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Poker player bets $100k he can last 30 days in pitch black solitary confinement (theguardian.com)
111 points by ganonm 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 44 comments

Dark retreat is a traditional practice in Tibetan Buddhism and Bön[0]. The usual guidance is that a dark retreat should be done only when the meditator has attained stability in the Natural State. Not many Westerners are in this zone, but seem able to benefit nonetheless [1],[2]. There are mental health risks[3], as in any other meditation practice. One claim is that sustained darkness stimulates the production of endogenous DMT.[4]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_retreat

[1] 3-week Darkness Retreat in Guatemala. https://imcb.dharmaseed.org/teacher/424/talk/51886/

[2] Dawning of Clear Light: A Western Approach to Tibetan Dark Retreat Meditation (2003) https://www.amazon.com/Dawning-Clear-Light-Approach-Meditati...

[3] https://www.mindful.org/willoughby-britton-the-messy-truth-a...

[4] https://www.universal-tao.com/dark_room/enlightenment.html

Reminds me of this recent post to HN, about the unexpected risks of long term meditation.


traditionally, there are separate practices for laymen/householders and monks/ascetics. it looks like translating to modern western society is losing the distinction and is causing problems

Reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode in a gentlemen's club where a member bets one annoying member can't go a year without speaking.

Guess I won't spoiler it but the guy has to make a pretty big decision in order to complete the bet - here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silence_(The_Twilight_Zone...

Gamblers do all kinds of wacky bets like this. If you are into these kinds of stories, get "The Man With the $100,000 Breasts: And Other Gambling Stories" by Michael Konick


Here's a short article about Brian Zembic and his $100,000 breasts as mentioned in the title:


Brian also performed a bet where he tried to stay locked in a bathroom for 30 days to win $14,000.

If I were to guess, my guess would be that preparation could make a big difference. Experience being alone. Experience with darkness/blindness. Good meditation "shape."

I'd take this bet.

For a $100k paycheck, I'd very quickly find a 30 day opening in my schedule. A month long retreat sounds pretty nice, actually. Preparation is definitely key to this challenge, though. You also weigh the possibility of damage to your psyche with this challenge, and there is a high likelihood of permanent changes to your personality. Then again, the sudden acquisition of $100k could also do damage/change.

I would take that bet in almost all cases. The only people I would consider even remotely able to accomplish 30 days in solitary darkness would be someone who has thoroughly prepared and practiced for decades.

How much can you actually cover? I've done solitary stretches over 30 days more than once and while I don't like confinement, it's tolerable. That much darkness is a big unknown, but I've always rather enjoyed the darkness. Perhaps the stint as an astronomer sufficiently prepared me for this challenge.

I would do it if I could read (backlit Kindle in the dark) or use my computer. Otherwise, doesn't really seem worth it.

Or even audiobooks/podcasts. But that would be too easy.

Wouldn't it atrophy your ability to see? Like, the brain getting anomalous, low-signal data for such a long time?

It might. You can offset this risk by rubbing your eyes through your closed eyelids stimulate the optic receptors.

HackerNews anons will brag about being able to do this, but sensory deprivation for this is very dangerous. Most probably won't do make it, and there's risk of irreparable mental harm.

This might be daily mail junk, but... https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-509648/Losin...

Two days shows effects. 30 days? For a novice? No way.

dude.. he's simulating being blind for 30 days. he's going to make an easy 100k with no adverse after effects.

Blind people still interact with others.

I once went on a tour through a lava tunnel in Iceland. Part of the tour was where the guide dimmed all the lights. The feeling of total darkness was quite strange. The guide said that if we would stay in this darkness for a month our eye muscles would atrophy and we would become blind.

I would expect Alati to at least feel a little physical effect from his stay in darkness.

Muscles atrophy but not that quickly?

This reminds me of the Peter Tripp stunt where he stayed awake for 8 days straight[1]. It sounds like a great idea but you never know what the side effects will be. I was in a sensory deprivation tank for an hour and I started seeing crazy things.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Tripp

No, it doesn't, because it would deal irreversible damage for adults after 6 days of sleep deprivation.

