I didn’t look at the study itself, but how do they know the initial infections were “real” infections? Is it possible they are effectively just finding the false positive rate from the initial infection testing?
Which, because you only get five (or ten) words, shows up on the headlines as “Past Covid infection gives 5 months of immunity, study suggests”.
I expect many will read just the headline, and start to claim that it is known that past Covid infection gives exactly 5 months of immunity, and this will become the commonly remembered message going forward.
Happy to give an ‘outsider’ viewpoint!
It’s funny, at the point where I had only read the post and not discussed it with anyone, I never parsed “politics is the mindkiller” as any of “politics=boo” or “you are not smart/rational enough to debate politics with me” or even “your mind has been so killed by politics that we can’t have a conversation where we understand each other”. I always thought of it as “politics kills everybody’s mind, like it or not, especially if they’re not aware of it”, and felt mostly sympathy for all of us that this is the case. In conversations, I only use “politics is the mindkiller” in the sense of “look what this is doing to all of us, no matter what side you’re on!” and always after we have shared examples of how both sides have behaved badly. I think doing it this way can help them start to see through the “must support our arguments, must attack theirs” pattern, which is probably so hardwired into people that they never realize it exists. I know I never did, until I read this post.
I prefer “get”. It implies more strongly that if someone actually needs to convince others of their argument, they need to make sure their message is as concise and optimized as possible, before trying to convince anyone. As the original post says:
What if you need all that nuance and to coordinate thousands of people?
You still only get five words.
A bit off topic maybe, but when I read the original post, the part that resonated the most with me, and is now always in the back of mind during political discussions with my friends, is this:
Politics is an extension of war by other means. Arguments are soldiers. Once you know which side you’re on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side; otherwise it’s like stabbing your soldiers in the back—providing aid and comfort to the enemy.
I’ve seen the first part condensed elsewhere on the site to “debate is war; arguments are soldiers”, which is the phrasing I generally use in conversation. This sets the stage for the key insight “you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side”. When I say that, the message often seems to get through, and people seem to think a little more reflectively. The tone of the conversation can soften and it can lead to a more nuanced and less combative discussion. I’ve even had people say, “Yeah, my side might be wrong about a few things, even though they’re still way better than that other side.”
Which, in general, I consider a huge win.
I remember reading around the beginning of the pandemic that Bill Gates was going to do exactly that: subsidize production of many different vaccine candidates with his own money, and accept the sunk cost for any vaccines that ended up not working. I haven’t seen anything about this idea recently though, and it seems he has not been (at least publicly) behind any vaccine production efforts. Any idea why? To avoid perceived competition with Operation Warp Speed?
I’m also a fan of 3-2-1 voting, and I think it has another strong advantage—it’s the one I could most easily see explaining to my friends across the political spectrum, having them understand how it works and its potential advantages quickly, and leave thinking it might be worth a shot and maybe even discussing it with their friends. Some anecdata: I live in a state where ranked choice voting failed to pass in the recent election. A few years ago, before anyone knew ranked choice would even be on the ballot, I tried to explain how it worked, and was met with a few types of dismissals: many thought it was too complicated and couldn’t follow along*, while one friend’s reply was “no, in an election you should just get one vote, and that’s that”. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, or if it was even his true rejection, but it was an interesting response.
But with 3-2-1, I feel like I could explain it to the same people and many would immediately get it and have a positive impression of it and actually remember it again later. Why? Because now I can point out how the candidate on the other side who they can’t stand is gonna get knocked out in round 2. Like, not even in the finals… in round 2! Because obviously way more people hate that other party than my party, and then we just have knock off some Libertarian or whoever, and we’ll win every time! And even once they realize a different pool of candidates might emerge and change the dynamic, at least that terrible candidate who they’re thinking about right now would never win.
Plus, the name itself is very memorable, underscores its simplicity, and is very chantable (for better or worse—I feel somewhat uncomfortable pointing this out, but it seems relevant to a discussion about political systems).
*to be clear, these are smart, reasonable people who would easily understand the concept given enough time. it felt like they were trying to play out elections in their head, realized it was taking too long to figure out during a normal conversation span (understandably), so just figured “forget it” and changed the subject.
I agreed at the time with the sentiments of this and similar discussions of free money available through prediction markets, although I didn’t overcome the inertia enough to make any trades. However, yesterday’s events have made me question how well I was calibrated. Have others been feeling similarly?
I agree, many were quite pleasing as well, especially the adorable avocado armchairs and many of the macro photographs. Another personal favorite are the tetrahedra made of fire—they are exactly how I would picture Sauron, if Tolkien had described him as a tetrahedron.
The nauseating ones included:
Several to do with bats, the worst to me being “a stack of bats” on the table. Part of the problem is I was expecting to see bats (the sporting equipment), so bats (the animal) came as an unpleasant surprise. Not totally surprising this might cause nausea though, given the connection between bats and disease.
Agree with arielroth about some of the national food ones. They reminded me of the display foods you see at some kiosk-type food stations—the shape of the real thing, but just enough off to look completely unedible.
I think the rest of it was a building up of noticing little irregularities that gave overall feeling of unease. The misspelled letters on the storefronts, the animals made of strange textures, the view from my old apartment in San Francisco—but wait, there should be a shop on that corner! And that street should go uphill, not downhill! So much felt familiar at first glance, but just wrong after a little closer inspection, and it added up to a stronger effect after some time.
