The Science of 1 Person

One reason evolution is amazing is that incorporates knowledge into our species. However, it is slow and a lot of people live suboptimal lives waiting for our biology to adapt. Fortunately, humans, unlike other species can adapt to the world quicker than evolution through science. We can observe the world and learn from our environment consciencely instead of waiting to see what confers a survival advantage.

This is great. Science is great for pushing humanity forward quicker than evolution would. However, we usually require that science is reproducible across the population. We are also trying to understand the average impact something has on people. However, as a single person, the average doesn’t offer any guarantees for me. In fact, it can be a burdensome constraint. I’ve decided to experiment on myself to make decisions for myself. Things that are measurable, happen frequently and have a low cost for being wrong work the best.

For example, diet is constantly analyzed ad naseum by the science (and psuedo science) community. I’ve read so many different studies on what diet is best. There was a temptation to look for statistically significant, reproducible studies on what diet produces the most day to day energy. Instead, I just experimented with a bunch and picked the one that makes me feel the best. Of course, that doesn’t mean that my decision generalizes to the whole population. However, that’s the point. It doesn’t have to generalize. In fact, there’s no reason to think that the one diet is best for every one. I also don’t need the optimal diet. I am willing to satisfice. My diet only impacts me. I’d rather have a pretty good decision that I am sure works for me than a possibly great decision for the general population.

Experimenting on myself solves a number of problems:

  1. I don’t have to worry about reproducibility. No need for me to sort through conflicting studies or to worry about convincing other people.
  2. I am confident whatever I am doing will actually help me achieve my goal. High confidence in outcome helps my willpower and follow through.
  3. If I am likely different than the general population, this will account for that.
  4. No analysis paralysis.

This “science of 1” theory only works in certain cases. Things that carry a high cost or occur rarely do not work and I rely on general science. For example, I can test which diets make me feel the best day to day, but I can’t test which diets are healthiest over the long term. Generally, this works best for day to day impact and not long term impact. However, it has been very helpful and freeing to experiment on myself for myself.

Also, a variation of the Slow Carb Diet makes me feel the best day to day. Of course, that proves nothing about the long term impact of the diet. However, there’s some solid science to back up the idea that highly processed foods and sugar rich diets are not good for you. Given that, it’s very unlikely that I’m making a worse choice than the default american diet for my long term health. However, I am nearly certain that short term, this diet makes me feel much better.

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