One time I went through an extremely stressful period and didn’t sleep more than an hour a night for 7 days until a doctor had mercy and gave me lorazepam. My muscles and joints started to degrade

My record was 242 hours without sleep when I was 12, me and my best friend challenged who could last longer, ended up in a draw. Last 3 days were in slow zombie mod, I couldn't walk more than 20 meters without taking a break.

That was a really interesting story. At first I thought it would be tampering to have a voice come through a loudspeaker after 2 weeks of silent darkness with an offer cave, but I'm glad they resolved the bet without anyone getting hurt (you should read the article I don't want to spoil the end).

I'd watch the documentary they will make too.

If someone wants to experience something similar, sensory deprivation tanks could be an interesting option. I'd argue that the lack of tactile deprivation in the experiment made a huge difference.

I only did the floating tank thing once and have to say: lack of distractions and ensured lack of disturbance is nice, but it doesn't change meditating much.

(and I actually might prefer distant street noise over salt crystallizing on your face and condensation running down your face)

edit: and I don't like the dark for it, because I immediately see or imagine shapes. but they are also just a mere distraction.

I tried it but immediately fell asleep. Too relaxing I guess!

After reading about solitary confinement I wanted to test myself by staying in the bathroom in my finished basement for a weekend. I'd have sunlight through a small window, a toilet, sink, and would have my wife bring me meals 2-3 times a day. I figured this was pretty similar to real solitary confinement with the main differences being I'd be sleeping on the floor and could leave at any time. Unfortunately she refused to participate so I never did it, but I'd like to think I could have easily competed it.

I think I've already done it as a student in my 9-square-meter room. Haha just kidding.

The truth is, spending a couple of days without hearing anyone's voice makes you feel out of place and depressed quite quickly, even though I don't mind being alone usually.

I don't understand why you needed your wife to bring you food. Can't you keep a couple days worth of food in there?

Why did she refuse to participate ?

For me, the craziest prop bet in recent memory was a $2M weight loss bet Ted Forrest won in ~2010 to go from 188 to 138 lbs in 2 months. It's been almost a decade so some of the most dramatic pics are hard to find but here's one of the ones I found: http://www.flushdraw.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/forrest-...

This is fascinating. As a novice meditator, I lasted three days on a silent meditation retreat and it was perhaps the most psychologically taxing experience of my life. I can't imagine the mental strength this guy had and years of mental preparation necessary in order to make it through.

What fascinates me about stuff like this is how troubling our own inner thoughts can be when we're left alone with them. In this case Alati talked about the importance of controlling his thoughts and preventing himself from spiraling into negativity. It's amazing how our own thoughts can take a toll on us and drive us insane when we're left alone with them with nothing to distract us. It makes me wonder how much they affect us in our day to day interactions.

It almost seems like a sign that something is wrong on a species wide scale when we need to constantly distract ourselves from our own thoughts to prevent being driven mad.

Could also be an evolutionary way to keep on our toes. "What's around the corner"

I find it hard to imagine going 30 days without tripping bad, at which point any normal person would say stop. I bet against.

To me it's like giving away 100k and taking bath salts. Reminds me of the movie "Altered States".

Heh, I've noticed that I seem to be more resistant to the the usual effects of solitary confinement and wondered if I could exploit that "superpower" to make money.

Am I correct in that he wipes his arse in pitch darkness? That would be my main concern, not getting shit on myself. But I guess he had the bath to take care of that..

This reminds me of the water torture myth-busters episode where Adam's ability to withstand it was only limited by the capacity of his bladder. It's not so much the confinement or the water that makes you go crazy, it's everything else.

He might be alive but I imagine he might no longer be sane.

From his statements after emerging, it appears he might now be saner than the rest of us.

Thanks to my highly privileged information source, VSauce :D, I know that you start to have brain damage after 3 days

From the evidence provided in the article, he seems relatively unscathed.

Sounds great, unfortunately I can't afford the $100k.

This sounds like something Dan Blizerian would do.

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