Not really nauseating, but along the same line of feeling wrong to me, were the golf clubs. I’ve played golf for a long time so I’ve seen a lot of pictures of clubs, and these images seemed normal at first glance but then wait, why does that one have a shaft coming out of both sides of the clubface? And those are just clubfaces with nothing attached. And those grooves would never get the ball out of the sand. Why would anyone ever make anything like that? Because they wouldn’t, and that gets to the heart of the discomfort. They have “clubiness”, but they’re not clubs.
On another note, an example I found really impressive was how every other country I looked at had only generic stadium images, but China’s were instantly recognizable as the Bird’s Nest from the Olympics.
(But I wonder if the architect of the Bird’s Nest would look at those images and say, those beams would never support the weight of the structure! Look, that one’s cracked! It’s so wrong!)
I looked through many combinations of the images, and found myself having a distinctive disgust reaction to quite a few, to the point of feeling slightly nauseous. Curious if anyone else has experienced this? I imagine it could be related to the uncanny valley in robotics… which is a little frightening.
This quote from Moral Mazes seems relevant to this earlier discussion, and may provide further understanding for why markets were slow to respond to the pandemic (emphasis mine):
115. This explains why the chemical company managers kept putting off a decision about major reinvestment. After the battery collapsed in 1979, however, the decision facing them was simple and posed little risk. The corporation had to meet its legal obligations; also, it had either to repair the battery the way the EPA demanded or shut down the plant and lose several hundred million dollars. Since there were no real choices, everyone could agree on a course of action because everyone could appeal to inevitability. This is the nub of managerial decision making. As one manager says: Decisions are made only when they are inevitable. To make a decision ahead of the time it has to be made risks political catastrophe. People can always interpret the decision as an unwise one even if it seems to be correct on other grounds. (Location 1886)
In Feb/March, if the relevant financial institutions were going through such a behind-the-scenes process of “establishing the inevitability” of the pandemic before large market-moving decisions could be made, this could explain the apparent delay (and corresponding opportunity for the rational individual investor). One can imagine individuals within these firms feeling each other out—“This pandemic might turn into a big deal, huh?” “Yeah, but the boss hasn’t seemed too concerned yet, let’s give it another few days before we bring it up again”—before the consensus grew large enough where the decision became inevitable.
If this model is accurate, when would we expect to see these kinds of delays (and opportunities) in other situations? Here are some factors that may have contributed:
The early pandemic required integrating a lot of information outside the core areas of expertise of firms and their traders, leading to more uncertainty and a longer delay to reach consensus.
People are bad at extrapolating exponential growth (citation needed), and while some individuals within firms may have realized the implications right away, others may have thought their concerns were way overblown, again prolonging the time to reach consensus.
This was a rare event that had not occurred within anyone’s living memory, so there was no good frame of reference to fall back on, also increasing uncertainty.
I feel like there’s something here worth investigating more closely, although I’m still having trouble understanding it as well as I would like to. For now I’ll note that these three factors also seem very applicable to the current state of AGI development, and so may tie in with previous discussions such as this one.
Yup, that would be another good example. I would guess that sequences designed for functions like these will be developed faster than sequences designed for shape, because the incentives to do so already exist. If you generate a gear or axle, what could you do with it? Are there known applications for such things? Ultimately we could imagine molecular machines made of such a toolkit, but that seems like another level of complexity. (Although perhaps it could tie in with work along the lines of Fraser Stoddart’s group.)
For clarification, would you consider an amino acid sequence designed to have a certain function to pass this test? For example, a sequence that generates a protein capable of binding selectively to specific RNA sequences?
It’s much easier to let someone else do the work and then license it.
Exactly. Machine learning is not pharma’s comparative advantage.
An additional, unrelated note: the model of The Dictator’s Handbook suggests that incentives push away from the middle, towards total democracy (when there are already a large number of key supporters) or total autocracy (where the number of key supporters approaches one). But don’t other models suggest that the middle state of oligarchy is actually the default, and that both democracy and monarchy tend to decay towards oligarchy over time? And aren’t examples of this widespread? I notice that I am confused.
I haven’t read The Dictator’s Handbook or know what models there are already, but an autocrat could choose to convert to oligarchy to ensure a stable succession plan (assuming they felt no other autocrat could successfully wield power other than them), and a democracy could become an oligarchy if no individual could seize enough power to directly become an autocrat, but a group working together could. Under the right circumstances these incentives could overwhelm the ones going in the opposite direction.
This could also lead to an interesting race dynamic between biotech/pharma companies in the near future. If a novel disease target protein is identified and DeepMind decides to license their technology, all companies would in theory have access to the same structural information at the same time. Then it becomes a matter of who can execute screening, medicinal chemistry optimization, and clinical evaluation the fastest. Having a strategy in place to be the first to obtain patents for chemical matter modulating that target protein would also be a large advantage in this kind of situation.
Maybe others have noticed this as well, but Scott Alexander is now cautiously optimistic about the NYT situation, and has put some recent articles back up on the website.
Yup, viral vector is the more general term. And you’re right, heritable modifications are much more controversial, which is why the Crispr babies got so much attention a little while back.