll try to keep that in mind when I comment on other stuff.

I’ve been thinking about writing essays as a practise mini-goal. I’ve got some ideas for things I’d like to write about (Ayn Rand, AGI, game design engine comparison) but they’re all big subjects and I’m wary of overreaching but I’d like to develop towards them. I might write about one of the characters from The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.

Organic marketing isn’t something I could help with (I don’t enjoy being or care to be good at being popular). Have you tried paid marketing?

Do you have a clear ideal user archetype? That can help focus on ways to make joining in more attractive to the type of people you want to talk to.

It sucks that the paywall became necessary and it wouldn’t surprise me if that does put some people off. But I don’t know if those people would fit your archetype or be the kind of people who would want to seriously get involved. Do you have any analytics for finding out about this stuff? (e.g. tracking which pages people look at and where they are when they leave the site, which can give insight on problems)

I think a more structured presentation of your articles may be helpful. I realise that’s a massive thing to do because there are a lot of them, but it may give new people better access to things that catch their interest if e.g. if articles are categorised.

What are EA and LW here?

Effective Altruism and Less Wrong.