Thursday, June 8, 2017

The 4 hour bullshit

I got The 4 Hour Body, a book about how to make yourself superhuman by using all kinds of tricks.  It is written by Tim Ferriss, who got famous primarily by writing The 4 Hour Workweek, a book about how to make lots of money only working 4 hours a week.

I am not going to link it or show the cover because I do not want you to buy or read this book.

There are things in The 4 Hour Body that are true, and other things that are good.  The book is aimed at straight men, and part of the 'be amazing at sex' section is a bunch of stuff about how to focus on women's pleasure during sex, and even a bunch of stuff on performing clitoral massage without the masseuse involved having any sort of stimulation at all.  Convincing straight men to think about this stuff is good!  I like it.

But much of the rest of the 'be amazing at sex' section is rubbish.  It follows the pattern of the rest of the book, which is that Ferriss talks about how you can do magical things just by taking some supplements or eating a particular food.  Become irresistible sexually!  Heal like Wolverine!  Pack on muscle in ways that are literally impossible without sewing meat onto your body!  A pack of lies and nonsense packaged in a pseudoscientific shell is most of the book, complete with links to help you purchase the products he recommends.

On the other hand Ferriss does provide a really useful critique of many of the issues with mainstream science publishing including issues with methodology that you should watch out for.  This stuff is actually totally reasonable and there is a lot of information on how exactly experiments and data can be twisted to show things that aren't really there.  This is useful information and surprisingly better written and informed than I expected.

But then he concludes that instead of actual science you should trust his personal experiments where he randomly does stuff to himself and then draws broad conclusions from that single data point.  The fact that 'I did a bunch of weird stuff all at once and saw changes anecdotally so my hypothesis must be true!' is far *worse* than the other crimes of science that he talks about seems to have escaped him.

You can find useful things in the book if you are hunting for them.  He talks about vitamin D, and I realized that I often don't get much sunlight.  I have since been spending time reading in the sun on my balcony regularly and that seems like it will be enjoyable, even if it has no effect on my health.

But then he goes and talks about how you can put on 34 pounds of lean muscle in 28 days with only 4 hours spent in the gym.  Just eat this handful of supplements and get HUGE INSTANTLY.

Hint:  If people could put on 34 pounds of muscle in a month by eating random supplements half of the population would already be doing it.  You can't, they don't, it is bullshit.

Honestly what it comes down to is Ferriss is selling a pipe dream.  People want instant answers, effortless gains, magic pills.  He tells them that they can become magicians, if only they follow the proper incantations and rituals he has written down.  He forgot to include eye of newt and feathers of a cockatrice but other than that he might as well have been selling spells from Dungeons and Dragons for all the good it will do anyone.

It bothers me.  I get why people want answers, and they want to believe that there is hope.  After traditional methods have failed, surely it is good to believe that there is some way forward, a hidden path to utopia that has been so far overlooked?

Maybe there is, but Ferriss isn't the one who is going to find it.

If you want to find the things that Ferriss does well there are other books that will give you the same information without the hype and the snake oil pitch.  Go out there and find them.

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